Crown Princess Amalia’s first public outing in the Caribbean Netherlands is not greeted with cheers from everyone as centuries of colonialism, economic neglect and slavery loom over this week’s Dutch royal visit.
King Willem Alexander, Queen Maxima and Crown Princess Amalia have embarked on a two week-tour of the islands that make up the Caribbean part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Saba, St. Eustatius and St. Maarten). The official purpose of the visit is to present Crown Princess Amalia to the people of the islands.
“Amalia is doing a great job over there, you can see how enthusiastic everyone is about it. Of course people have the right to protest, although there was only this incident,” said Marjolein Beijderwellen, editor of Royalty magazine Vorsten.
The unfortunate episode
The incident Beijderwellen alludes to concerns the interruption of a guest lecture organised by Aruba University in Amalia’s honour. A student and member of local political party Pueblo Prome (“People First”) stood up and sang an anti-slavery song before being escorted out of the room, where Amalia and her parents were attending the lecture.
After the lecture the royals were met with four protesters during their parade in San Nicolas.
The islands in the Caribbean are the last remnants of the days when the Dutch were a major colonial power. Their empire and exploits stretched from Indonesia in the east, to Surinam in the west and beyond. Many inhabitants of the islands are the descendants of slaves that were transported from Africa by the Dutch.
Although Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte officially apologised for the significant role the Dutch played in the historic slave trade, some inhabitants of the Dutch territories feel that mere words are not enough.
Waiting for an act of reparation
“Saying sorry means you will improve your behaviour towards me. So how will you proceed? How do you repair damage?” commented Alida Francis, government official on St Eustatius to Caribisch Netwerk.
The islands of the Dutch Caribbean struggle with corruption and a stagnating economy. These problems have also caused infrastructure to deteriorate and young people to flee the islands in hopes of a better future.
Yet there are still many fans of the family to be found on the islands.
Well-wishers oversea do exist
“It’s maybe a bit different on Curacao, but people on Aruba really like the royals, and have done for years. They do not think of slavery when the King comes to visit, but about the Princess, because this is the first time that she will be here. That is the reason they’re here, not slavery,” confirmed chief editor Norman Serphos for Antillian newspaper Amigoe.
The Dutch Royal family’s popularity meanwhile remains in a steady decline in the European part of the Kingdom, where the purchase of an expensive yacht and a holiday trip during Covid lockdown have done little to endear the family to its subjects.