Aruba is an island, which covers an area of less than 200 square kilometers (77 square miles) and lies opposite the peninsula of Paraguana (Venezuela).
After discovering the island of Curaçao in 1499, Alonso de Ojeda sailed westward between unknown islands and the coast of South America. Not long afterwards the first Spaniards set foot on Aruban soil. The Spaniards were not very interested in the Aruba at the time. In 1513 Diego Colon, the new viceroy of Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic) gave the island the name of Isla Inutil, worthless island. The Spaniards decided to transport nearly the whole Indian population of Aruba to Hispanola where they were employed in the copper mines. Aruba was of no importance to the Spaniards, but the location near the continent was certainly a reason to keep the island.
In 1636, the Dutch occupied Aruba. They found only some unhappy Spaniards and a few aggressive Indians. The Spaniards left the island, heading for Cartagena, and the Indians withdrew to the vicinity of Ceru Cristal and Alto Vista.
The Dutch started livestock breeding, mainly goats, sheep and
horses but foreigners were not allowed to settle and gradually
the number of indians increased. In the second part of the eighteenth
century however Europeans started to settle in Aruba and mix with
Although the last full-blooded indian died in 1862, the strength of the indian influence has remained in the features as well as in the character of many Arubans. The oldest families of the island originated from this mixture. East European Jews, Lebanese and others from neighboring countries also found their home on Aruba. In a short time the number of inhabitants grew from 9,000 to more than 85,000.
Over the years many outside influences have helped to develop a language that is a mixture of seven languages. This language, Papiamentu, is also spoken on Bonaire and Curaçao.
The Dutch started horse breeding in 1636, and the Aruban horses were exported to many other islands in the Caribbean. Peter Stuyvesant, at that time Governor of Curaçao, used Aruban horses during his armed battle on the continent of South America.
In 1837, the cultivation of the Cochineal was started. The Cochineal-scale insect (coccus cacti) which lives on the nopal cactus produces a carmine pigment. For many years the trade in this pigment was a reasonable source of income. Also tannin from the Divi Divi tree and phosphate were exported to Europe.
A twelve-year-old boy found gold while he was herding his fathers
sheep in 1824. Shortly more gold findings followed. Everybody
was allowed to mine, provided that the gold found was handed over
to the government at a fixed price. When in 1854 new gold veins
were discovered, the Aruba Island handled the golddigging in a
more professional way forming the
Goldmining Company. On the whole, Aruba exported over 15,000 kilos of gold, but golddigging was stopped during World War I. Recent explorations have shown that there is still gold in the Aruban soil.
During the 1850s, the pharmaceutical industry imported the plant aloe vera to the island. The aloe vera, brought from the Mediterranean area, was of eminent quality. In the beginning of this century Aruba became the largest aloe exporter in the world and became known as the Aloe Island. Now, in 1997, Aruba Aloe still is a well-known trademark.
In 1929, an oil refinery was put into operation which developed into one of the larger refineries in the world. During the last World War the greater part of fuel for the Allied powers came from Aruba. The existence of such a big company on the island resulted in enormous population growth. The refinery closed down in 1985. An unemployment rate of over 50% forced the island to seek another source of income and the tourist industry became very important. In a very professional way Aruba developed and promoted this main source of income, and now the beaches, hotels, restaurants and casinos of Aruba are world famous.
On January 1, 1986, Aruba became a separate entity within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, for a period of ten years. After this period Aruba was to become independent. Political leader Betico Croes was a great advocate of this plan, better known as "Status Aparte". Unfortunately he was never able to see the results of his work. A few hours before the official approved flag was hoisted, Betico Croes had a car accident and went into a coma from which he never awoke.
In 1995, Aruba decided to stay in the Kingdom of the Netherland and not become independent. As self-governing territory, Aruba has a governor, who is appointed by the Queen of Holland, its own parliament and council of ministers. Every four years, free elections are held and politics is always a hot item on this sunny island.
For more tourist information visit the website of the Aruba Tourist Authority ( ATA ) www.toaruba.com and for those who plan to visit Aruba by yacht visit the website of Seaport Marina in Oranjestad.
For more about Bonaire or Curaçao.
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