Already on our first day in Oranjestad we noticed a lot of blue horses that seem to be standing on every corner there. We found them in the pedestrian zone just as we did in front of the parliament building or the casinos.
We paid very little attention to the horses. After all, Oranjestad has been the center of horse trading in the Caribbean for more than three centuries. The Aruban artist Osaira Muyale created a memorial for them in 2014 and 2015. Or rather eight of them. Eight of these horses were set up throughout the city center.
Of course, every horse has a name. Here we see Rosalinda. There are also Saturnina, Bonifacia, Eufrosina, Celestina, Sinforosa, Escapia and Ambrosio. There is an information board next to each horse that provides information in English and Papiamentu on one aspect of the story.
If reading the text in English is too tiring for you, you can do that Project website visit. The texts are also available in English there, but they can then be translated very easily using a translation program on the Internet.
Horse trading in Aruba started around 1500 during the Spanish occupation of the island. The indigenous people did not know the horses and found them scary. Paardenbaai means “bay of horses”. This was the former name of the place that is now called Oranjestad.
When the horses arrived by ship, they were simply thrown into the water by the sailors. Other horses were then placed at a strategically important point, which guided the newcomers to the right place on the shore. Funny method of deleting live cargo.
In principle, the horses on Aruba could move freely, just like the donkeys on Bonaire today. They were kept in several herds. Aruba was a savannah and grass landscape. By the way, Bonifacia and Celestina are right in front of the parliament building.
Under the rule of the Dutch West Indian Company (1636-1792) one of the most important tasks of the commanders was to continue horse breeding. The entire animal breeding was considered the most important economic factor and horses as an important export good.
The horses were also very popular with the pirates at that time. Aruba was attacked several times by French and English pirates, there was no decent defense fortress.
Between 1792 and 1816, Aruba was not owned by the Dutch, but alternately belonged to France or England. The English and French did not take care of the breeding, but above all the removal of the animals. When the Netherlands took possession of it again, there were practically no horses left. The horse trade could not flourish either, because a short time later there was a gold rush in Aruba.
By the way, the horses are blue because the artist painted them in the color of the Caribbean Sea. They were delivered by ship and were then allowed to climb out of the water onto land. I like the metaphor.
Now I'm walking through Oranjestad with different eyes. I am very happy to have taken care of the blue horses.