The Punda and Otrobanda quarters of Willemstad are considered the two most important districts of Curaçao’s capital. After all, the seat of the prime minister and the governor, along with many other government office buildings, is situated in Punda and the national registry office is situated in Otrobanda.
Furthermore, these two quarters are the first thing cruise tourists see as Curaçao’s port is situated in Otrobanda. Thus today we delve a bit into the history of these two quarters.
Green View presents: The origins of Punda and Otrobanda
What we now consider the Punda district used to be a much more defined area over 80 years ago. Back then it was confined within the limits of the streets Handelskade to the west, Breedestraat (Broad Street) to the south, Columbusstraat (Columbus Street) to the east, and Madurostraat (Maduro Street) to the north.
These confines date back to when Punda was a walled city, which it continued to be until 1866 when the walls were torn down. Due to the walls, many of the houses were built close together. One of the oldest buildings in Punda, built in 1693 is still preserved in its original form and now houses the post museum. It used to be a house and the street next to it, the ‘Hanchi Punda’, used to be notorious for having women of the night.
Origin of the name Punda
Back when the Dutch first conquered the island from the Spaniards in 1634 they built a fort on the east bank of the St. Anna bay and called it ‘Fort Amsterdam’. The area in which it was situated was initially called ‘De Punt’ (“The Point”) and this Dutch name eventually transformed into the universally accepted Papiamentu-named ‘Punda’ .
The development of Otrobanda began shortly after 1700. Punda was beginning to become crowded and people started building houses there without permission from the Dutch governor. In 1707 he officially gave permission to build houses on the other side of the St. Anna Bay and the area became a legitimate city district.
Because building materials had to be shipped from Punda to the other side of the St. Anna bay that separated the two districts, this part was initially given the Dutch name ‘De Overzijde’ (‘The Other Side’), a name which like ‘Punda’ experienced a transformation into ‘Otrobanda’ which in Papiamentu means the ‘The other side’.
So there you have it: a little bit of the history of the origins of Punda and Otrobanda. Think about this information as you stroll through these picturesque districts. And after you’re done enjoying them have a nice meal or a drink at the Azzuro Beachbar & Restaurant at Blue Bay. *wink*