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The Briefest History of Aruba

The Arawak people first settled Aruba and were still on the island when the Spanish claimed it in 1499. The Spanish thought the land was useless (they didnít see high-rise hotels in their future) and left it to the Arawaks for more than a century. But the Dutch seized the island in 1636, near the end of the 80-year war between Holland and Spain. They began to settle Aruba in the late 1600s at Oranjestad. The English were in control here between 1805 and 1816, during the Napoleonic wars; when they departed, the Dutch returned.

The discovery of gold in 1824 brought new waves of immigration from Europe and Venezuela. When the gold mines were exhausted, aloe production kept up the economy until the Lago oil refinery was built on the southeastern tip of the island in 1929. That brought a new wave of prosperity to Aruba; at one time the oil industry employed 8,000 people. The refinery shut down in 1985, causing widespread unemployment. But tourism replaced oil as the largest employer. In 1986 Aruba became a separate entity within the Kingdom of the Netherlands under a political arrangement called Status Aparte. Before that date it was a member of the Netherlands Antilles.

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