The district Otrabanda
In 1707, building permits were granted for Otrobanda, "The Other Side.” The buildings along Otrobanda’s Breedestraat were similar to those in Punda, with commercial space downstairs and living quarters on the upper floors. Off Breedestraat, a grand residential neighborhood was built by those eager for stately mansions reflecting their higher social standing.
In contrast to the neat grid of Punda, Otrobanda is a maze of twisting streets and alleyways, giving the neighborhood its own intimate charm. By 1774, with 300 houses, Otrobanda was as big as Punda. In the 18th and19th centuries, free blacks began to migrate to the city. Some of the spacious Otrobanda yards were built over with more modest living quarters and small craft shops, forming the city's first working class neighborhood and urban center. By the 20th century, Otrobanda had become a major cultural center for the rising black middle class. Many of the island's notable politicians, professionals, artists, and musicians grew up there.
A much-debated question, is when and after whom the city Willemstad was named. According to one historian, Willemstad was named after Stadhouder (stadtholder) William II, but a second historian, who made a very deep study of Willemstad, thinks that the city was named after Stadhouder William III, who occupied this position in 1672 and later on, in 1688, became King of England.
The latter William seems to have been very much sought after. Further the possibility was mentioned that the naming of Willemstad in that decade could have been related to the fact that in 1674, the new West Indian Company was instituted and in 1675, Willemstad was declared a free port in the hope that this would stimulate the economy. The free port needed a suitable name that would attract people’s attention. The first time the name Willemstad is mentioned in the archives was in 1680.
Willemstad, capital of Curaçao and the Netherlands Antilles, is one of the richest cities in the world in terms of culture and diversity. The city itself is actually divided in two sections—Punda and Otrobanda—connected by the Queen Emma pontoon bridge. Both sections provide visitors with duty-free shopping. Willemstad covers an area of some 450 square kilometers, and has a population of 135,000, which is composed of 55 nationalities.
Like Havana (Cuba) and San Juan (Puerto Rico), Willemstad is a typical port town. However, it is one without a hinterland, and focused on trade with the surrounding colonies, mainly the Spanish colonies on the South American continental coast, but also with French and English colonies.
According to a comprehensive survey by the government monument bureau there are 750 historic buildings in Willemstad alone, which merit preservation. New scaffolding goes up almost every month. Progress has been astonishing in just ten years and it is likely that, in the very near future, regions of the city will have regained their former splendor.