- A Critical Biography of Former Prime Minister Miguel PourierThe Year in Curaçao
The historian Alejandro Paula asserts that on the Dutch Caribbean island of Curaçao people who have played an important role in society do not often write about their lives and memories to leave a legacy (Da Costa Gomez-Mattheeuws and de Lannoy-Berg 126). In general, political leaders are more represented among the biographical publications of Curaçao, according to Peter Jordens's study titled Outo/biografia kurasoleño: un bista general di 1921–2018. Besides works about politicians written by individual authors, biographical publications have also appeared in the form of liber amicorum, in which several authors write articles or commentary about the person in question (Jordens 14). The biography of the political leader Miguel Archangel Pourier (1938–2013) came into being through the active participation of his family and his former political party members who thought it necessary and important that a book be written about him. To create it, they contracted Bernadette Heiligers, who has written several books about Curaçao, including a biography of the local writer Pierre Lauffer in 2012.
Heiligers's Miguel Pourier: Leven om te dienen (2016) is one of the most recent Curaçaoan biographies on political leaders. Though Pourier was born in Bonaire, a neighboring Dutch Caribbean island, he lived most of his life in Curaçao, making his life narrative more Curaçaoan than Bonairian. The subtitle, which translates as "living to serve," already gives a glimpse of Pourier's personality and his personal life motive. The biography is a full-length book, consisting of twelve chapters spread over more than 223 pages. It is written in Dutch, as most Curaçaoan political biographies are. Dutch is one of the three official languages of the island and competes with the creole language Papiamentu, which also became official in 2007.
Heiligers opts for a chronological portrayal of Pourier's life instead of a thematic approach, as this approach offers certain advantages for the presentation of [End Page 43] the biographical subject. The book starts with a description of Pourier's humble beginnings in the Bonairian village of Rincon where his parents had to struggle to get by. The narrative describes what it meant to grow up with a father who, in order to take care of his family, had to leave the island to work on an oil tanker operated by the multinational firm Shell. As the oil refineries in both Curaçao and Aruba administered about 80 percent of the fuel for the Allied Forces during World War II, working on an oil tanker was not without danger in those days. For example, thirty Bonairian men were killed by German torpedoes in 1942. Their names are engraved in a commemorative monument on the "Francisco Mercelina" Quay in Bonaire.
Miguel's birth on September 29th was no coincidence. Twice a year Bonairian seamen would return home and buy rounds of liquor in the botekin (pub) with the money they had earned abroad. Especially in December, when the village was in festive holiday mood, the men were brought in as heroes. In this way, a lot of Rincon's children were born in the month of September, a fact to which Heiligers alludes in the opening sentence of the first chapter as she mentions Pourier's date of birth.
Another significant circumstance in Pourier's life was that he had to leave his family and his island of birth in 1951, at the tender age of twelve, to attend secondary school on the larger island of Curaçao, which at the time was the center of Dutch colonial rule in the Caribbean. Pourier himself described this and other experiences of his youth in a personal notebook, and as Heiligers was able to use this notebook, the first part of the biography is to a significant extent autobiographical (Jordens 12). In later chapters, Heiligers further delves into Pourier's life, examining his ideals, the most significant events during his time as a politician, political relations within the Dutch Kingdom, his successes and failures, and the sustainability of his ideas...