Café Santa Rosa, the oldest existing bar in Curaçao turns 75

Established on 8 June, 1943, Café Santa Rosa is the oldest existing bar of Curaçao. The bar is situated in Santa Rosa and is known by the older generations as ‘Martins Oranjeboom’ because the founder, Mr. Martins Mademilia, was the importer of Oranjeboom which at that time was a very popular beer. Congratulations to the current owner José ‘Shon Ma’ Mademilia with this anniversary.

The bar was constructed at the height of the Second World War to provide for entertainment at a time when the possibilities for recreation were scarce. It quickly became a resting area for walkers, travellers on donkeys and horses, bus drivers and a meeting point for the population of the greater Santa Rosa.

I grew up not far from Café Santa Rosa. I walked by it everyday on my way to and from school. Entering the bar was out of the question as it was ‘no place for children’. As a matter of fact, I grew up hearing that a lady should never set foot inside. Times have changed. Yet I was never able to convince my mother to come visit the bar when I managed it in 2012.

When the bar turned 65 years the owner gave me green light to look into the possibilities of having the bar assigned the status of monument. Although the process was anything but easy, Café Santa Rosa in 2011 officially became a historic cultural monument. My fears that this piece of historic gem could be converted into a hair and nail salon or something totally weird were put to ease. That’s what I thought at least.

Since 2013 this bar has been managed by people who did not care about its traditions. Not surprisingly traditional bars like Montaña Bar, Welgelegen Bar, Semikòk Bar and Langulé Bar don’t exist anymore precisely because of our shifting values. Café Santa Rosa’s patrons were driven out by the managers who thought the bar should become a Dutch-type bar. The typical local delicacies such as sùlt (pickled pig ear strips) and what were probably the best tentalarias (cashew or peanut sweets) on the island disappeared as did the festive Sundays with kaha di orgel (cylinder piano) music. More disgusting is however that Café Santa Rosa was physically trashed beyond belief: invaluable original pieces of furniture and the interior have damaged beyond recognition.

There is however a light at the end of the tunnel. The owner told those who were running the place to hit the road (they were not even paying rent) and after a long period of cleaning and repairs, Café Santa Rosa will soon be open again. I’m happy to hear that there are some candidates who do care about our history and traditions are willing to start a new chapter in the long tradition of this traditional bar in Santa Rosa. Hopefully there are many people who just like me, are impatient to go back to Martins Oranjeboom to down a yoshi di ròm bèrdè (traditional local green rum served in a traditional measurement glass) and to nibble on some sùlt.

Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia

Author: alexdavidrosaria

Alex Rosaria is from Curaçao. He has a MBA from University of Iowa. He was Member of Parliament, Minister of Economic Affairs, State Secretary of Finance and United Nations Development Programme Officer in Africa and Central America. He is an independent consultant active in Asia and the Pacific.

One thought on “Café Santa Rosa, the oldest existing bar in Curaçao turns 75”

  1. Thanks for the article, Alex.
    I surely hope the owner restores the café in such a manner that it attracts people who value our history and culture.

    Liked by 1 person

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