Introduction Discovered and claimed for Spain in 1499, Aruba was acquired by the Dutch in 1636. The island's economy has been dominated by three main industries. A 19th century gold rush was followed by prosperity brought on by the opening in 1924 of an oil refinery. The last decades of the 20th century saw a boom in the tourism industry. Aruba seceded from the Netherlands Antilles in 1986 and became a separate, autonomous member of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Movement toward full independence was halted at Aruba's request in 1990.

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

The capital Oranjestad

Europeans first learned of Aruba when Amerigo Vespucci and Alonso de Ojeda came across 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 brazilwood 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 colonized 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 Andalucia."

Another governor appointed by Spain was Juan Martinez de Ampues. A "cédula real" decreed in November 1525 gave Ampués, factor of Española, the right to repopulate the depopulated islands of Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire. The natives under Spanish rule enjoyed more liberty than the average northern European farmer of the period.

In 1528, Ampues was replaced by a representative of the "House of Welser". Aruba has been under Dutch administration since 1636, initially under Peter Stuyvesant. Stuyvesant was on a special mission in Aruba in November and December 1642. Under the Dutch W.I.C. administration, as "New Netherlands and Curacao" 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.

Britain occupied Aruba from 1799 to 1802, and from 1805 to 1816.

In August 1806, General Francisco de Miranda and a group of 200 freedom fighters on their voyage to liberate Venezuela from Spain stayed in Aruba for several weeks.

In 1933 Aruba sent its first petition for Aruba's separate status and autonomy to the Queen.

During World War II, together with Curaçao the then world-class exporting oil refineries were the main suppliers of refined products to the Allies. Aruba became a British protectorate from 1940 to 1942 and a US protectorate from 1942 to 1945. On February 16, 1942, its oil processing refinery was attacked by a German submarine (U-156) under the command of Werner Hartenstein. Miraculously, the mission failed. The U-156 was later destroyed by a US plane as the crew was sunbathing; only one survived. In March 1944, Eleanor Roosevelt briefly visited American troops stationed in Aruba. In attendance were: His Excellency, Dr. P. Kasteel, the Governor of Curaçao, and his aide, Lieutenant Ivan Lansberg; Rear Admiral T. E. Chandler and his Aide, Lieutenant W. L. Edgington; Captain Jhr. W. Boreel and his aide, Lieutenant E. O. Holmberg; and the Netherlands aide to Mrs. Roosevelt, Lieutenant Commander v.d. Schatte Olivier.

The island's economy has been dominated by five main industries: gold mining, phosphate mining (The Aruba Phosphaat Maatschappij), aloe export, petroleum (The Lago Oil & Transport Company and the Arend Petroleum Maatschappij Shell Co.), and tourism.

Geography Location: Caribbean, island in the Caribbean Sea, north of Venezuela
Geographic coordinates: 12 30 N, 69 58 W
Map references: Central America and the Caribbean
Area: total: 193 sq km
land: 193 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly larger than Washington, DC
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 68.5 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
Climate: tropical marine; little seasonal temperature variation
Terrain: flat with a few hills; scant vegetation
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
highest point: Mount Jamanota 188 m
Natural resources: NEGL; white sandy beaches
Land use: arable land: 10.53%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 89.47% (2005)
Irrigated land: 0.01 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards: lies outside the Caribbean hurricane belt
Environment - current issues: NA
Geography - note: a flat, riverless island renowned for its white sand beaches; its tropical climate is moderated by constant trade winds from the Atlantic Ocean; the temperature is almost constant at about 27 degrees Celsius (81 degrees Fahrenheit)

As a Constituent Country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Aruba's politics take place within a framework of a 21-member Parliament and an eight-member Cabinet. The governor of Aruba is appointed for a six-year term by the monarch, and the prime minister and deputy prime minister are elected by the Staten (or "Parlamento") for four-year terms. The Staten is made up of 21 members elected by direct, popular vote to serve a four-year term.

Together, the State of the Netherlands, the State of the Netherlands Antilles, and the State of Aruba form a Commonwealth. As they share the same Dutch citizenship, these three countries still also share the Dutch passport as the Kingdom of the Netherlands passport. As Aruba and the Antilles have small populations, the two countries had to limit immigration. To protect their population, they have the right to control the admission of Netherlands nationals. There is the supervision of the admission and expulsion of Netherlands nationals and the setting of general conditions for the admission and expulsion of aliens.

