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About Betty Ratzlaff-Henriquez

BettyRatzlaffHenriquez3aBetty Ratzlaff-Henriquez’s commitment to the Papiamentu language began in 1949 when she arrived in Aruba as one of the first youth workers in the organization known as TEAM. She had to learn the language immediately and started collecting and defining Papiamentu words in 1958 while teaching Papiamentu on Aruba. She began work on the First Edition of the dictionary in 1985 when she was working for Trans World Radio and teaching the TWR staff the language. TWR created a foundation and published the dictionary in 1992.

In addition to her language contributions, the author is also well known in the Antilles for her camping ministry for youth, which began in 1960. In 1964 she founded Centro Juvenil Washington in Aruba. Recognition for this work was made in 1979 when she received the Woman of the Year award by the five major newspapers of Aruba. In 1987, Her Majesty the Queen of The Netherlands visited the youth center and Ratzlaff-Henriquez was introduced to the queen who congratulated her for her work.

For almost 60 years she lived mostly in Antillean homes and used Papiamentu as her primary language. During those years she also added Spanish and some Dutch to the English and German she already spoke.

In 1997 she retired and returned to her native Canada but she did not leave the Antilles behind. A year later she married Bicento Henriquez, a life-long family friend who had lost his wife of more than 50 years. Since then, Betty and Bicento have lived in both Aruba and Canada but at the end of April 2008 they packed up and returned to Aruba where most of Bicento’s children, grand children and great-grandchildren live.

Since their marriage, Betty and Bicento have worked together on a number of projects including the revisions and additions to this Second Edition of the Papiamentu/English Dictionary. Other projects include publishing a collection of inspirational writings by Bicento with illustrations by Betty. They have also launched a website for their inspirational writings, inviting visitors to read, comment, and post questions at: www.bbhenriquez.blogspot.com

Betty has also written a book in the Papiamentu language entitled Centro Juvenil Washington – 1965-1995.  30 Aña di Historia. This is about the youth center and campsite on Aruba that she founded in 1965 and was director for 15 years. This book about the Aruba youth center can be ordered online at bvratzlaff@gmail.com with CJW30 in the “subject line.”

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