|So, today brings us to the capital of Aruba, Oranjestad (Orangetown). Aruba is the 'A' in the ABC islands, also known as the Dutch Antilles. It is a pretty small island, at 19.6 miles across and 6 miles across, and is just 19 miles north of the Venezuelan coast. It is bright sunshine here today, with a temperature of about 30 degrees, but with a strong breeze to make it more bearable!
The Caquetio Indians of the Arawak tribe from the South American mainland were Aruba's first inhabitants - they lived in samll family groups and fished along Aruba's coastline, in the area now known as Palm Beach. When explorer Alonso de Ojeda discovered Aruba in 1499 and claimed it for the Spanish throne, he named it la isla de los gigantes (Spanish: the island of giants), the tall Indians descended from Aruba’s very first settlers. After a decade, Aruba’s moniker was changed to isla inutíl, a useless island, as no gold or treasures were found.
In 1513, the entire Indian population was enslaved and taken to work on the Spanish estates in Hispaniola, now the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Aruba’s strategic location was recognized by the Dutch who initially occupied the island in 1636 to protect their salt supply from the mainland and establish a naval base in the Caribbean during their 80-year war with Spain. Further economic development continued through the Dutch West India Company located on the neighboring island of Curaçao. Aruba remained in Dutch hands, except for a brief hiatus under English rule from 1805-1816, during the Napoleonic Wars.
At the beginning of twentieth century, one-third of the island was covered with aloe plantations and the island’s economy was largely dependent on it. At first, the harvest of aloe vera was only for the export of the raw material for laxatives. With clay moisture-retentive soil yielding a product of superior quality, Aruba became the largest exporter of aloe in the world. At the end of the 1950’s, interest was redirected to the gel and its concentrates for use in cosmetic, hair and skin care products.
This safe, stable and friendly Caribbean island has Dutch roots and is founded on democratic principals. A former colony of the Netherlands, it later formed a part of the Netherland Antilles before gaining its autonomy in 1986. Under "Status Aparte," Aruba functions as an independent entity within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Aruba's judicial system remains unchanged from the Dutch model. (taken from www.aruba.com)
There are 92 nationalities living on the island of Aruba, making up a total population of aboutv 100,000 people. The official language here is,Dutch, unsurprisingly, but the local widely spoken dialect is called Papiamento. English and Spanish are also spoken widely by virtually all islanders.
We are docked today with the Island Princess and the Caribbean Princess, so I took the opportunity to go over to the Caribbean, my previous ship, to see some of my friends! I had a lovely day, catching up with them, and meeting some new members of the team as well. I also had a bit of a wander around the town itself, but it's very built up and American...it doesn't feel very Caribbean at all, it has Pizza Hut, Dunkin' Donuts, Starbucks etc - a bit surreal really!
Anyway, we sailed at 6, bound for Panama Canal on the 24th - which is an early start if you want to see everything that's going on!