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20Th-CenTurY BLaCK GoLD rush Oil gave Aruba its next economic boom. In 1929, the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey (now Exxon) built what was then the world’s largest oil refinery in San Nicolas, on the southeastern coast. This refinery employed over 8,000 people — 16 percent of Aruba’s population — making San Nicolas the island’s second-largest city. Exxon closed the refinery in 1985 during a global oversupply, but the Coastal Oil

Aruba is home to a mixture of people from South America and Europe, the Far East and other islands of the Caribbean, though most are descended from Arawak, Dutch and Spanish ancestors. No full-blooded Indians remain.

Company of Houston, Texas, reopened it in 1991.

MoDern PoLITICs anD TourIsM In the 1940s, Aruba began to resent playing second fiddle to Curaçao in the federation known as the Netherlands Antilles (then composed of Aruba,

arawak art

Bonaire, Curaçao and Suriname). By 1986, Aruba’s people are keen linguists,

Bonaire and Curaçao. Once again, Aruba

Aruba had had enough and became an

using Dutch, English, Spanish and

was saved from the slave trade and a

autonomous state within the Kingdom of

Papiamento with ease, often all in the

plantation economy because of its poor

the Netherlands, with its own constitution

same conversation.

soil and aridity. Instead, the Dutch left the

and a high degree of self-government.

Arawaks to graze livestock on the parched

For a while, Aruba toyed with the idea

landscape, using the island to produce

of proceeding to full independence but then decided to stay Dutch.

BeGInnInGs Two thousand years ago, the Arawak

meat for other Dutch possessions in the

people settled Aruba and were still there,

Caribbean. With the exception of a short

In the capital of Oranjestad, or “orange

in 1499, when the Spanish conquistador

period during the Napoleonic Wars, when

city,” honoring Holland’s reigning House

Alonso de Ojeda came to claim the island

the island fell to the British, Aruba has

of Orange, a 21-member legislative

for Queen Isabella of Spain. The Spanish

remained Dutch ever since.

assembly elected by popular vote meets

didn’t think highly of Aruba, which they found too arid for cultivation — a bad

19Th-CenTurY GoLD rush

an eight-member council of ministers.

judgment call, because they missed the

In 1824, Aruba experienced its

The Netherlands is still responsible for

gold that was right under their noses and

first economic boom when gold was

defense and foreign affairs. Despite

didn’t foresee the economic boom in oil

discovered on its northern coast. A flood

its separate status, Aruba still retains

and high-rise hotels that the island would

of gold-hungry immigrants arrived from

strong economic, cultural and political

experience. This was a lucky break for

Europe and Venezuela, and the gold

ties with the mother country and her

the Arawaks, though, who were left alone

rush was on. A smeltery at Bushiribana

sister islands.

by the Spanish for more than a century.

processed over three million tons of raw

Before the first luxury hotel was

Thus the Arawak heritage is stronger on

material until 1916, when the mines were

opened in 1959, cruise ships provided

Aruba than on most Caribbean islands,

shut down.

the main source of visitors to the island.

thanks to that laissez-faire approach.

The DuTCh CoMe To sTaY


regularly, and a prime minister heads

After gold petered out, Aruba became

Since then, both ship- and land-based

the world’s leading producer of aloe, just

tourism have grown phenomenally.

as the sunbathing craze was taking off in

Aruba now boasts more than 6,000 hotel

With their lukewarm attitude toward

the States. One can still visit the Aruba

rooms and over a million visitors each

Aruba, the Spanish didn’t resist too fiercely

Aloe Balm Factory and see the production

year. Having supplanted oil as a revenue

when the Dutch came calling in 1636 to

process first-hand — from aloe leaf to

earner, tourism is now the mainstay of

seize Aruba and the sister islands of

finished lotions and creams.

the island economy.

carnival cruise lines fun ashore

1112 POC Aruba.indd 26

10/4/11 4:27 PM

Carnival FUN ASHORE  

Fun Ashore -- POC (ports of call) book, which includes Carnival Cruise Lines marketing, regional articles and port information.

Carnival FUN ASHORE  

Fun Ashore -- POC (ports of call) book, which includes Carnival Cruise Lines marketing, regional articles and port information.