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History of Aruba

Early History

Aruba's first inhabitants were the Caquetios Indians from the Arawak tribe, who migrated there from Venezuela to escape attacks by the Caribs. Fragments of the earliest known Indian settlements date back to about 1,000 AD. Due to Aruba's mostly distant location from other Caribbean islands and strong currents in the sea which made canoe travel to the other islands difficult, the Caquetios remained more tied to South America than the Caribbean.

The Spanish Period

Europeans first learned of Aruba when Amerigo Vespucci and Alonso de Ojeda happened upon it in August 1499. Vespucci, in one of his four letters to Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de' Medici, described his voyage to the islands along the coast of Venezuela. He wrote about an island where most trees are of Brazil wood and, from this island, he went to one ten leagues away, where they had houses built as in Venice. In another letter he described a small island inhabited by very large people, which the expedition thought was not inhabited.

Aruba was colonised by Spain for over a century. The Cacique or Indian Chief in Aruba, Simas, welcomed the first priests in Aruba and received from them a wooden cross as a gift. In 1508, Alonso de Ojeda was appointed as Spain's first Governor of Aruba, as part of "Nueva Andalucía".

Another governor appointed by Spain was Juan Martinez de Ampíes. A "Cédula Real" decreed in November 1525 gave Ampíes, factor of Española, the right to repopulate the depopulated islands of Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire.

In 1528, Ampíes was replaced by a representative of the "House of Welser".

With the arrival of the Spanish many of the Indian population were enslaved and relocated to Hispanola to work in mines. Despite this their fate was merciful when compared to Indian populations on other Caribbean Islands who were exterminated. In fact, the Island was spared the usual horrors of Spanish colonial policies.

Dutch Administration

By 1642, the 80-year war between Spain and Holland was drawing to a close, and it was in this year that the Dutch took possession of Aruba. Dutch military personnel were sent to maintain Aruba, but contrary to their living conditions under their previous masters, the Indians were allowed to remain free. Under the Dutch WIC administration, as "New Netherland and Curaçao" from 1648 to 1664 and the Dutch government regulations of 1629, also applied in Aruba. The Dutch administration appointed an Irishman as "Commandeur" in Aruba in 1667.

During the Napoleonic wars, the British Empire took control over the island, between 1799 and 1802, and between 1804 and 1816, before handing it back to the Dutch. A 19th-century gold rush was followed by prosperity brought on by first the opening of a crude oil transshipment facility in 1924 and then in 1928 with the opening of an oil refinery. This was the Lago Oil & Transport Co Ltd a 100% owned subsidiary of Standard Oil of New Jersey. The Lago refinery was located on the east end of the island and on the west end. The refinery employed well over 8,000 people, 16% of Aruba's population, and up until the 70's was one of the largest in the world.

Royal Dutch Shell had a small refinery, the Eagle Refinery which ceased its operations in 1953, after serving as a depot for both refineries during the World War II.

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