The move towards independence

In August 1947, Aruba presented its first "Staatsreglement (constitution)", for Aruba's "status aparte" as the status of a completely separate and autonomous state within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, under the authority of the Dutch crown. This is the same as in Britain's Statute of Westminster, an equal status of the Dominion Parliaments with the British Parliament, where the Dominions were under the authority of the crown and not of the government of Britain.

In November 1955, J. Irausquin of Aruba's PPA political party spoke in front of the United Nations Trust Committee. He ended his speech saying that in the future there will be changes to come.

In 1972, at a conference in Surinam, Betico Croes (MEP) proposed a "sui-generis" Dutch Commonwealth of four states: Aruba, the Netherlands, Surinam and the Netherlands Antilles, each with its own nationality. Mr. C. Yarzagaray, a parliamentary member representing the AVP political party, proposed a referendum for the people of Aruba to determine Aruba's separate status or "Status Aparte" as a full autonomous state under the crown. He proclaimed: "Aruba shall never accept a federation and a second class nationality."

Betico Croes worked in Aruba to inform and prepare the people of Aruba for independence. In 1976, a committee appointed by Croes introduced the national flag and anthem as the symbols of Aruba's sovereignty and independence, and he also set 1981 as a target for Aruba's independence. In March of 1977, the first Referendum for Self Determination was held with the support of the United Nations and 82% of the participants voted for independence.

The Island Government of Aruba assigned the Institute of Social Studies in the Hague to prepare a study of Aruba's independence, which was published in 1978, titled "Aruba en Onafhankelijkheid, achtergronden, modaliteiten en mogelijkheden; een rapport in eerste aanleg".

At the conference in the Hague in 1981, Aruba's independence was then set for the year 1991. In March 1983, based on the Referendum, Aruba finally reached an official (de-colonization) agreement with the State of the Netherlands, the State of the Netherlands Antilles and the Island Governments, for Aruba's Independence, first becoming an autonomous country and member state of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, with its own constitution, unanimously approved and proclaimed in August 1985, and after an election held for Aruba's first parliament, Aruba officially became a member state of the Kingdom of the Netherlands on January 1, 1986, with full independence set for 1996, within a Dutch Commonwealth of sovereign states. This achievement is largely due to the late Betico Croes and the political support of other nations like the USA, Panama, Venezuela and various European countries. Croes was later proclaimed "Libertador di Aruba" after his tragic death in 1986.

In 1990, movement toward independence was postponed upon the request of Aruba's Prime Minister, Nelson O. Oduber. The article scheduling Aruba’s complete independence was rescinded in 1995, although the process can begin again after a referendum.

Since January 1, 1986, the Kingdom has consisted of three completely autonomous, constitutionally equal countries: the Netherlands, the Netherlands Antilles, and Aruba.

Although the “equal status” of the countries is explicitly laid down in the preamble to the Charter, which states "..considering that they have expressed freely their will to establish a new constitutional order in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, in which they will conduct their internal interests autonomously and their common interests on a basis of equality, and in which they will accord each other reciprocal assistance, have resolved by mutual consent", in practice, the Netherlands has considerably more power than either the Netherlands Antilles or Aruba.

