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The natural harbour of Willemstad proved to be an ideal spot for trade.Commerce and shipping—and piracy—became Curaçao's most important economic activities.They were believed to have migrated from the Amazon Basin.The first Europeans recorded as seeing the island were members of a Spanish expedition under the leadership of Alonso de Ojeda in 1499.The wide range of historic buildings in and around Willemstad has resulted in the capital being designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.Landhouses (former plantation estates) and West African style kas di pal'i maishi (former slave dwellings) are scattered all over the island. In 1795, a major slave revolt took place under the leaders Tula Rigaud, Louis Mercier, Bastian Karpata, and Pedro Wakao.Up to 4000 slaves on the northwest section of the island revolted.More than 1,000 slaves took part in extended gunfights.
Curaçao had been ignored by colonists, because it lacked gold deposits.
Spanish traders took the name over as Curaçao, which was followed by the Dutch.
Another explanation is that Curaçao was the name by which the indigenous peoples of the island identified themselves, their autonym. Early Spanish accounts support this theory, as they refer to the indigenous peoples as Indios Curaçaos, or "healing Indians".
In 1634, after the Netherlands achieved independence from Spain, Dutch colonists started to occupy the island.
European powers were trying to establish bases in the Caribbean.