Archive for September, 2010

A Vacation in Curacao

Monday, September 6th, 2010

I have been locked out for a while from my blog. WordPress provides free software but no help. The system did not recognize my username or my e-mail address. A council of Wise Men/Women is in place to try solving users’ problems for $55.00. However, try as they may, they couldn’t get the System to recognize me. A friend finally figured it out and here I am once again.

In June of this year I traveled to Curacao, a Caribbean island some 30 miles off the coast of Venezuela. Except for the Spanish-speaking islands of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, most other English-speaking islands range from anti-gay to extremely homophobic. Jamaica, whose men attract me fiercely, is probably the worst of the lot. Curacao, a former Dutch colony and still part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, is the exception to the rule. This includes also Aruba and Bonaire (the ABC islands) and smaller islands known together as the Netherlands Antilles. They all take pride in their egalitarian approach to all tourists.

I advertised my impending visit to Curacao on a number of gay boards. I was most successful with Adam4Adam. I found it rather strange that the respondents to my ad answered most questions on the board (e.g., cut/uncut, religion, education) with “I’ll tell you later.” The majority showed no face pic and often not even body photos. I received a number of replies from Jamaica with photos and full answers. Caribbean islanders can travel without a visa between islands. A number of the Jamaican respondents suggested that I fly them to Curacao so that they could keep me company there. It took me a few days in Curacao to figure out why gays in homophobic Jamaica would be more forthcoming than in gay-friendly Curacao.

Willemstad, the capital of Curacao, is a Dutch enclave in the Caribbean. At the entrance to the town there are a few rows of buildings looking exactly like the ones in Holland. It is said that one of the early governors of Curacao suffered from headaches, aggravated by the color white. Consequently, so the story goes, all the buildings were painted in any color but white.

Coming from San Francisco, the first thing that struck me was the complete absence of homeless people sitting or lying in the streets. I saw only three beggars. The cost of living in Curacao is relatively high, something that is true of most islands because most of goods have to be imported. Also, the economy of the island is tourist-oriented (there is also a major Venezuelan refinery on the island) so there are no cheap eateries and the merchandise in the market is on the expensive side. However, I met a number of people from the Netherlands who came to Curacao to work, and the same holds true of Filipinos and Koreans who are contracted by hotels as waiters. I met a number of Venezuelans and Colombians workers, documented and “undocumented.” Even though Curacao is closer to the equator than most Caribbean islands, the weather was pleasant, the sea breeze constant, and the humidity quite bearable.

Curacao natives, at least the older ones, start their schooling learning Dutch, then English and Spanish. Their native tongue is Papiamento which they are trying to make the Netherlands Antilles national language. It consists mostly of Spanish and Portuguese, with some African words thrown into the mixture. Consequently, though most of them speak English, they are much more fluent in Spanish.
Unlike so many other islands in the Caribbean, Curacao is rather safe all over. The natives are friendly for the most part. The major problem for the people who live there as well as the tourists is the lack of transportation. Buses run once an hour, the schedules are not posted, and taxis charge exorbitant fees. Workers in outlying hotels are provided special transportation to get to work. Quite a few people buy used cars to be mobile, something that should not be necessary in such a small island.


Through Adam4Adam I met a government official on the first day in Curacao. He seemed to be cruising the Adam4Adam board endlessly and we finally made contact by e-mail. We were too old for each other’s taste, but decided to meet for a chat. Among my other good qualities listed in my ad was the word “generous.” This adjective is a codeword well-known in the U.S. for a man who is willing to pay, but is not always understood in other countries. In Costa Rica, for instance, “generoso” was considered by many as an admirable character trait. Only one respondent from Curacao asked me what I meant by describing myself as “generous.” In my reply, I told him that I was generous with my good advice and, should there be a need, also financially. Once we understood each other, he opened his photo on Adam4Adam. (On that board an advertiser can keep his pics closed to the general public.) He turned out to be a cute, mostly black man, and he gave me his phone number. Other respondents would not open their pics or give me their phone numbers. (Naturally, most young people have cell phones.) I really did not want to waste their or my time by meeting them sight unseen.

The government official bemoaned the fact that in Curacao gay life was so age-oriented. The few bars there catered to specific ages. Mixing was all but impossible. I told him about my books and success with sex workers. “Well,” he said, “Willemstad is not San Francisco. You won’t find many men doing this here.” It took a few days for me to meet the one guy who answered my ad, because he had a part-time job and the rest of the day was dedicated to watching the endless football (soccer) games in South Africa. But, eventually, between games and his job we managed to meet. He was a pleasant, cute, and extremely affectionate man in his early twenties. He had come to Curacao from one of the smaller islands. His native tongue was English, so communication was not a problem. He always had to borrow a friend’s car to visit me. Otherwise, he would have spent hours getting to my hotel or paying $25 each way for a taxi.

The only other visitor I had was a Filipino young man who worked in a hotel. In our correspondence he asked me whether I knew anything about the Philippines. He was surprised that I had written a book about that country and even had a smattering of Tagalog. He was not a sex worker but enjoyed being with someone who knew so much about his country. His lament was that he had to send so much of his earned income – not a fortune to be sure – to various members of his family. That is the usual story of Filipinos who go abroad where they earn relatively good money, but have to support various members of the family back home. He was rather pressed for time in order to catch the hotel bus to work. I gave him enough money to take a taxi the bus stop. I also presented him with my Filipino guidebook.

Being gay in Curacao is not a big deal. Some of the closet cases and married men could check out Adam4Adam. There they would recognize the photos of other advertisers. In Jamaica, the homophobic Rastafarians and the equally homophobic, God-fearing Evangelicals, would not even know what Adam4Adam was. The gay advertisers in Jamaica probably felt freer to give their stats and show their face pics than those in Curacao.

I traveled to Curacao to enjoy the hot weather there. In San Francisco we experienced global cooling; one of the coldest summers on record. Even as a much younger man I detested bars and, if I managed to pick up somebody in them, they were the runts of the litter. (Needless to say, they probably regarded me as the best of the worst.) In Curacao I enjoyed the weather and the swimming *and* had my adventures in a pleasant way.