Without a doubt the first inhabitants of Aruba have been the Caiquetio Indians, of the Arawak tribe that came from the mainland, and settled on the Island. Excavations and archaeological research has shown that they have been on the Island of Aruba since about 16.000 years ago. There they lived concentrated in a couple of mayor settlements. The most important ones at what we now know as: Tanki Flip, Malmok, Santa Cruz and Savaneta
However, as indicated in the introduction of this site, I am more interested in the history of Aruba starting in 1499. Because that was when the status quo was shattered. The world would never be the same anymore after Columbus stumbled upon the Americas.
Aruba’s first European visitor was a Spaniard by the name of Alonso de Ojeda (1466 Cuenca, Spain – 1515 Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic). He was part of Columbus’ second journey to the Americas. But it was after a dispute he had with Columbus, that Alonso de Ojeda got a new sponsorship from the Bishop Juan Rodriguez de Fonseca to go on the journey that would make him famous. He discovered the whole coast of what are now Venezuela and Colombia. It was during this trip that he encountered the Island of Aruba, around September 1499. Because he did not find any proof of gold, he categorised Aruba (Together with Curaçao and Bonaire) as “Isla inútil” which is Spanish for worthless Island.
Alonso de Ojeda was an interesting character. He embodied, the good, the bad and the ugly of early European exploration in the Americas. But for the Continuing history on Arubaroots, after the discovery, he was actually not so relevant anymore. The question I have is: “what happened to Aruba after 1499?”
Automatically Aruba became part of Spain, and was now part of “Nueva Andalusia”, the region that was now governed by Alonso de Ojeda. It was not until around 1513 that the local population was enslaved and deported to Hispaniola (what is now The Dominican Republic), to work in copper mines. The man responsible for this was Diego de Salazar. He took a total of about 2000 Caiquetios from all 3 islands and probably some from the mainland as well. Leaving the Island without any inhabitants. So there was a period where Aruba had no human presence. Imagine how that must have been. Almost 6 years later around 1519, they were allowed to go back. This was made possible by a man called Juan Martínez Ampiés. He was impressed by the intelligence shown by the Caiquetios, whom he called “Guatiaos”, and had them declared protected from Slavery in exchange for converting them to Cristians. He (or his son; this is being disputed) was the founder of the city of Santa Ana de Coro in Venezuela in 1527. He was able to do this with the help of local Cacique Manaure. Together they coordinated the re-population the Islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao. This was the start of the new status quo on Aruba.
Unfortunately Juan Ampies lost control over the region due to disputes and money problems. The then King of Spain, Chalres I (Charles V of Germany), conceded the rights of exploitation of the Venezuelan coastal area to his German Sponsors the Welsers. Juan Ampies died a poor man around 1533. After a while the Islands remained under Spanish control, but were “forgotten”. This enabled the local Caiquetio population to pretty much rule themselves.
The post 1499 era of Aruba was heavily influenced by Juan Ampies’ doing. He made sure that Caiquetios (both original and new ones from the mainland) would re-populate the Island and taught them to start breeding European animals such as goats, pigs and horses. He also introduced many Fruit seeds for planting.
So the take-away on our Aruba roots here are:
- We originally decent from Caiquetios having lived there for more than 16.000 years.
- We have been colonised and annexed by Spain
- We were deported to the Dominican Republic
- Freed again in exchange for becoming Christians
- Expanding again as a people in combination with the Caiquetios or Arawaks of the main-land under the leadership of Manaure and Juan Ampies
One of my main conclusions based on this first chapter is the proof after having done quite some research is that the as of 1499 the Aruban population is a mix of original Caiquetio inhabitants, Indigenous people from the mainland (Santa Ana de Coro) and Spaniards. The second one is that these are the roots of Aruba being heavily Catholic. Looking at the geographical distances (126 KM) it makes much sense.
In the next chapter I will investigate the period between 1533 and approximatly 1600. What happened, and what contributions to our roots can be found.
To confirm the above, check out a.o:
A Short History of the Netherlands Antilles and Surinam; By Cornelis C. Goslinga
P.s. The Kingdom of the Netherlands still does not exist at this point. the provinces Holland, Friesland, Zeeland and Utrecht are enrolled in a rebellion against Spain called: The 80 year war.