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Carte d'Aruba
Drapeau d'Aruba

General presentation

Carte d'ArubaAruba is a parliamentary unitary monarchy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The island is located a few kilometers from the Venezuelan coast and west of Curaçao, another Dutch island.

The island is populated by approximately 107,690 inhabitants in 2022. With an area of 193 square kilometers (75 sq. mi.), the population density is very high, more than 558 inhabitants per square kilometer. The main cities are Oranjestad (capital), Sint Nicolaas, Santa Cruz and Noord.

The island owes its name to the Caquetios, an ancient Arawak people who had populated the island and called it Oruba which means “well located island”. Subsequently the Spaniards called it "Isla de Oruba". It was the Dutch who later owned the island who changed the name to Aruba.

Aruba is a flat country whose highest point is Mount Jamanota at 188 meters. Temperatures are almost constant at 30°C (86F) all year round.

Its particuliarity ? It has only a small part of the tropical fauna. The very dry island has some desert landscapes. It must be said that the island is little watered, only 29 days of rain on average per year!

On the economic side, the GDP/inhabitant is 23,384.3 USD in 2020, which makes it one of the highest for the Caribbean states. The currency is the Aruba guilder.

Drapeau d'ArubaPart of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the King of the Netherlands Willem-Alexander is the head of state of Aruba. The Governor is Alfonso Boekhoudt, his role is to represent the Dutch crown in the island. The Minister-President in charge of the executive power is Evelyn Wever-Croes since 2009.


According to archaeological excavations, the first human traces in Aruba date back to more than 2500 years BC when the Caiquetios, a tribe of Arawaks would have come from present-day Venezuela. They lived mainly from hunting and fishing near the coasts, in particular Malmok and Palm Beach.

From 1000 until 1515, the Arawaks Caquetios establish 5 villages and begin to produce corn and yucca. They were the ones who lived on the island when the Europeans arrived.

It was in 1499 that the island was sighted and accosted by the Spanish navigator Alonso de Ojeda. In their report, they describe the island as "the island of giants" in reference to the height of the island's inhabitants at the time. They return to Spain with cotton, Brazil wood and describe houses built on water. Their description aroused the interest of the Spaniards who decided to colonize the island. Alonso de Ojeda was appointed the island's first governor in 1508.

Many Caquetios are enslaved and sent to work in the plantations and mines on the island of Santo Domingo, the largest Spanish colony in the Caribbean. Some are allowed to stay on the island to raise cattle. Many Arubans still living today are said to have an Arawak ancestor.

Very quickly, the Spaniards lost interest in an island whose aridity and low rainfall could not allow the establishment of a plantation company and profit from it.

It was then that the Dutch seized Aruba in 1636. Peter Stuyvesant became the first Dutch Governor of the island before being called upon to lead New Amsterdam, which is none other than New York today.

For the Dutch, the acquisition of the island allowed them to protect their supply of salt from the South Americans and also to ensure that they had a naval base in the Caribbean while they were at war with the Spanish. The Dutch recruit the Caquetios to build farms and raise herds whose meat they would sell to other islands in the area.

Persecuted Jews from Europe come to live on the island. The political status of the island will evolve several times and will even be shared between Dutch and English (1799-1802 and 1805-1816). In 1845, Aruba became a member of the Netherlands Antilles.

During the Second World War, while the Netherlands was occupied by Nazi Germany from May 10, 1940, the British decided to place the island under their protection before leaving it to the United States on January 16, 1942 until the liberation of the Netherlands in 1945.

On March 18, 1948, the Dutch Crown accepted the principle of self-determination for Aruba. The Netherlands Antilles (“Leeward Islands” (Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao located near the coast of Venezuela) and the “Windward Islands” (Saint Maarten, Saba and Saint Eustatius located east of Puerto Rico) ) took their autonomy on December 29, 1954. A constitution was established in April 1955. Henceforth, the Kingdom of the Netherlands consisted of two entities of equal right: the Netherlands and the Netherlands Antilles.

To commemorate the 1948 agreement, the date of March 18 is chosen as the day of the island (we cannot say national holiday, since it is not a question of a nation), it is the "Day of the flag”, flag adopted on March 18, 1976 together with the anthem “Aruba Dushi Tera” (meaning Aruba, precious land).

On March 12, 1983, representatives of the Dutch Crown, of each of the islands of the Netherlands Antilles and of the Netherlands accepted the principle of the autonomy of the island of Aruba, autonomy vis-à-vis the Netherlands Antilles and not of the Kingdom. It takes effect on January 1, 1986.

Aruba becomes an autonomous state of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. While the 1983 agreement provided for independence in ten years (ie for 1996), the Aruban government preferred to ask for the suspension of this clause.

Today, Aruba is still part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. External affairs and national defense of Aruba are still controlled by the Kingdom, but internal politics, including laws, local politics and currency, are all managed by the Aruban government.


During colonization and until the end of the 18th century, Aruba was known for its horse breeding, the Arawaks serving as shepherds. It was from the 19th century that the land was sold in plots to settlers who wanted it. Agriculture remained small despite efforts by the pharmaceutical industry to attempt the cultivation of aloe.

Gold mining started in 1824 but was interrupted at the beginning of the 20th century. Aruba then turned to refining oil exported from Venezuela and the results were convincing. Refining began in 1920 at the port of Sint Nicolaas but in 1985, the refinery had to close causing a serious economic crisis. It was then that Aruba opted for mass tourism by building luxury hotels, casinos to exploit the idyllic setting of the island (turquoise blue beach, no hurricanes).

The Sint Nicolaas refinery reopened in 1990 and resumed full production in 1993 before closing again in 2012.

Today the first industry of the island is tourism. It employs more than half of the active population of a country that has a very low unemployment rate (less than 1% of the active population!). It must be said that the island is a destination of choice, especially for the North American population, and welcomes more than a million tourists each year.

But the island has other assets. Although it has no oil reserves, it is studying the possibility of reopening its refinery and supplies from its neighbors, including Venezuela. Aruba also has two free zones (Barcadera and Bushiri), where imports and exports as well as the movement of services are exempt from taxes.

The other important sector in the island is finance with offshore banking activities. The island has long been considered a tax haven for money laundering.

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