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)


Aruba Arawak

Aruba’s first encounter with Europeans in 1499

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

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


Juan de 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.

Coro and Paraguana Peninsula 1885


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.