I had no idea Aruba was so interesting. I knew it's history was long and complicated, but the variety of languages, peoples, and cultures surprised me.
For instance, although Dutch is the official language, English, Spanish, and Papiamento are also spoken. Papiamento is an old blend of Portuguese, Spanish, and Dutch that originated in Curacao to enable the slaves to communicate with their's Spanish owners. Indeed, the word "Papiamento" comes from the Portuguese verb "papear" which means to ramble.
It's nice for us to have English so widely spoken, but I still say Gracias and Buenos Dias every now and then, and that's okay too because so many people speak Spanish. The coast of Venezuela is only 20 miles away.
Speaking of Venezuela, we all know about their terrible problems: crime, inflation, failing government. Those problems are affecting Aruba too. The clever Venezuelans come here, and using debit cards, withdraw all their money in American dollars at the official rate of one dollar to 6.3 Bolivars. Then they travel back to Venezuela and sell those dollars on the black market for 630 Bolivars each, deposit them into their accounts, and do it all again. They also do this thing with gasoline where they buy it at the official super cheap price in Venezuela, then drive over the border to Colombia and sell it at a great profit. I think their "government" actually condones this because the higher echelons are in on the take. What a mess.
The architecture has a nice Dutch influence because the Dutch have been in control since 1636, except for a brief period from 1805 to 1816 when the English took over. We see statues and monuments everywhere of Dutch royalty.
Over the years Aruba's economy has been dependant on gold mining, phosphate mining, cochineal production, and aloe farming. At the turn of the twentieth century Aruba was the world 's leader in aloe production. More recently, oil refining an important industry, but now tourism has taken over as the primary industry.
Aruba is very popular with the cruise ships; yesterday there were three of them in port, today there were two different ones. The attraction is the perfect weather, the friendly people, and the beautiful beaches. The weather is much more pleasant than Panama or Colombia because of the drier climate and the cooling trade winds.
Consequently there are wonderful entertainments available to tourists: skin diving, parasailing, fishing, windsurfing, birding, horseback riding, biking, ATVs, tennis, and even a submarine tour.
Truly, Aruba is fascinating.