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The country of Aruba is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Its capital is Oranjestad. It is 20 miles long and approximately 6 miles across at the widest point of the island. It is situated in Caribbean Sea, about 990 miles west of the Lesser Antilles and just 18 miles north of Venezuela. It has its own constitution and is a representative parliamentary democracy. Its administration is made up of the Governor who is appointed by the King or Queen to represent the Crown, a Prime Minister who leads the Council of Ministers, and the Parliament of Aruba, which is made up of 21 elected officials who make up the parliament.

The climate there is dry, rather like a desert, and cactuses grow there in abundance. The people who originally lived on Aruba were the Amerindian Arawaks whose red cave drawings and clay pottery are about all that's left of the Arawak.

Aruba was claimed in the name of Spain in 1499 by Alonso de Ojeda, a Spanish explorer who had also explored Venezuela and neighboring islands. It became a haven for smugglers and pirates. In short order. The Spanish moved many of the Indians to the Dominican Republic and put them to work in the copper mines. Those who were not exported to the mines, the Spanish tried to convert to Christianity. In 1526, Juan de Ampies became the Spanish commander of what is known as "the ABC Islands," which is made up of the islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curação, the most western islands of the Leeward Antilles. In 1636, Spain and the Netherlands fought over Aruba and the other small islands which not make up the Dutch Caribbean. The Netherlands won and sent the Dutch West India Company to colonize and develop Aruba as well as the other islands.

For a brief time during the Napoleonic Wars, from 1804 until 1815, the island belonged to England, but after the war, it went back to the Dutch. Gold was discovered in 1823, and the mines were open and working until 1916. In 1824 a crude transshipment facility opened, and in 1928, a Lago oil refinery was established. During World War II, while the Netherlands was occupied by Germany from 1940 until the end of the war, Aruba continued to supply oil to the Allies.

Just after the war, in 1947, Aruba moved toward independence by presenting their constitution as an autonomous nation-state under the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which consists of four nations: the Netherlands, Aruba, Curaçao, and Sent Maarten. These constituent countries are supposed to participate as equal partners, but in practice, almost all of the affairs of the Kingdom are taken care of by the Netherlands. It makes sense that this would be the reality, given that both the population and the land of the Kingdom are 98% Dutch. So the Dutch Caribbean relies on the Netherlands in matters of defense and foreign policy.

There is near autonomy with issues relating to their individual parliaments and local issues. The first cruise ship docked in Aruba in 1957, though it was not yet a top tourist destination. In 1981, at a conference in The Hague, Aruba was set to become independent in 1991. In 1983, they reached an agreement with the Kingdom, and on January 1, 1986, Aruba seceded from the Netherlands, becoming a separate and autonomous member of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

It was the first part of the journey to full independence. At the request of Aruba's Prime Minister at a 1990 convention at the Hague, the postponed the transition to full independence was postponed indefinitely. In 1995, the article which was to schedule the last step of total independence was rescinded.

In 1985, Aruba's main industry became tourism, with about 75% of the gross national product being earned from tourism or tourism related endeavors. The majority of its tourists are from the United States, and the majority of those tourists are from America's northeast. The next two groups of tourists are people from the Netherlands and South America.

There are two ports on Aruba, the main one being the Port of Playa in Oranjestad. More than a million tourists come through the Port of Playa on numerous cruise ships including Holland America Line, NCL, Carnival Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean, and Disney Cruise Line, to name just a few. There is an airport, Queen Beatrix International Airport where nearly 2 million travelers deplane a year. The government-owned bus company runs 21 hours a day, 7 days a week. Aruba's honey-colored beaches proved to be adored by tourists who may also engage in deep sea fishing, snorkeling, the National Archaeological Museum of Aruba, visiting Aruba Butterfly Farm, or visiting the Aruba Ostrich Farm, which boasts more than 80 ostriches.



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