Aruba is a 33 km-long island of the Lesser Antilles in the southern Caribbean Sea, located 27 km north of the coast of Venezuela and 130 km east of Guajira Peninsula (Colombia). Together with Bonaire and Curaçao, it forms a group referred to as the ABC islands of the Leeward Antilles, the southern island chain of the Lesser Antilles.
The island's economy has been dominated by three main industries. A 19th century gold rush was followed by prosperity brought on by the opening in 1924 of an oil refinery. The last decades of the 20th century saw a boom in the tourism industry.
Aruba seceded from the Netherlands Antilles in 1986 and became a separate, autonomous member of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Movement toward full independence was halted at Aruba's request in 1990.
Aruba is a flat, riverless island in the Caribbean Sea, just a short distance north of the Venezuelan Peninsula Paraguaná, renowned for its white sand beaches. Aruba's tropical climate is moderated by constant trade winds from the Atlantic Ocean; the temperature is almost constant at about 27 degrees Celsius (81 degrees Fahrenheit).
By the beginning of the Second World War, the internal relations within the Kingdom of the Netherlands had for the most part retained their centuries old colonial features. Though officially no longer labelled colonies, the so-called overseas territories in Asia and the Western Hemisphere were, in essence, still ruled on behalf of the Netherlands in Europe.
Aruba's first inhabitants are believed to have been the Caquetios Amerinds from the Arawak tribe of Venezuela. Archeologists have found remnants of their settlements dating back to 1000 AD.
In 1499 the Europeans arrived as the Spanish explorer Alonso de Ojeda and the Italian navigator Amerigo Vespucci discovered the island. Within a few years Aruba was colonized by settlers from Spain and from other Caribbean islands. In 1508, Alonso de Ojeda was appointed Spain's first Governor of Aruba.
The Spanish garrison on Aruba dwindled following the Dutch capture of nearby Bonaire and Curacao in 1634. The Dutch occupied Aruba shortly thereafter, and retained control for nearly two centuries. In 1805, during the Napoleonic wars, the English briefly took control over the island, but it was returned to Dutch control in 1816.
Tourists began arriving in the 1960s, but development of large resort hotels with casinos really started in earnest in the 1980s, when declining oil revenues led the government to seek new ways to bolster the economy. Today, tourism is the leading industry and more than half a million people visit Aruba each year, making it one of the most popular destinations in the Caribbean. As a result, the island is prosperous by Caribbean standards, and its citizens enjoy good housing, education and health care.
In 1513, the entire Indian population was enslaved and taken to work on the Spanish estates in Hispaniola, now the Dominican Republic and Haiti. At the beginning of the Indian Historic Period in 1515, some Indians returned while others arrived from the mainland and lived in small villages in the northern part of the island.
The small island nation of Aruba is home to 80 nationalities - no surprise in light of its turbulent multi-cultural history. Amerindian, Latin and European influences are found in every aspect of life - on the faces of the people, in names of streets and attractions, in the four languages that are spoken daily, on restaurant menus; in architectural details; local art and music, stamps, currency and medicinal remedies.