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Cooperatives and Other Grassroots Organizations:[39]


Throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Roman Catholic Church sponsored several small scale cooperatives, aimed at helping the lower classes develop a source of livelihood (CHA).

Throughout the difficult years of the nineteenth century, the Roman Catholic Church assisted the island's poor majority through a variety of small scale paternalistic organizations. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the Church founded many social and cultural organizations to assist the needy; many of these concentrated on developing sources of employment as well as providing a proper education in Catholic values. In 1882 the San Hose Society was formed to work with young tradesmen, giving courses and training in Catholic values, sports and other activities.

Faced with the decline of traditional crafts a Catholic priest founded the Cooperative

Industry Association in Otrobanda in 1905 "to help and support its members in their moral and temporal needs by mutual collaboration in a charitable manner," and "to help the members in the learning and the exercise of various fields of commerce and industry, and, by mutual support, to make it possible for them to reap the fruits of their labour."[40] About forty workers produced woven sandals, alpargatas, for local sale and, less successfully, rope, liqueur and vermicelli. It eventually became a full scale store, known as the "priests' store," with outlets on Kaya Grandi in Otrobanda, Kaya Grandi in Punda, on Julianaplein and at the entrance to the refinery, selling, among other things, hardware, kitchen items and religious articles. It was one of the largest stores on Curaçao and unusual in that it had so many branches. In later years business declined and eventually it became a foundation; later the building in Otrobanda was sold to Maduro & Curiel's Bank.

Perhaps the most important organization founded by the Church was the Roman Catholic People's League (RKV), created in 1919 at the initiative of a Catholic school teacher, and soon headed by a priest. The group started a night school, the San Antonio Credit Union, a funeral cooperative which functioned for may years, and, in 1921, a regular newspaper aimed at the masses. In 1931 the People's League opened the first trade school, St. Josef, behind the Santa Ana Church, with assistance from Shell. Spurred by the 1922 strike by dock workers (see Chapter 8), the People's League helped organize the island's incipient trade union movement, organizing bus drivers, bakers, school teachers and office workers.[41]

The non-profit Handicraft Foundation was established in 1971 to help promote the redevelopment of small scale industries and handicrafts on the island. It received support from the United Nations Development Program and eventually absorbed the Home Crafts Association, which was founded in 1919. The foundation has given courses in leather tanning, basket weaving, doll making, sewing, gold filigree jewelry making, and textile screen printing and has had an important role in promoting the revival of traditional local handicrafts as cottage industries. Many of the products are sold to visiting tourists.

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