Salt mines and slavery at Bonaire

Photo Catherine Gras

A post that will cover both the present with active salt works on the island of Bonaire and the past with a testimony on the slavery that served this activity in the past.

Bonaire is an island in the Caribbean attached to the Netherlands. The island is located near the coast of Venezuela, in a group of three islands Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao (ABC).

It is a very flat island, mostly semi-arid, especially in the southern part where there are large salt pans still in use.

This salt works activity dates from the 17th century with the Dutch West India Company. From this period onwards, slaves were brought in from neighbouring countries to work the salt. Two sites remain from this period where the slaves were housed, their dwellings are barely larger than a niche. The sites are beautiful for photography, right on the waterfront.

In 1863, the abolition of slavery put a stop to the salt industry for a century. Today, the operation is active, with Cargill owning the salt mines.

Some of the salt is exported by boat and there is a large, photogenic jetty nearby.

In these salt flats there is a special ecosystem, a refuge for pink flamingos has been created.

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