Aruba's first inhabitants are thought to have been Caquetíos Amerinds 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 1000 AD. As sea currents made canoe travel to other Caribbean islands difficult, Caquetio culture remained more closely associated with that of mainland South America.

The capital Oranjestad

Europeans first learned of Aruba following the explorations for Spain by Amerigo Vespucci and Alonso de Ojeda in the summer of 1499. Though Vespucci boasted of discovering the island, Ojeda was likely first, learning of it from natives of nearby islands.[citation needed] Both described Aruba as an "island of giants", remarking on the comparatively large stature of the native Caquetíos compared to Europeans. Gold was not discovered on Aruba, for another 300 years. Vespucci returned to Spain with stocks of cotton and brazilwood from the island and described houses built into the ocean. Vespucci and Ojeda's tales spurred interest in Aruba, and Spaniards soon colonized the island.[5][6]

Because it had low rainfall, Aruba was not considered profitable for the plantation system and the economics of the slave trade.[citation needed]

Aruba was colonized by Spain for over a century. Simas, the Cacique or chief in Aruba, welcomed the first Catholic priests in Aruba, who gave him a wooden cross as a gift. In 1508, the Spanish Crown appointed Alonso de Ojeda as its first Governor of Aruba, as part of Nueva Andalucía.

Arawaks spoke the "broken Spanish" which their ancestors had learned on Hispaniola.[citation needed]

Another governor appointed by Spain was Juan Martínez de Ampiés. A cédula real decreed in November 1525 gave Ampíes, factor of Española, the right to repopulate Aruba. In 1528, Ampíes was replaced by a representative of the House of Welser.

The Netherlands have covered the island with their regulations since 1629. Since 1636, Aruba has been under Dutch administration, initially governed by Peter Stuyvesant, later appointed to New Amsterdam (New York City). Stuyvesant was on a special mission in Aruba in November and December 1642. The island was included under the Dutch Dutch West India Company (W.I.C.) administration, as "New Netherland and Curaçao," from 1648 to 1664. In 1667 the Dutch administration appointed an Irishman as "Commandeur" in Aruba.

The Dutch took control 135 years after the Spanish, leaving the Arawaks to farm and graze livestock, and used the island as a source of meat for other Dutch possessions in the Caribbean.[citation needed]

In August 1806, General Francisco de Miranda and a group of 200 freedom fighters, traveling to liberate Venezuela from Spain, stayed in Aruba for several weeks.[citation needed]

In 1933, Aruba sent its first petition to the Queen seeking independent status and autonomy.[citation needed]

During World War II, Aruba was one of the main suppliers of refined petroleum products to the Allies. During the war, after the German occupation of the Netherlands, Aruba was made a British protectorate from 1940 to 1942, and a US protectorate from 1942 to 1945.

On 16 February 1942, a German submarine (U-156) under the command of Werner Hartenstein attacked the island's oil processing refinery, but the mission failed.

In March 1944, Eleanor Roosevelt, the First Lady of the United States, briefly visited American troops stationed in Aruba. In attendance were Curaçao Governor P. Kasteel, and U.S. Rear Admiral T. E. Chandler.[citation needed]

Move towards independence

In August 1947, Aruba presented its first Staatsreglement (constitution), for Aruba's status aparte as an autonomous state within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. By 1954, the Charter of the Kingdom of the Netherlands was established, providing a framework for relations between Aruba and the rest of the Kingdom.[7]

In 1972, at a conference in Suriname, Betico Croes (MEP), a politician from Aruba, proposed a sui-generis Dutch Commonwealth of four states: Aruba, the Netherlands, Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles, each to have its own nationality. C. Yarzagaray, a parliamentary member representing the AVP political party, proposed a referendum so that the people of Aruba could choose whether they wanted total independence or Status Aparte as a full autonomous state under the Crown.

Croes worked in Aruba to inform and prepare the people of Aruba for independence. In 1976, he appointed a committee that chose the national flag and anthem, introducing them as symbols of Aruba's sovereignty and independence. He set 1981 as a target date for independence. In March 1977, the first Referendum for Self Determination was held with the support of the United Nations; 82% of the participants voted for independence.[8]

The Island Government of Aruba assigned the Institute of Social Studies in The Hague to prepare a study for independence; it was titled Aruba en Onafhankelijkheid, achtergronden, modaliteiten en mogelijkheden; een rapport in eerste aanleg (Aruba and independence, backgrounds, modalities and opportunities; a preliminary report) (1978). At the conference in The Hague in 1981, Aruba's independence was set for the year 1991.

In March 1983, Aruba reached an official agreement within the Kingdom for its independence, to be developed in a series of steps as the Crown granted increasing autonomy. In August 1985 Aruba drafted a constitution that was unanimously approved. On 1 January 1986, after elections were held for its first parliament, Aruba seceded from the Netherlands Antilles; it officially became a country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Full independence was projected in 1996.

After his death in 1986, Croes was proclaimed Libertador di Aruba. At a convention in The Hague in 1990, at the request of Aruba's Prime Minister, the governments of Aruba, the Netherlands, and the Netherlands Antilles postponed indefinitely its transition to full independence. The article scheduling Aruba's complete independence was rescinded in 1995, although the process could be revived after another referendum.

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