Aruba is a 32 km-long island of the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean Sea, 27 km north of the Paraguaná Peninsula, Falcón State, Venezuela. It is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Unlike much of the Caribbean region, it has a dry climate and an arid, cactus-strewn landscape. This climate has helped tourism as visitors to the island can reliably expect warm, sunny weather. It has a land area of 193 km². It is part of the ABC islands.
Aruba was first discovered by Amerigo Vespucci and Alonso de Ojeda in 1499 and remained a Spanish colony for over a century. In 1636 Aruba was captured by a Dutch ship commanded by Peter Stuyvesant. The island was formally turned over to the Netherlands in 1648.
The island's economy has been dominated by four main industries: gold mining, aloe export, petroleum, and tourism.
In 1944, its oil processing refinery, which was at the time one of the largest in the region, was attacked by a German submarine under the command of Admiral Donitz. Eleanor Roosevelt paid a brief visit to the American troops stationed in Aruba during World War II.
In August 1947, Aruba presented its first "Staatsreglement", for the status of an Autonomous State within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
In 1977, the first Referendum for Self Determination was held with the support of the United Nations. In 1983, Aruba reached a final official agreement with the State of the Netherlands, the State of the Netherlands Antilles and the Island Governments, to become a Sovereign Member State within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, with its own Constitution/Grondwet. Aruba's Constitution was proclaimed in August 1985.
Aruba seceded from the Netherlands Antilles on January 1, 1986, to become a separate, sovereign, self-governing member of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Movement toward full independence by 1996 was halted upon the request of Aruba's prime minister, Nelson O. Oduber, in 1990.
As a Constituent Country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Aruba's politics take place within a framework of a 21-member Parliament and an eight-member Cabinet. The governor general is appointed for a six-year term by the monarch, and the prime minister and deputy prime minister are elected by the Staten (or "Parlamento") for four-year terms. The Staten is made up of 21 members elected by direct, popular vote to serve a four-year term.
Together, the State of the Netherlands, the State of the Netherlands Antilles, and the State of Aruba form a Commonwealth.
Legal jurisdiction lies with a Gerecht in Eerste Aanleg (Court of First Instance) on Aruba, a Gemeenschappelijk Hof van Justitie voor de Nederlandse Antillen en Aruba (Common Court of Justice of the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba and the Hoge Raad der Nederlanden (Supreme Court of Justice of the Netherlands).
One of the Lesser Antilles, specifically in the Leeward Antilles island arc, Aruba is a generally flat, riverless island renowned for its white sand beaches. Most of these are located on the western and southern coasts of the island, which are relatively sheltered from fierce ocean currents. The northern and eastern coasts, lacking this protection, are considerably more battered by the sea and have been left largely untouched by humans. The interior of the island features some rolling hills, the better two of which are called Hooiberg at 165 metres (541 ft) and Mount Jamanota, which is the highest on the island, at 188 metres (617 ft) above sea level. Oranjestad, the capital, is located at.
As a separate member state of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the island has no administrative subdivisions. On the east are Curaçao and Bonaire, two island territories which form the southwest part of the Netherlands Antilles; Aruba and these two Netherlands Antilles islands are also known as the ABC islands.
The local climate is a pleasant tropical marine climate. Little seasonal temperature variation exists, which helps Aruba to attract tourists all year round. Temperatures are almost constant at about 28 °C (82 °F), moderated by constant trade winds from the Atlantic Ocean. Yearly precipitation barely reaches 500 mm (20 in), most of it falling in late autumn.
Aruba enjoys one of the highest standards of living in the Caribbean region, with low poverty and unemployment rates. About half of the Aruban Gross National Product is earned through tourism or related activities. Most of the tourists are from Canada, the European Union and the United States, which is the country's largest trading partner. Before the Status Aparte (Secession from the Neth. Antilles) oil processing was the dominant industry in Aruba, despite expansion of the tourism sector. Today, the influence of the oil processing business is minimal. The size of the agriculture and manufacturing industries remains minimal.
Deficit spending has been a staple in Aruba's history, and modestly high inflation has been present as well, although recent efforts at tightening monetary policy may correct this. Aruba receives some development aid from the Dutch government each year. The Aruban florin is pegged to the United States dollar with a fixed exchange rate where 1.79 florin equals 1 U.S. dollar.
In 2006 the Aruban government has also issued several tax laws in order to further reduce the deficit. This is much disputed for the fact that government spending has not been reduced, and hotel and oil refinery business on the island have been given special status to avoid paying (the same) taxes.
Aruba is situated in the deep southern part of the Caribbean. Because of almost no rainfall, Aruba was saved from plantation and the economics of the slave trade. In 1515, the first Spanish Governor of this region, Alonso de Ojeda, who married a native american, had the entire population transported to Hispaniola where they all had to learn the 15th century vulgar "spanish" spoken there and work in the copper mines; most were allowed to return when the mines were tapped out. The Dutch, who took control almost two centuries later, left the Arawaks, who spoke the "broken spanish" their ancestors had learned in Hispaniola, to farm and graze livestock, using the island as a source of meat for other Dutch possessions in the Caribbean. The Arawak heritage is stronger on Aruba than on most Caribbean islands. No full-blooded Aboriginals remain, but the features of the islanders clearly indicate their genetic heritage. The majority of the population is descended mostly from Arawak, Spanish, Italian and Dutch and a few French, British and African ancestors. Recently there has been another substantial immigration to the island from neighboring American and Caribbean nations, attracted by the lure of well-paying jobs.
The two official languages are the Dutch language and the predominant, national language Papiamento. Spanish and English are also widely spoken. Islanders can often speak four or more languages and their culture and customs.
The origins of the population and location of the island give Aruba a mixed culture. Dutch influence can still be seen, as in the celebration of the "Sinterklaas" Day on December 5th and 6th, even though not much of the population is of Dutch origin. Christmas and New Year are celebrated with the typical music and songs of gaitas for Christmas and the dande for New Year, and the "ayaca", the "ponchi crema", and other typical foods and drinks. In June there is the celebration of the "Dia di San Juan", with the song of "Dera Gay". Tourism from the United States has recently also increased the visibility of American culture on the island, with such celebrations as Halloween and Thanksgiving Day in November.
The holiday of Carnival is an important one in Aruba, as it is in many Caribbean and Latin American countries. Carnival is usually held from the beginning of January until the end of February, with a large parade on the final Sunday of the festivities.
Aruba's Queen Beatrix International Airport is located near Oranjestad, This airport has daily flights to various cities across the United States, to San Juan, Puerto Rico; Miami, Florida; Houston, Texas; Atlanta, Georgia; New York, and Boston, Massachusetts.
It also connects Aruba with South America, with daily flights to Caracas, Venezuela and Bogota, Colombia, and with Europe through Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands.
Language can be seen as an important part of island culture in Aruba. The cultural mixture has given way to a linguistic mixture known as Aruba's national language Papiamento. However, islanders are known to speak many languages. Islanders often speak Papiamento, English, Dutch and Spanish.
In recent years the government of Aruba has shown an increased interest in acknowledging the cultural and historical importance of its native language. Although spoken Papiamento is fairly similar among the several Papiamento speaking islands, there is a big difference in written Papiamento. The orthography differs per island and even per group of people. Some are more oriented towards the Spanish roots and use the equivalent spelling (e.g. "y" instead of "j"), where others are more oriented towards the Dutch roots.
In a book "The Buccaneers of America" first published in 1678, is stated by eyewitness account that the Indians on Aruba spoke "Spanish". The oldest government official statement written in Papiamento, dates from 1803.
Aruba has four newspapers published in Papiamento: the Diario, the Bon Dia, the Solo di Pueblo and the Awe Mainta and two in English : the Aruba Today and The News.
* Collapsed September 2, 2005