Tanki Maraka Heritage Park: Bonaire in the Second World War
You probably didn’t know that the Dutch Caribbean island of Bonaire hosted a U.S. military installation during World War II, now, with the opening of the Tanki Maraka Heritage Park, visitors can get a partial view into this particular slice of Bonaire’s history.
A little bit of history
On May 10th in 1940, The Netherlands was invaded. On that same day, all Nazi sympathizers in the Dutch islands were arrested and sent to internment camps on Bonaire. The next day, was installed the first U.S. military base on Bonaire, along with British and French forces. The call for troops came to protect the oil refineries on Curacao and Aruba, both helping with the war effort to supply Allied forces.
American soldiers arrived on Bonaire in the second half of 1943 and their commander stated that a new airport had to be built. In December 1943, construction began close to where the airport is today. The new airport, named: Flamingo Airport, was put into use in 1945. This was a big step forward for Bonaire and its aviation system. A small terminal was built that was suitable for the number of passengers at the time. This building was used until 1976.
The Tanki Maraka site is a World War II Open-Air Museum highlighting the area of a U.S. military camp from 1942 to 1947. This museum park has been presented as a combined effort by BONAI (Bonaire Archaeological Institute), the Government of Bonaire, Mondriaan Funds and STINAPA.
In all, over 3000 documents were digitized, with many coming from the National Archives in Curacao and the Monqui Maduro Library, also in Curacao. Here on Bonaire, oral history interviews were conducted with many of the island’s elders, who were living on Bonaire during World War II.
The Tanki Maraka Heritage Park provides a self-guided tour through the premises of the old base. The signage is excellent, giving visitors to the site an amazing perspective into life on Bonaire during World War II. The images from the war are compelling, adding to the sense of history that one feels while walking through the grounds. The walk takes about one hour to complete. The park can be found along the road to Rincon. After leaving Kralendijk, be watchful for a sign to the park on the right, and then the driveway to the entrance is just a short distance.
The Dutch Caribbean island of Bonaire can provide you a lot of activities to enjoy with your family. Looking for a house to stay during the holidays? Visit us!