Aruba: Culture & History
Aruba is one of the three ABC islands that comprise the Netherlands Antilles; the other two of them are Bonaire and Curacao. The capital of Aruba is Oranjestad, which is located on the island's southern coast. Aruba has a mélange of people from South American and European
continents, also from the Far East and, from other West Indian islands. These different settlers have added a unique flavour to the lives of the inhabitants of this island.
Aruba has become a great tourist attraction in recent years to Americans in particular but also to Canadians and Europeans. It now has a number of gaming casinos, some of which open twenty four hours a day, while some others open at eleven a.m. until the wee hours of the morning. The large casinos also feature first class entertainment imported mainly from the United States and Latin America.
The seawater off Aruba is spectacularly beautiful and clear allowing divers to enjoy the coral formations, as well as being able to visit wreck sites, where visibility at some times can be good for 100 feet.
There are a number of different sea game that can be caught in the waters around Aruba, such as shark, barracuda, Wahoo, amberjack, kingfish, bonito, black fin and yellow fin tunas are in abundance.
Aruba's first inhabitants were the Caiquetios Indians from the Arawak tribe. Fragments of the earliest known Indian settlements date back to about 1000 A.D. and there are some ancient painted symbols still visible on limestone caves found at Fortein and Ayo.
The first European settlers to land on Aruban soil were the Spanish explorer Alonso de Ojeda who landed there around 1499. He savagely murdered many of the Indians; others that were captured were shipped to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, where they were put to work in the copper mines.
In 1636, the Dutch took possession of Aruba and remained in control for nearly two centuries. During the Napoleonic wars, the British observing a weakness in the Dutch defense, took control of the island between 1805 and 1816. Finally, in 1816, Aruba was returned to Dutch control. Less than a decade later, the first of Aruba's three economic booms took place when gold was discovered near Balashi. A flood of gold-hungry immigrants arrived from Europe and Venezuela, and mining continued until 1916.
When the mines became unproductive, Aruba turned to oil refining. The world's largest refinery was built on the southeastern tip of the island. Things boomed until the 1940s when the people of Aruba began to for their own autonomous state within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Unfortunately, for Aruba, the new level of independence came close on the heels of a severe economic downturn, which was in large measure due to the closure of Aruba's oil refinery. This loss of both gold and 'black gold' forced Aruba to turn to tourism. It has caused a phenomenal turn around in Aruba and it now gets over a million visitors a year. The oil refinery opened again in 1991, but tourism is now very much the mainstay of the island's economy. The Dutch maintain responsibility for the island's foreign and defense and continue to support Aruba's economy. Meanwhile, the United States has made some very serious inroads into controlling the economy of this island.