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Williwood: A monument that resembles the Hollywood sign restored the popularity of a small coastal village deep in the Caribbean Sea

Domagoj Valjak

Curacao is a picturesque island country in the southern region of the Caribbean Sea known as the Dutch Caribbean.

The country has been under the jurisdiction of the Kingdom of the Netherlands since the 17th century, but the country was named by Portuguese sailors a century before. The main island served as a remote port in which ill sailors were left to recover from scurvy, and therefore got the name “Ilha de Curacao,” Portuguese for “the Island of Healing.”

Map from 1562 with Curaçao indicated as Qúracao.

Map from 1562 with Curaçao indicated as Qúracao.

Nowadays, tourism is the main source of income for the local population. Many people come from all over the world to enjoy diving, various water sports, and trekking in the wilderness. Also, the unusual sight of colorful and sophisticated Dutch architecture in the middle of the sea is a mecca for many photographers.

Most tourists choose to spend time in the capital of the country, Willemstad because it offers various exotic tours and unusual tourist attractions while providing all the comforts of a big city. This meant that most tourists missed Sint Willibrordus, a little village northwest of Willemstad.

The colorful Willemstad harbor. Photo Credit

The colorful Willemstad harbor. Photo Credit

The locals from Sint Willibrordus were frustrated because the focus of tourism had shifted from the magnificent beaches and cliffs of the island’s outskirts to the urbanized capital. In the early 2000’s, some locals decided to renew the image of the village by constructing a giant replica of the Hollywood sign that reads “Williwood”.

The Williwood sign. Photo Credit

The Williwood sign. Photo Credit

It is unclear whether the sign was intended to be a joke or a remote tourist magnet, but it certainly proved to be the latter. Since the construction of the sign, tourists started pouring into Sint Willibrordus and discovered that the village hides some real historical gems.

One of them is the St. Willibrordus Church, a colossal Dutch church that dates back to the early 1880’s.

The sign stands on a grassy hill next to a deserted soccer field. Weather conditions on the island can be rather harsh, and the sign is often blown over by severe storms. The locals turned this into an attraction too, as tourists are encouraged to put the letters back to their positions after a storm. This is not an easy task since the letters are huge: those who succeed are praised as the heroes of Williwood and the descendants of mighty pirates that once roamed the island.

St. Willibrordus Church. Photo Credit

St. Willibrordus Church. Photo Credit

The village authorities immediately recognized the sign’s potential, and the village was officially renamed “Williwood” in 2011.

Read another story from us: Eddie Mannix: the real-life Hollywood fixer, studio executive and producer who inspired Coen brothers’ “Hail, Caesar!”

The sign proved to be an unusually successful marketing movement, as it singlehandedly restored the popularity of the hidden gems of Curacao.