“Pride is a process,” Frank Holtstag says.
The president of Curaçao Pride has seen the progression of LGBT acceptance in his country first hand. Curaçao is a gem of an island that lies just beyond South America where, together with Aruba and Bonaire, it constitutes the commonly called ABC islands of the South Caribbean. And this gem perhaps never shines so brightly as it does during its annual Pride celebrations.
Now celebrating its sixth year, Curaçao Pride reflects the diversity, strength and joy of not only the LGBT community, but the nation as a whole. While the first Pride celebration in 2013 drew a small but dedicated ensemble of 20 people, the event this year brought in over 700.
“Overall, Curaçao can be proud of the fact that it is a pioneer in the region when it comes to Pride celebrations and the efforts being made to create acceptance and equality,” Holtslag says.
Held at the end of each September, Curaçao Pride offers visitors a unique vantage point into the island’s vibrant and welcoming culture, which boasts more than 60 nationalities and is rich in arts, culture and culinary experiences. The nation’s first gay centre, Casa Rosada, meaning “pink house,” opened in 2010 in order to break taboos surrounding sexual orientations and gender identities.
The Curaçao Pride Organization — commonly known as Gay Pro — is comprised of queer professionals and allies who came together to show that LGBT identities are more common than might be perceived and to fight for the same rights and privileges as other groups in society. This fight for equality speaks to the same spirit of protest that sparked Pride celebrations around the world.
The huge increase in attendees points to the remarkable strides that the Curaçao Pride has made in just a short few years, reflecting the rapidly growing reputation of Curaçao’s Pride as much as the changing attitude of the nation when it comes to its LGBT citizens.
“Acceptance has grown a lot,” Holtstag says. “Persons and businesses [that] did not want to be associated with Pride even last year are now openly supporting us.”
One leader of that change appeared this year in the form of Marilyn M Alcalá-Wallé, Curaçao’s minister of education, science, culture and sport, who presided over the 2018 Pride opening ceremonies.
So, what can participants expect if they fly down next September? Curaçao Pride leverages the island’s white sands and utopic weather in many of its activities, providing respite from the changing seasons. These events include a drag-themed beach party, a waterfront concert and a beach cruise. Attendees can even take a tour of the Blue Curaçao distillery and learn about the eponymous liquor that is emblematic of the island’s carefree and colourful personality.
And in a poetic display of solidarity, Curaçao’s rainy season begins immediately after Pride, suggesting that even mother nature needs to cool off after the festivities.
But perhaps the most memorable aspect of Curaçao Pride is its ability to connect with fellow participants. Compared to other celebrations with overwhelming numbers of attendees, Curaçao offers a personal experience that is difficult to find elsewhere. And according to Holtslag, it’s this very experience that brings people back year after year.
“Feedback I receive every year for attendants that come to Curaçao Pride is as follows: Curaçao Pride is different from any other Pride in the world. Over the years, I have made friends for a lifetime.”