Curaçao

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Curaçao

Largest island (pop., 2009 est.: 141,766) of the Netherlands Antilles. It is located in the Caribbean Sea north of the coast of Venezuela; Willemstad is its chief town. It occupies 171 sq mi (444 sq km) and has the best natural harbour in the West Indies. First visited by Europeans in 1499, it was settled by the Spanish in 1527; Sephardic Jews from Portugal migrated there in the 1500s, originating the oldest continuously inhabited Jewish community in the Western Hemisphere. The Dutch West India Co. gained control of the island in 1634. It was awarded to the Netherlands by the 1815 Treaty of Paris. Internal self-government was granted in 1954. Products include oranges, Curaçao liqueur, and aloes. The chief industry is the refining of oil from Venezuela; tourism is of growing importance.

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