History in Aruba

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There is great debate about the origin of the name of the small island off of Venezuela. Some say that the name Aruba evolved from the Spanish-given name of "Oro Huba," meaning there is gold. Others say that the name derives from the tales of pirates and explorers who searched for the mythical island "Oro Ruba," or red gold. Current trends favor the theory that it comes from the Arawak word "oibubai," which means guide. The debate of Aruba's name is just as colorful as the island's history.

The Caquetios Indians

What we know of Aruba's starts with the settlement of the Caquetios Indians of the Arawak tribe between one and two thousand years ago. They arrived on the island from Venezuela, where they were under attack by the Caribs. Remains of the people can be found in the pottery and other artifacts, as well as cave paintings and even place names.

The Caquetios lived in peace until 1499, when Spanish explorer Alonso de Ojeda discovered the island and the Indians were enslaved and sent off to Hispaniola to work. The Spanish soon lost interest in the island, however, having deemed it unprofitable after being unable to find the gold they expected. Pirates set up base on Aruba shortly thereafter and built a castle that can still be seen in the area of Bushiribana. They spent the better part of two centuries conducting raids on passing ships from their new base.

The Dutch Invasion

In 1636 the Dutch took control of the island and erected the oldest buildings to be found today: Fort Zoutman and the William III Tower. The Dutch retained control of Aruba until the Napoleonic Wars, when it was taken over by the British between 1805 and 1816. After the wars, however, it reverted back to the Dutch. During all of this time, an influx of people from Venezuela was descending on the island. The population grew in correlation to the troubles in South America.

Gold Mining

In 1824 the Dutch discovered what the Spanish had hoped to find and the pirates hadn't thought to look for: gold. Ironically, it was first discovered near Bushiribana and gold mills were quickly erected. The mills produced millions of pounds of gold until 1916, when the dwindling supply made running the mills unprofitable and they were shut down. You can still tour the mineshafts at the Balashi Mill today.

Drilling for Oil

A new form of income was soon found on the island when oil was discovered in 1924. A refinery was built that quickly became one of the largest in the world, and the standard of living on Aruba rose greatly, which helped the growth of tourism. In 1985 the refineries were shut down and the focus really hit tourism. Fabulous resorts were constructed and scores of people poured in to enjoy the white beaches. In 1991 the refineries re-opened, and today the double industries of oil and tourism make up the greatest part of Aruba's economy.

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August 29, 2009 new by tiffanymparker

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