Aruba’s strategic location was recognized by the Dutch who initially occupied the island in 1636 to protect their salt supply from the mainland and establish a naval base in the Caribbean during their 80-year war with Spain.
Further economic development continued through the Dutch West India Company located on the neighboring island of Curaçao. Aruba remained in Dutch hands, except for a brief hiatus under English rule from 1805-1816, during the Napoleonic Wars.
Aruba was part of the Dutch Antilles, along with 5 other Caribbean islands: Curaçao, Bonaire, St. Maarten, Saba and St. Eustatius, with Curaçao being the main island and in control of the other 5 islands.
In 1986 it was decided that Aruba would become independent from the Netherlands. The island would function as a country – separated from the Dutch Antilles – within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. This new status is called Status Aparte.
Today, the Dutch Kingdom consists of 5 separate entities: the Netherlands, Aruba, Curaçao, St. Maarten and the BES islands: Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba. The latter are considered special oversees communities of the Netherlands. At the head of the Dutch Kingdom serves King Willem-Alexander, who has representation in Aruba and Curaçao by means of a governor.
Dutch influences on the island are found everywhere, from typical dishes and snacks such as bitterballen, to architecture such as the Royal Plaza Mall in downtown Oranjestad.
Along with Papiamento, Dutch is the official language in Aruba. Our law system is based on Dutch law and its military forces and protection are still in Dutch hands. Kings Day, in honor of the Dutch King’s birthday, is celebrated on April 27 and is a national holiday in Aruba.