Mystery Truck

This short film, set on the island of Curaçao, is really a cleverly designed promotional piece for a locally-owned oil company. What I like most about it, aside from the story and performances, is hearing Papiamentu spoken by the characters. Papiamentu (the variant of Papiamento spoken on Curaçao) is a creole language of the African Diaspora spoken on ArubaBonaire, and Curaçao, and formed from Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, English, Arawak (native languages of the Caribbean) and several languages from West Africa.

Scholars continue to debate whether Papiamentu/Papiamento is primarily derived from Portuguese or Spanish. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to explore the West Coast of Africa, and the Spanish were the first to establish colonies in the so-called New World. Regardless of which language provided the basic grammar and syntax, the predicate of its development and spread was trade and conquest. “Trade,” in this instance, primarily means the trafficking in enslaved human beings from Africa to the Americas—thus the contributions of several African languages to the vocabulary of Papiamentu/Papiamento.

If you listen closely to the speakers you will be able to distinguish—within the mellifluous mélange of sounds—words that clearly reveal their individual origins. For example, you will hear Charleze, the young female lead, address a librarian as Señora (Spanish — Mrs. or Madam), and Ryan, the young male actor, address a policeman as Meneer (“muh NEAR” – Dutch — Mister). Depending on your familiarity with Portuguese, Spanish, and Dutch, you will be amazed at how words of such diverse origins flow together so fluidly.


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