The island of Curaçao was discovered in 1499 by Alonso de Ojeda, one of Columbus’ lieutenants. The inhabitants were Indians of huge physical proportions, and the island was there for aptly called: "Isla de los Gigantes" (Island of Giants) by the Spanish. However, within 20 years the name "Curaçao" appeared on a Portuguese map. The island remained Spanish until the Dutch conquered it in 1634. During the period from the end of the 17th until the beginning of the 19th century, the island changed hands between the British and the Dutch, while the French repeatedly tried to take it over as well. The French came very close to succeeding in their efforts, but abandoned the island after extorting a hefty ransom. In 1816 the Dutch regained control over Curaçao, which had been in hands of the British since 1807.
In 1954 the colonial status of Curaçao and the rest of the Dutch West Indies changed when the islands became autonomous within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Over the years the settlement of the Indian, African, Asian, Arabic and many other cultures have significantly influenced the development of Curaçao’s unique society.