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:

Aruba, the second era (1522-1598).

Aruba was now a firm part of the Spanish empire. Even though not a lot of attention was given, it did pay  an interesting role in the region. With Coro now an established city and capital of the new world (modern day Venezuela), there was quite some movement. In order to understand the situation we have to move away from the region and take a wider view to get some perspective.

Since discovery by Alonso de Ojeda Aruba was property of the following Spanish monarchs (House of Trastámara):

The following period in Spanish monarchy is that of the House of Habsburg. Due to strategic marriages with Austrian royals, the Spanish King as of 1556 was also King of:

  • Burgundy
  • The Netherlands (including what is now Belgium)
  • Germany
  • Austria
  • Rome
  • Naples (modern day Southern Italy)
  • And of course everything Spain conquered in the Americas including Aruba

The most important King is Philip the II. Who would reign from 1556 to 1598. His reign is important to Aruba because the war he was waging against the Dutch protestant  rebellion would set things in motion that will impact Aruba later on.

King Philip II
King Philip II

But let’s not jump too far ahead, and go back to Coro around 1528 – 1546. Due to the many wars in Europe the Spanish crown under owed a debt to the German banking family of the Welsers. In exchange for this debt, they got to rule what is now Venezuela from 1528 – 1546. Although their presence did not produce any remarkable activities for Aruba, it did end the agreements between the Spaniards and the local indigenous people. These were agreements made between Juan de Ampies, Cacique Manaure and Father De las Casas. The local indigenous population had to fight again to defend themselves and their right to be there. Aruba being relatively safe due to its location participated in defending the coast north of Coro from invasion and pirates. The people from Aruba even founded a village north east of Coro called Carrizal.


In the cathedral of Coro, there is still a document that gives thanks to the people of Aruba for founding the village of Carrizal (not to be mistaken with the current municipality of Carrizal in current Venezuela). It is a bit unclear wether they founded it pro-actively as a defence or as a result of having to flee to the mainland to escape attacks from pirates a.o. It is also a bit unclear when all of this happened. Some information gives the impression that this happened at the end of the 16th century and other documentation mentions this happening around 1723. Although I could not find any images to provide more clarity on the timeline of this, there is a documentary (in Dutch) that mentions and shows this (you can see it at minute 6:27). And this is the church that was built around 1750 and still stands today:

Screen Shot 2018-10-31 at 17.34.32

The take-away from this part of history of Aruba?

  • We were part of the largest empire in the world of the time
  • Managed by Germans
  • We were of little consequence due to not having any valuable assets to support the royal coffers.
  • The local population remained heavily native Caiquetios living together with some Spanish colonisers.

The most exiting occurrences of the time were raids by, sometimes famous, pirates.

(The map used as featured image on top can is made by Diego Gutierrez and Hieronymus Cock in 1562 and can be found here)


The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me!

By combining my passions for history, adventure, discovery and honesty I invite you to join me into the “real” history of a small Island they call: ARUBA

The content of the following chapters are based on information I have gathered, and new information that I will consume such as history books, websites, Documentaries and anything I can get my hands on providing some sort of insight into what actually happened back then.

As I go along I might update the chapters with new found material. (so keep coming back)