In An Old Bar, the Heartbeat of Curaçao

By: Caribbean Journal Staff - May 1, 2014

Above: Netto Bar in Otrabanda (all photos by CJ)

By Alexander Britell

WILLEMSTAD — Two old fans beat on against the Caribbean heat, harder than any should have to work.

A single fluorescent light at the back of the room is all the illumination necessary — the rest comes in glasses.

This is the oldest bar in Curaçao, a dive bar before there was a name for such a thing.

Here in Otrabanda, the grittier district across the canal from the more proper, historic Punda neighborhood, this bar fits right in.

It is honest, it is comfortable. It seems to have been here before there was an Otrabanda.

The radio blares behind, with politics, Papiamentu style.

At noon, Netto bar is full of locals, of small debates, of handshakes.

Netto Bar has been here for six decades, through prime ministers and kingdoms and autonomous countries.

The ceiling is sporting – football jerseys, flags, banners. Polar beers, which call Venezuela home but are among the favourites here, pass around; well-polished shot glasses lounge at the sink.

Whether you speak Papiamentu or not, you can listen – to the radio, to the language.

Sitting here in the shade, off the main street in a half-filled bar at mid-day, is the way to learn a place.

Bottles of Polar pepper the tables, joined by the odd shot of “green rum,” a licorice-accented spirit that has brought Netto Bar much fame.

“What’s in the green rum?” I ask the barman.

“Green rum is rum.”

And the fans beat on.

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