The Ku Klux Klan robes with dried blood on them, the chains and collars, and original bills of sale showing ownership of slaves are a lot to handle at first sight. Other visitors around me look stunned too, not sure how to digest this place. Hundreds of artifacts from Africa, Europe and the Americas line the walls of Kura Hulanda Museum in Curaçao, chronicling European colonization and the slave trade.
Part of the luxurious 65-room Hotel Kura Hulanda, it’s not exactly what most people expect when they visit the Caribbean.
The hotel and museum were developed by Dutch philanthropist Jacob Gelt Dekker after he purchased a dilapidated 18th century mansion in the UNESCO city of Willemstad. During rehab work, Dekker discovered the site was once a slave trading depot. Deciding to preserve the history, he spent millions of dollars stocking the museum and rebuilding many old homes that now make up the guest rooms.
In effect, Kura Hulanda is a village with fine dining restaurants and boutiques lining the cobblestone streets where musicians play jazz clarinet during the warm evenings.
A visit here is an unvarnished exploration into the region. The museum is raw and brutal and leaves you emotionally spent. When you exit, there’s a strange dissonance between the horrors within the museum and the outright civility of the hotel. But perhaps that’s the truest lesson in Caribbean history, here at the crossroads of the world's greatest crime against humanity.