The last indigenous settlements on Aruba in the 16th Century (late 1500’s)

Before the Dutch came to town, as discussed earlier, some Caquetío were sent back to Aruba from Santo Domingo. This triggered a new immigration wave from the mainland Caquetíos. Predominantly from Paraguaná and La Guajira. In the first article of this blog I indicated not to spend too much time to the pre-columbian period on Aruba. This part however is important for us to understand how the population of the post-columbian period has developed over time.

Recapping, the original inhabitants of Aruba have been sent to Santo Domingo as slaves.  Leaving the island pretty much desolate. Later they have been “pardoned” and “freed” by the Spanish King and Catholic church. Upon their return to Aruba, some Spanish have also settled on Aruba together with them, we are talking about a dozen or so. Therefore, starting in the 16th century the population was a mix of original Caquetíos, mainland Caquetíos and Spaniards. In my opinion this is what constitutes the last original inhabitants of Aruba before Dutch settlement in the 17th century and colonisation later in the 18th century. This was all when Juan de Ampiés was managing the islands as encomendero.

Before European contact, the areas on Aruba that have been inhabited and showed signs of villages were (locations we now know as):

  • Tanki Flip
  • Santa Cruz
  • Savaneta

There were other locations, but these three represent the most important ones.

In the 16th century, when the Caquetíos returned to Aruba, all literature I found, indicated that they were spread around Aruba in what we now know as:

  • Spanish Lagoon
  • Piedra Plat
  • Noord (Tanki Flip)
  • Santa Cruz
  • Savaneta

Because many of the new ones came from the mainland, they were accustomed to  Spanish presence. Especially the clergy (remember, the Catholic inhabitants of Aruba fell under the Bishopric/church based in Coro, founded by Juan de Ampiés).  Gonzalo de Angulo, the Bishop of Coro, ordered for a census of the ABC Islands in 1619. The Priest Martín Gomez reported that only a few hundred Caquetíos lived on Aruba.

Mind you, even though the Caquetíos have been “pardoned” and “free”, they still were obliged to work for the Spanish. Albeit upon availability, in practice they were often forced and could still be considered slaves. Juan de Ampiés himself had a history of being an “indiero”, a hunter of indigenous people as slaves.

Unfortunately we do not know much about the people living on Aruba in this period. What we do know, in broad terms, is discussed in some of my previous blog posts. It remains a challenge to me to really construct a detailed timeline of the population and social developments of Aruba before the arrival of the Dutch.

It was not until the 17th century that many important events took place that influenced the development of Aruba. It can be considered the start of Aruba’s first mayor social and population developments. One can look at these as positive, negative or a combination. For me, it is what happened, and without judging I want to understand this. It can help in discovering more about Aruba, my heritage and why things are why they are now.

Main take away here is

  • Very little to nothing of the original inhabitants of Aruba remained
    • therefore the current population is a result of approximately only 400 years of developments
  • No mayor developments occurred on Aruba untill the 16th century
  • For the Caquetíos on Aruba, it remained a hard life throughout history


An interesting blog, going a bit more into detail: