Aruba Online Travel Guide

The first inhabitants of the small island off South America's coast, now known as Aruba, represented a nation of Arawak Indians called the Caiquetios. These Indians migrated north from the Orinoco Basin in Venezuela and settled on the island around 2,000 years ago. The term, "Arawak," refers to groups of indigenous peoples in the Caribbean first discovered by Spanish explorers in 1492. Other Arawak tribes include the Taíno, Nepoya, Suppoyo, Igneri, and Caribs. The Caiquetios of Aruba created a peaceful civilization that relied on hunting, fishing, and agriculture. Elements of their daily lives exist in earthenware vessels and other artifacts now located at the Archeological Museum in Oranjestad. Native cave drawings and petroglyphs appear in the Fontein and Guadiriki Caves , and at Arikok National Park.

In 1499 the Spanish explorer Alonso de Ojeda made his way to the island and laid claim to it in the name of Queen Isabella. He named it Oro Hubo meaning "gold in the basin." The name Aruba , which came into use around the same time, seems to have been derived from the Arawak Indian word oibubai, which means guide. There are several theories about the origins of the name. Early on the Spanish were disappointed in their acquisition and barely used the island. The climate was too arid for cultivation and gold was scare at that point. For the next 150 years the Caiquetios occupied the island with little Spanish interference. During this time pirates used Aruba as a hide-away, and preyed on ships transporting treasures back to the Old World . A remnant of this period survives in the old pirate castle that stands in Bushribana on the northeast coast.

In 1636 Europeans seized Aruba once again. This time it the Dutch who captured it, along with Curacao and Bonaire . These islands formed the Netherland Antilles under the control of The Dutch West India Company. Two famous sites constructed during this period include Fort Zoutman and William III Tower . Built as a way to maintain security, they thwarted the threat of pirates. Aruba remained under Dutch control, except for a short period from 1805-1815 when the island fell to the British during the Napoleonic Wars. The discovery of gold near Bushiribana in 1824 incited a gold rush that lasted for many years. Traces of the rush still exist--the smelting plant survives in Balashi just northwest of the Spanish Lagoon at the center of the island. Gold demand remained steady through 1916 when the mines became unprofitable and closed. However, eight years later a new commodity arose, black gold, i.e. oil. Soon Aruba possessed one of the world's largest refineries. The effects of the economic boom that followed transformed San Nicholas into a major commercial center. The oil industry and tourism reigned as Aruba's two largest economic drivers. After the refineries closed in 1985 due to the "worldwide glut in petroleum", a heavier burden was levied on the tourism industry to produce revenue. Even after oil refining resumed in 1991, the island continued to invest heavily in tourist development. In March of 2006 an infusion of 230 million dollars supported expansions and renovations that encompass virtually every sector of the travel industry today, from the airport and cruise terminal, to hotels, spas and restaurants.

InterKnowledge Corp. The Original Official Homepage of the Aruba Tourism Authority. C. 1997-2005.

Hotel Online Special Report. March 2, 2006 .

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