After promising that I would take you over to the Wild Side of Bonaire today, I have changed my mind. I want to show you one more thing on the leeward coast. After we passed the ship terminal for the salt flats (you can see it through the window in the previous post) we came upon some little white huts. The positioning of them was curious, there were two rows, with a window in back and a door in the front. Each building is about five feet tall at the peak of the roof (on the exterior, the interior was considerably smaller due to the thickness of the walls). The doors all faced the ocean, if there was any kind of wind reversal (a phenomenon that can be as destructive as a hurricane) the buildings would be submerged. At first all I could see was the great photo op. Then my godmother said “Those are slave huts” and the day took on a different meaning.
I knew that the history of Bonaire included slavery. The stories go back to the 15th and 16th centuries when the first inhabitants were forced into slavery. In subsequent centuries, slaves were an integral part in any business that developed on the island, including the salt pans. Seeing these huts that were so photogenic and knowing that slaves lived in them, stored their belongings in them and were made to work in the salt flats was a difficult exercise. And yet…visually they are remarkable, with the white building against the blue of the sea. I loved taking pictures of them. I would hate to have to live in one. And I hate that anyone else had to.
Don’t be fooled by the picture of the interior. A person could not stand up in one of them. It’s not a place you would want to hang out in, rather it’s a place to store gear and maybe take a nap. Now these huts (and a group of red ones further down the road) are considered monuments and are maintained.