Curacao was first inhabited by Caiquetio Indians and later Arawak Indians. In 1400 came the Carib Indians, to whom the Caribbean owes it’s name. It is said that these Indians were cannibals. About a century after the arrival of the Carib Indians, the Spaniards set foot on the island. The Spaniards called the island "isla inútil" which translates to “useless island” because of the (then) lacking features of the Island. Not long after the Dutch conquest of Curacao from the Spaniards (1634), the island became a center of trade in the Atlantic region. From 1665 the Dutch West India Company (WIC) used Curacao as a base of operation following the long journey to the Cape of Good Hope. In 1665, the WIC brought the first slaves from West Africa to Curacao to ship them off to other parts of the world. Only a handful remained behind on Curaçao to work on the plantations. In the wake of the slave trade came a flourishing trade in other products. Dutch traders in Willemstad offered merchandise from Europe and even from Asia. Examples include cotton, wool, silk, lace, iron, brandy and spices.
Until the early twentieth century, Curaçao thrived on trade, agriculture and fishery. All that changed in 1914, when large oil reserves were discovered in Venezuela. Immediately an oil refinery was established by Shell. During World War II, the island played an important role in the supply of fuel for the allied troops.
In 1954 Curaçao acquired political autonomy along with the other Netherlands Antilles. During the forties and fifties the refinery brought modernization and prosperity for the island, but the wealth was unevenly distributed. The newly emerging working class of Curaçao became increasingly dissatisfied with Shell refinery. Also, the participation of the African-Curaçao population in the political process was limited. On May 30, 1969 came a workers' uprising at the entrance gate of the Shell refinery. During the march downtown the union leader Wilson Godett was shot and angry workers set fire to buildings in Punda and Otrobanda. After the local government called in the help of Dutch marines to restore order, a lot of changes were made to the government, where locals gained more influence in the political process. This event is remembered as Trinta di mei. In the eighties Shell left Curaçao. From then on, the oil refinery was leased to Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA by the island territory.
On October 10, 2010 Curaçao has become an independent country within the Dutch Kingdom.