by Troy


Do you know that the history of Aruba can be traced back as far as 2,000 years ago? The Arawak Indians called Caiquetios, Aruba’s first inhabitants, were migrants from South America. Bits and pieces of their culture can still be found all over the island through pottery, earthenware, and other artifacts at the different museums.

When the Spanish explorer, Alonso de Ojeda stumbled upon the island in 1499, the history of Aruba has become clearer and more significant. Alonso de Ojeda claimed the island for Queen Isabella. The history of Aruba has pointed out that the Spanish explorer was the one who christened the island its name to mean “there was gold”. There are many stories as to where Aruba got its name. Another version on the history of Aruba is that the Arawaks allegedly thought of the name to mean “guide”. Nevertheless, the Spaniards did not find any use for the island. They find the climate too dry to be cultivated and they had not found any signs of gold. Thus, they left the island to the Caiquetios for the next 150 years or so. Soon, the island became a hideout for pirates who are waiting for passing ships containing Indian treasures.

The year 1636 is significant in the history of Aruba. This is the time when Europeans paid attention to Aruba once more. The Dutch were out looking for a place to set up colony, and having been thrown out of their base in St. Maarten, they took over the islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao. The Spanish, who considered the island “valueless”, was not putting up heavy resistance. Except for a brief period between 1805 to 1815 when Aruba was taken over by the British during the Napeolonic Wars, the Dutch has held on to Aruba ever since.

The discovery of gold in 1824 is a momentous part of the history of Aruba. It brought immigrants from Europe and Venezuela. However, the gold mines did not foster that long. When the mines have been exhausted, Aruba turned to something else to maintain its economy. The production of aloe was the answer to their prayers. It kept up the economy until the Lago oil refinery was set up in 1929. The oil refinery took the credit for the surge in Aruba’s economy. The shutting down of the oil refinery in 1985 was a cause for the high unemployment rate. Before long though, tourism has replaced the oil refinery as the largest to employ manpower. Even with the oil refinery resumed in 1991, tourism has continued to be the main source of the island’s income and the topmost reason for new projects. And why not? Clearly, tourists keep coming back to visit not because of the oil, right?
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