WET AND WILD IN CURACAO
Story and Photos by Dennis Hensley
I'm heading home from the Dutch Antilles island of Curacao where I took part in their biggest gay event of the year, Get Wet Weekend, a series of events put on by the Curacao Gay Plasa organization. Going in, I had no idea what kind of crowd to expect-all locals? Amsterdam hotties on holiday? Circuit boys with frequent flier miles? Turns out it was mostly locals, who couldn't have been more warm and welcoming, as well as a some relieved revelers from less-gay friendly destinations like Jamaica and St. Maarten.
The weekend kicked off with a Meet and Greet courtyard cocktail party at the Kura Hulanda Hotel, where I mingled with friendly locals like Dudley Ferdinandus, a talented visual artist and jewelry designer who has his own shop on the island.
The Kura Hulanda, with its village-y feel and colorful history, is a great place for a party. It's also a great hotel to stay at, which I was able to do he last two nights of my trip. The hotel was the brainchild of Yakob Gelt Dekker, a former dentist turned entrepreneur from Holland who happens to be gay and, judging by a mural that shows him bonding with the site's previous reisdents, has floppy Zach Efron hair. People with such good hair don't usually have to try that hard but Dekker, by all accounts, is a real visionary who makes things happen.
He fell in love with Curacao in the late 1990's, bought an old colonial house in the then-seedy Otrabanda neighborhood, then, against considerable odds, turned the blocks around it into this charming and unique boutique hotel. Because all the old houses were considered historic buildings, Dekker and his architect Leo Helms were not allowed to tear town or erect any structures. As a result, each room is completely one-of-a-kind and the News Café, where they sell coffee and newspapers, actually served the same purpose in the neighborhood's previous incarnation.
The real surprise about the property, though, is that it's also the home of the Museum Kura Hulanda , the world's largest museum of slavery. Helms, who was largely responsible for designing and curating the museum, was nice enough to take my group through the extensive exhibits. There's even an underground recreation of a slave ship compartment that you can climb down to to get a feel for the conditions the slaves endured on their 80-day journey from Africa to Curacao, where they recovered from the trip so that they could later be sold to Cuba or North America. This place is a mind-blower, so extensive and powerful that I'm surprised I didn't learn about it first from Oprah.
But back to the partying! After the Meet and Greet, our group headed to the island's main bar, Lyrics Cafe, where the dance music would alternate between songs in the local language of Papiamento and songs by English speakers like Annie Lennox and The Village People. It turns out they spell YMCA the same way in Curacao as we do here in the states. Some things are universal.
Friday night, I put my sea legs on and partied until the wee hours at the Navigaytion Boat Party held on the Mi Dushi party boat. Dushi, I've learned, is a word that gets thrown around a lot in Curacao. It describes anything that's good, lovely, desirable, rockin' etc. Food can be dushi, a sunset can be dushi, and if you're sweet on someone, you might refer to them as "my Dushi."
The boat party was a free-floating blast and though it was more than a little muggy, no one took their shirts off. I have no problem with this, believe me. I just find it interesting. In America, everyone would have been pecs to the wind before we left the dock. If fact, that's what they would have called the party: The Pecs to the Wind Booze n' Cruise.