Aruba and the region in the 18th century

The “authentic” roots of our current Aruba: The 1700’s or 18th century

Aruba is just one small Island in the Caribbean, and part of a large story that unfolded after Christopher Columbus stubbed upon these parts of the world. Currently approximatly 87% of the Aruban economy relies on tourism. One big part of the current tourism marketing strategies is story telling. This stems from the trend of people (tourists, visitors and travellers) looking for authentic experiences. But not only them, also the local population is looking for identity which often lies embedded deep into our history and roots. As a result we can find many stories, about culture, history and what makes Aruba authentic compared to the rest of the world. Although most of these stories are true, they often lack perspective and cover large amount of time in a summarised way. In my opinion this creates a distorted view of our history and roots. Therefore this blog. And after 6 chapters, we are now getting into the nitty gritty of the real roots of  current Aruba.

As described in the previous chapters the main take aways are that Aruba played a small role in the vibrant Caribbean history. However, this depends on perspective. For the indigenous population of the Arawak and Caiquetios from mainland Venezuela and Colombia, Aruba was extremely important as it provided a safe haven and allowed them to live free from (religious) persecution. For the Dutch, who came later, Curacao was the most important Island based on its strategic position in the Caribbean and the Americas. Nevertheless, Aruba was a necessary island they had to posses in order to keep control over Curacao and Bonaire. And with this, control over the routes the Spanish took when shipping wealth back to Spain.

From 1499 up to the late 1600’s, the cultural and social development of Aruba was relatively simple. As both the Spanish nor the Dutch allowed European colonisation. And therefore the main population, besides the handful of Dutch WIC men, was comprised of the Arawak who converted to Roman Catholicism. But other than that, they did not adopt too much to European culture.

The first continuity that Aruba has experienced was when it was property of the WIC around 1639. The first chapter of the WIC went bankrupt and a second chapter was immediately founded in September 1674. Remember, that Aruba was still not officially part of the country “The Netherlands”.

West-Indisch_Huis Amsterdam
WIC headquarters in Amsterdam. Aruba fell under its rule.

So what did affect Aruba in such a way, that we are now a big melting pot of nationalities, people, religions and culture? Why is Aruba an island where standard of living is high compared to the region? Has it always been this way? My research taught me that Aruba has known some hard & difficult years. These included famine, poverty and economic stagnation. However, the people who lived and worked on Aruba from the late 1600’s onwards, were, in my opinion, the first (authentic) roots of what we now know to be Aruba.

In the next chapters I will do my best to dig up as much as possible on the period between 1639 and 1791, when it was property of the WIC. Because it wasn’t until December 31st in 1791, that Aruba became part of “The Netherlands” as a colony.

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