People Population: 100,018
note: estimate based on a revision of the base population, fertility, and mortality numbers, as well as a revision of 1985-1999 migration estimates from outmigration to inmigration, which is assumed to continue into the future; the new results are consistent with the 2000 census (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 19.7% (male 9,943/female 9,761)
15-64 years: 70.2% (male 33,553/female 36,661)
65 years and over: 10.1% (male 4,046/female 6,054) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 37.3 years
male: 35.5 years
female: 39 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.522% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 12.83 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 7.61 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: 10 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.02 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.019 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.915 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.668 male(s)/female
total population: 0.906 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 14.75 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 19.59 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 9.81 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 74.83 years
male: 71.8 years
female: 77.91 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.85 children born/woman (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: NA
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: NA
HIV/AIDS - deaths: NA
Nationality: noun: Aruban(s)
adjective: Aruban; Dutch
Ethnic groups: mixed white/Caribbean Amerindian 80%, other 20%
Religions: Roman Catholic 82%, Protestant 8%, other (includes Hindu, Muslim, Confucian, Jewish) 10%
Languages: Papiamento (a Spanish-Portuguese-Dutch-English dialect) 66.3%, Spanish 12.6%, English (widely spoken) 7.7%, Dutch (official) 5.8%, other 2.2%, unspecified or unknown 5.3% (2000 census)
Literacy: definition: NA
total population: 97.3%
male: 97.5%
female: 97.1% (2000 census)
Government Country name: conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Aruba
Dependency status: member country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands; full autonomy in internal affairs obtained in 1986 upon separation from the Netherlands Antilles; Dutch Government responsible for defense and foreign affairs
Government type: parliamentary democracy
Capital: name: Oranjestad
geographic coordinates: 12 31 N, 70 02 W
time difference: UTC-4 (1 hour ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions: none (part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands)
Independence: none (part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands)
National holiday: Flag Day, 18 March (1976)
Constitution: 1 January 1986
Legal system: based on Dutch civil law system, with some English common law influence
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: Queen BEATRIX of the Netherlands (since 30 April 1980); represented by Governor General Fredis REFUNJOL (since 11 May 2004)
head of government: Prime Minister Nelson O. ODUBER (since 30 October 2001)
cabinet: Council of Ministers elected by the Staten
elections: the monarch is hereditary; governor general appointed for a six-year term by the monarch; prime minister and deputy prime minister elected by the Staten for four-year terms; election last held in 2005 (next to be held by 2009)
election results: Nelson O. ODUBER elected prime minister; percent of legislative vote - NA
Legislative branch: unicameral Legislature or Staten (21 seats; members elected by direct popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 23 September 2005 (next to be held in 2009)
election results: percent of vote by party - MEP 43%, AVP 32%, MPA 7%, RED 7%, PDR 6%, OLA 4%, PPA 2%; seats by party - MEP 11, AVP 8, MPA 1, RED 1
Judicial branch: Common Court of Justice of Aruba (judges are appointed by the monarch)
Political parties and leaders: Aliansa/Aruban Social Movement or MSA [Robert WEVER]; Aruban Liberal Organization or OLA [Glenbert CROES]; Aruban Patriotic Movement or MPA [Monica ARENDS-KOCK]; Aruban Patriotic Party or PPA [Benny NISBET]; Aruban People's Party or AVP [Mike EMAN]; People's Electoral Movement Party or MEP [Nelson O. ODUBER]; Real Democracy or PDR [Andin BIKKER]; RED [Rudy LAMPE]; Workers Political Platform or PTT [Gregorio WOLFF]
Political pressure groups and leaders: NA
International organization participation: Caricom (observer), ILO, IMF, Interpol, IOC, ITUC, UNESCO (associate), UNWTO (associate), UPU, WCL, WMO
Diplomatic representation in the US: none (represented by the Kingdom of the Netherlands); note - Mr. Henry BAARH, Minister Plenipotentiary for Aruba at the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
Diplomatic representation from the US: the US does not have an embassy in Aruba; the Consul General to Netherlands Antilles is accredited to Aruba
Flag description: blue, with two narrow, horizontal, yellow stripes across the lower portion and a red, four-pointed star outlined in white in the upper hoist-side corner

On March 18 Aruba celebrates its National Day. In 1976, Aruba presented its National Anthem (Aruba Dushi Tera) and Flag.

The origins of the population and location of the island give Aruba a mixed culture. Dutch influence can still be seen, as in the celebration of "Sinterklaas" on December 5 and 6 and other national holidays like April 30, when in Aruba and the rest of the Kingdom of the Netherlands the Queen's birthday or "Dia di La Reina" (Koninginnedag) is celebrated.

Christmas and New Year are celebrated with the typical music and songs of gaitas for Christmas and the Dande for New Year, and the "ayaca", the "ponchi crema" and "ham", and other typical foods and drinks. Millions of dollars worth of fireworks are burnt at midnight on New Year's.

On January 25, Betico's Croes birthday is celebrated.

The holiday of Carnival is also an important one in Aruba, as it is in many Caribbean and Latin American countries, and, like Mardi Gras, that goes on for weeks. Its celebration in Aruba started, around the 1950's, influenced by the inhabitants from the nearby islands (Venezuela, St Vincent, Trinidad, Barbados and Amquilla) who came to work for the Oil refinery. Over the years the Carnival Celebration has changed and now starts from the beginning of January till the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday with a large parade on the last Sunday of the festivities (Sunday before Ash Wednesday).

In June there is the celebration of the "Dia di San Juan", with the song of "Dera Gai".

Tourism from the United States has recently also increased the visibility of American culture on the island, with such celebrations as Halloween and Thanksgiving Day in November.

Religion also has its influences; the days of Ascension and Good Friday are also two holidays on the island.

According to the Bureau Burgelijke Stand en Bevolkingsregister (BBSB), as of 2005 there are ninety-two different nationalities living on the island.

