What drives people, year after year, to Curacao?
You might guess the white sandy pristine beaches, the magnificent Dutch architecture, the balmy tropical weather and the friendliest people you will ever meet. With that all being true, there is more to what meets the eye. Dig a little deeper and you discover a whole lot of amazing people playing a phenomenal part by just being themselves and by just doing things they love. That is what renders Curacao its reputation for being wonderfully out of the ordinary!
Just on the island of Curacao, approximately 3 miles northeast of Laguna, south-east of Westpunt, you can meet Dinah Veeris and her lovely tropical garden which she is forever happy to give you a tour of and gung-ho to tell you all about it! With a wide toothy smile on her lips, Dinah comes across as a passionate soul who followed her dream to bring back the ancient and lost traditions in Curacao and give a whole new sense and direction to that so-called ‘Progressive development’ which seemed rampant in this essential part of Caribbean. Dinah grew up learning her native traditions and wonders of all the herbal remedies from her mother and many elders from Curacao, Bonaire and Aruba, that she wound up buying an acre of land that she now proudly calls her own tropical garden.
Every sapling that exists in her garden was planted by her. She quit her job as a teacher back in the 80’s and dedicated her energy towards building her own sustainable garden. She recalls going to various places, for a few years, in search of various species that were wiped off from Curacao. She ended up bringing them back and planting each and every one of them and cultivated them with all her love and care. And so, Den Paradera was born!
The name Pen Paradera came from the pages of history when the Spanish came to Curacao and brought their ailing slaves along with them to the Paraguiri Indians who owned the largest herbal garden in Curacao. That location was then called En Paradera which was later then called Den Paradera by the native people. When asked what Den Paradera means, Dinah simply said: “A place where you feel at home”.
Fascinatingly, Den Paradera today hosts 300 and more different plant species. Dinah is in her pretty little garden busy at work, lovingly caring for her plants and providing their nourishments with a group of a few helpers at hand. A walk around her garden you discover her garden is efficiently divided into three sections: Botanical, historical and the last one reserved for production. It is indeed very endearing to see Dinah so passionately talk about her plants and all the ancient remedies that she has managed to preserve till date. You learn about various herbal plants like Kadushi cacti, found in Curacao, whose fruits are edible and effective in fighting hair loss, the exotic Lòki Lòki tree with leaves which is said to be effective in relieving headaches and last but not the least the Dividivi – the national tree of Curacao. Travel back in time as you step into her historical section! You get a blast from the past of the rich Caribbean history as she shows you the country side dwellings, popularly called the Kunuku, which was prevalent a long time ago in Curacao. You can also see some life-sized dolls dressed in the traditional attire giving a glimpse of the elapsed Caribbean history.
Coming to the production side, you realize how smart Dinah is to devise a way to self-sustain her garden. In this section, you see a multitude of homemade soaps, shampoos, oils, lotions and extracts for sale. She doesn’t stop there! There are many products that also cater to various ailments like cold, minor headaches, cough, asthma, diabetes, cholesterol busters, weight loss and so on. There is nothing that you will not find here!
In all goodness, you see an extraordinary woman with her exceptional gardening skills managed to bring back the long lost valued traditions of Old Caribbean! It truly is amazing!
Her famed garden is open Monday to Saturday from 9 am to 6 pm. Make sure you do take a guided tour. You are most welcome to wander around on your own for a small entrance charge of mere 10 US dollars. You can indulge in all natural herbal products at her shop too. If you are lucky, you might just find her most celebrated book in a showcase – Green Remedies and Golden Customs of Our Ancestors which weaves an incredible story of an ordinary woman doing extraordinary things!