In the Tropical regions of the North Atlantic Ocean lies the Caribbean Sea. It nestles in the arc formed by the meeting of the North and South Americas. The Caribbean Sea is bound by Mexico and Central America on the West. To the south it is bordered by Colombia and Venezuela. The peninsular of Florida lies in the Northern part of the Caribbean Sea. There are hundreds of islands floating in the Caribbean Sea. They are called the Caribbean Islands. The name Caribbean comes from the word Carib, the name of the dominant Native American tribe that inhabited the area. The islands are broadly divided into the Greater Antilles, the Lesser Antilles and the isolated islands of the North and South American Continental Shelf. There are 22 island territories. They are top tourist destinations worldwide. The abundant sunshine and tropical temperatures and warm ocean waters, white beaches and clear blue waters of the islands are legendary. Many James Bond movies have been filmed here. The islands are commonly called the West Indies.
FACT 1: Aruba is an island in the Caribbean. It lies 15 miles north of Venezuela. Being just below the Hurricane belt Aruba is not affected by the hurricanes that sweep through the other Caribbean Islands between June and November. The weather is dry and the trade winds that blow constantly keep the air pleasantly cool. This attracts tourist looking to escape the bitter winters of the eastern United States.
FACT 2: Aruba is a tiny island. Its total area is 70 square miles. It is 19.6 miles long and 6 miles across. On the south and west coasts are long stretches of some of the best beaches in the world. The interior of the island is desert.
FACT 3: The capital city is Oranjestad. It lies in the southern coast. The island has one international airport, the Queen Beatrix International Airport. The population of the island is 108,000.There is no official religion, though 90% of the population is Roman Catholic and the rest are Protestant. The currency used is the Aruban Florin.
FACT 4: Dutch is the official language and the medium of instruction in most of the schools. A Creole language, Papiamentu, is spoken by the people. A creole language is a mixture of languages that develops when people of mutually incomprehensible languages need to communicate. Papiamentu is a mixture of Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, French and English. It is spoken in other Caribbean Islands as well.
FACT 5: On his voyage in search of new sea route to Asia, in 1492, the Spanish explorer, Christopher Columbus came across the Caribbean Islands. Aruba was colonised by Spain. During this period it became a centre of smuggling and piracy. It was taken over by the Dutch West India Company in 1636. During the Napoleonic Wars (1799 to 1815), the island passed briefly into the hands of the British, but was returned to the Dutch in 1816.
FACT 6: The original inhabitants of the island were the Arawak Indians. They have left behind red cave paintings, clay pottery and stone tools.
FACT 7: The Island became a self-governing part of the Kingdom of Netherlands in 1986. The Head of State is the Dutch Monarch King Willem, represented by a Governor General. The Head of Government is the Prime Minister, whom is democratically elected.
FACT 8: The fofoti trees that grow on the windward north eastern coast of the island are unique. They bend gracefully in a south-westerly direction. This phenomenon is caused by the trade winds that blow constantly against these trees.
FACT 9: One of Aruba’s top tourist attractions is an hour long, unique underwater expedition. The Atlantis submarine is the world’s first passenger submarine. It is also the most technologically advanced passenger submarine. The submarine dives down to the Barcadera Reefs. Visitors are treated to a fascinating view of two ship wrecks. They also see schools of tropical fish, coral fields and sponge gardens.
FACT 10: The Island has never been used by the colonists to maintain huge plantations worked by slave labour. The economy is completely dependent on the tourist industry.