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Aruba History

The first people to inhabit the island of Aruba were a nation of Arawak Indians called the Caiquetios. The Arawak Indians migrated north from the Orinoco Basin in South America and settled on Aruba approximately 2,000 years ago. Today, archaeological digs in the north and northwest part of Aruba confirm that the Arawaks Indians were a strong culture with cave drawings, and artifacts that still exist in many places on the north shore till this day. In 1499, the

Spanish explorer Alonso de Ojeda made his way to this remote corner of the Caribbean Basin and claimed the territory for Queen Isabella in 1499. The Spanish made little use of the island, finding the climate of Aruba too dry for any cultivation. With little evidence of discovering gold, their man purpose of claiming the territory the Spanish abandoned Aruba to the Caiquetios for the next 150 years and devoted themselves to other more lucrative conquests. Aruba then became a hide-away for pirates and buccaneers who preyed on ships transporting Indian treasures back to the Old World. At Bushiribana on the northeast coast, the ruins of an old pirate castle still remain standing.

In 1636 Aruba captured the attention of Europeans. The Dutch, who had recently been expelled by the Spanish from their base in St.Maarten, set out looking for another place to establish a colonial presence. They soon captured the islands of Aruba, Curacao, and Bonaire. The next 100 years in Aruba so saw an increase in commerce as well as an allegiance change. Aruba was aligned with Britain from 1805 until 1816, as a result of the Napoleonic Wars, but reverted back to the Dutch in 1816. The island has been affiliated with Holland ever since.

In the 1800’s gold mining on the island was a strong industry until the early 19th century, when the start of the First World War rendered the raw materials needed to mine the rock unavailable. Gold, along with the primary export of aloe created a stable and thriving economy in Aruba. The gold rush continued until 1916 when the mines finally became so unprofitable that they had to be shut down. In 1924 gold was replaced by oil. Aruba became home to one of the world's largest refineries. The strength of the economic boom that followed made San Nicholas into a major commercial center and the island's second largest city. To this day, Aruba's two main industries have been oil and tourism. When the Factories were closed down in 1985 due to the worldwide glut in petroleum, the emphasis on tourism became especially important. Even after oil refining was resumed in 1991, the island continued to invest heavily in tourist development.

Nowadays Aruba’s culture is reflected throughout the island. The history, settlement, and immigration of the Arawak Indians, with the addition of the African and European people living on the island, is greatly reflected in the local foods, architecture, and language that Aruba possesses. Many of the local cultural festivities of the island are often linked to it's historical background of the island. The best way to experience the history and culture of Aruba is to get to know the people and the traditions that they express in their everyday life.

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