Economy Economy - overview: Tourism is the mainstay of the small, open Aruban economy, with offshore banking and oil refining and storage also important. The rapid growth of the tourism sector over the last decade has resulted in a substantial expansion of other activities. Over 1.5 million tourists per year visit Aruba, with 75% of those from the US. Construction continues to boom, with hotel capacity five times the 1985 level. In addition, the country's oil refinery reopened in 1993, providing a major source of employment, foreign exchange earnings, and growth. Tourist arrivals have rebounded strongly following a dip after the 11 September 2001 attacks. The island experiences only a brief low season, and hotel occupancy in 2004 averaged 80%, compared to 68% throughout the rest of the Caribbean. The government has made cutting the budget and trade deficits a high priority.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $2.258 billion (2005 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $2.258 billion (2005 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 2.4% (2005 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP): $21,800 (2004 est.)
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 0.4%
industry: 33.3%
services: 66.3% (2002 est.)
Labor force: 41,500 (2004 est.)
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: NA%
industry: NA%
services: NA%
note: most employment is in wholesale and retail trade and repair, followed by hotels and restaurants; oil refining
Unemployment rate: 6.9% (2005 est.)
Population below poverty line: NA%
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 3.4% (2005)
Budget: revenues: $507.9 million
expenditures: $577.9 million (2005 est.)
Public debt: 46.3% of GDP (2005)
Agriculture - products: aloes; livestock; fish
Industries: tourism, transshipment facilities, oil refining
Industrial production growth rate: NA%
Electricity - production: 770 million kWh (2005)
Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 100%
hydro: 0%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Electricity - consumption: 716.1 million kWh (2005)
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (2005)
Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (2005)
Oil - production: 2,356 bbl/day (2005)
Oil - consumption: 7,000 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - exports: 230,600 bbl/day (2004)
Oil - imports: 235,000 bbl/day (2004)
Oil - proved reserves: 0 bbl (1 January 2006 est.)
Natural gas - production: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - consumption: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - exports: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - imports: 0 cu m (2005)
Natural gas - proved reserves: 0 cu m (1 January 2006)
Exports: $124 million f.o.b.; note - includes oil reexports (2006)
Exports - commodities: live animals and animal products, art and collectibles, machinery and electrical equipment, transport equipment
Exports - partners: Netherlands 27.7%, Panama 25.5%, Colombia 12.8%, Venezuela 11.1%, US 9.4%, Netherlands Antilles 7.1% (2006)
Imports: $1.054 billion f.o.b. (2006)
Imports - commodities: machinery and electrical equipment, crude oil for refining and reexport, chemicals; foodstuffs
Imports - partners: US 53.6%, Netherlands 12.9%, UK 3.6% (2006)
Economic aid - recipient: $11.3 million (2004)
Debt - external: $478.6 million (2005 est.)
Currency (code): Aruban guilder/florin (AWG)
Currency code: AWG
Exchange rates: Aruban guilders/florins per US dollar - NA (2007), 1.79 (2006), 1.79 (2005), 1.79 (2004), 1.79 (2003)
Fiscal year: calendar year
Communications Telephones - main lines in use: 38,300 (2005)
Telephones - mobile cellular: 108,200 (2005)
Telephone system: general assessment: modern fully automatic telecommunications system
domestic: increased competition through privatization; 3 wireless service providers are now licensed
international: country code - 297; landing site for the PAN-AM submarine telecommunications cable system that extends from the US Virgin Islands through Aruba to Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, and the west coast of South America; extensive interisland microwave radio relay links (2007)
Radio broadcast stations: AM 2, FM 16, shortwave 0 (2004)
Radios: 50,000 (1997)
Television broadcast stations: 1 (1997)
Televisions: 20,000 (1997)
Internet country code: .aw
Internet hosts: 16,914 (2007)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): NA
Internet users: 24,000 (2005)
Transportation Airports: 1 (2007)
Airports - with paved runways: total: 1
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1 (2007)
Roadways: total: 800 km
paved: 513 km
unpaved: 287 km
Ports and terminals: Barcadera, Oranjestad, Sint Nicolaas
Military Military branches: no regular indigenous military forces; the Netherlands maintains a detachment of marines, a frigate, and an amphibious combat detachment in the neighboring Netherlands Antilles (2005)
Manpower available for military service: males age 18-49: 16,278 (2005 est.)
Manpower fit for military service: males age 18-49: 13,219 (2005 est.)
Manpower reaching military service age annually: males age 18-49: 520 (2005 est.)
Military - note: defense is the responsibility of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
Transnational Issues Disputes - international: none
Illicit drugs: transit point for US- and Europe-bound narcotics with some accompanying money-laundering activity; relatively high percentage of population consumes cocaine