The Caribbean island of Aruba was discovered by the explorers Amerigo Vespucci and Alonso de Ojeda, and claimed for Spain, in 1499. Later, in 1636, it became a Dutch territory, as part of the Netherlands Antilles—a cluster of islands to the north of Venezuela. Aruba seceded from the Netherlands Antilles in 1986, becoming a self governing and autonomous member of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Though the island had been moving toward complete independence, that process was halted at the request of Aruba in 1990.
Aruba is a flat, riverless (and arid) island known for its white sand beaches and tropical climate moderated by constant trade winds off the Atlantic Ocean. Because it was unsuitable for sugar production or other industries requiring slave labor, it escaped the economics of the slave trade so common to many other Caribbean island nations.
During the time of Spanish colonization, most of the indigenous Arawak people were deported to Hispaniola (present-day Haiti and the Dominican Republic) to work the copper mines. Most were allowed to return after the mines quit producing. After the Dutch took over Aruba, the Arawak people became farmers and herders. The Arawak heritage is therefore stronger on Aruba than on other islands in the region, even though no members of the original population remain today. Today’s population is made up mostly of descendants of the indigenous peoples who had intermarried with people of Dutch, French, British and African origin.
This racial-cultural mixture has resulted in an unique predominant language on Aruba: Papiamento. This is an Iberian-based (derived mainly from Spanish and Portuguese) Creole. A full Bible was published in Papiamento in 1997.