Just off the north coast of South America is the island of Aruba – the crown jewel of the Dutch Caribbean.
Want to learn more about Aruba?
- Status: Constituent Country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
- Capital (and Largest City): Oranjestad
- Population (2015): 110,108
- Total Area: 178.91 km²
- Official Languages: Dutch, Papiamento
- Currency: Aruban florin (Afl.) (AWG)
History of Aruba
Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the Arawak people (from nearby Venezuela) were likely the first to settle here. The native population was known for their tall stature (something the first European explorers noted) and was close in culture to tribes in the northern part of South America.
Spaniards first arrived on the island in 1499, following which the Spanish colonized the island for around 100 years. Aruba was largely dry, meaning it was not fit for plantations – leaving it relatively undisturbed by the slave trade (compared to some other islands). In 1636, the Dutch began to administer the island. The native population was left to their own devices in some ways. Livestock was raised on the island and then in turn sent by the Dutch to other islands under their control
There was a brief period of British rule around the early 19th century, however Aruba was soon returned to the Dutch crown. When the parent country was occupied during WWII, Aruba remained free and supported the Allies in the war at the behest of the exile government.
Potential Independence and Modern Era
Throughout the latter half of the 20th century, there have been murmurings of full independence for Aruba from the Kingdom of the Netherlands. At one point, a full referendum was scheduled during the 90’s, however this was later postponed indefinitely. While many support independence, it remains to be seen if another effort will be undertaken in the coming years.
Aruban culture is largely diverse, with indigenous influence alongside Dutch and other European cultures, as well as African traditions. Heavy tourism from the relatively nearby United States have resulted in more American customs and popular culture finding their way to the island.
The flag of Aruba consists of a light blue background (representing sky, sea, peace), two yellow lines near the bottom (industry, minerals, sun), and a white lined red star in the upper left hand corner (the points representing the four origins of Aruban people, with the star standing in for the island itself).
Geography of Aruba
Aruba is a largely flat, dry, and arid island that shares the characteristics of deserts in many areas (including an abundance of cacti). There are some hills, though they do not measure very high. Sandy beaches are found throughout the west and south, while the east and north are impacted more heavily by the waves and wind of the sea.
Cities and Towns
There are no major cities on Aruba, though Oranjestad (the capital) does number around 35,000. Other small towns and villages can be found throughout Aruba, though none are major population centres.
Did you know?
- Aruba is only 29 kilometres from Venezuela
- Baseball is popular in Aruba, as is windsurfing
- Aruba is home to over 90 ethnic groups and nationalities, making it one of the world’s most diverse countries or territories
- There are many shipwrecks off the coast
- It generally avoids hurricanes
- Iguana meat is a delicacy
- Wild donkeys are found here
Aruba may have been deemed a backwater by some European explorers, but in recent years it has developed into one of the jewels of the Dutch crown – for now at least.
Stay informed. Stay Current.