It became a country of the Netherlands on January 1st, 1986. Home to over 300 prehistoric pictographs. Popular names include Kevin, Bryan and Justin, for men, and Jan, Nicki and Isabella for women. Birthplace of Sarah-Quita Offringa, regarded by many as the world’s best female freestyle windsurfer, born in Oranjestad, the capital city. It has more sunny days than any other Caribbean island, boasting 365 days of sunshine each year. Home of wild donkeys. And, if you visit Aruba every year for 10 years in a row, you get an award off the government and a feature in the local paper. If you visit every year for 20 years in a row, you also get the title, ‘Aruba Goodwill Ambassador’ from the government. Seriously. It’s a lovely place. Today, we’re visiting One Happy Island, Aruba.
Aruba is a polite, extremely safe and traditional constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located in the southern Caribbean Sea, its nearest neighbours Bonaire, Curaçao and Venezuela. The country covers an area of 69 square miles, with a population of just over 110 thousand people. Nobody is really sure where the name of the country comes from, but popular theories suggest it could come from the Indian word ‘oruba,’ meaning, ‘well placed,’ or maybe a mix of the Carib Indian words ‘ora’ and ‘oubao,’ meaning ‘shell’ and ‘island.’
The blue of the flag represents the sky, the sea, peace and hope, plus Aruba’s future and its connection to the past. The narrow stripes represent the movement toward the country’s position as a special administrative region, as well as symbolising the Sun and the minerals found on the island. The story of the star is a complicated one. The four points represent the four cardinal directions, suggesting that the population of Aruba is diverse, originating from all over the world. The star also represents the island itself, the red soil and the white sandy beaches. The red also takes on a darker meaning, symbolising the blood shed by the Indian inhabitants during the French Pass War, and, in general, patriotic love. The white also represents purity and honesty. The motto of the country is ‘Semper pro grediens,’ which is Latin for, ‘Always Progressing.’ Lovely.
White sandy beaches dominate the western and southern coasts of this largely flat and riverless land, with the turquoise and warm waters a draw for visitors. The hinterlands feature a few hills, whilst the eastern and northern coasts are arid and cacti strewn places, with rough seas and rocky coastlines, largely untouched by humans. This really is a beautiful and sunny clime.
It’s a very diverse country, with most Arubans descended from the Caquetio Indians and Dutch, with others descended from Africans, Americans, English, French, Portuguese, Sephardic Jews, Spanish and Venezuelans, plus other Caribbean nations. Nearly 100 different nationalities are represented on this tiny island. Yet, through all this, the native Arawak heritage remains strong here. It combines effortlessly with the Dutch culture, too, with events such as Sinterklaas, a night of gift giving before Saint Nicholas Day, celebrated. The baseball loving, friendly and joyful Arubans cherish nature, are prolific storytellers and are a patriotic people, proud of Papiamento, their native language, as well as their national flag, anthem (Aruba Dushi Tera – worth a listen) and their coat of arms. To the locals, they represent the strong love they have of where they live, their close connection to the Caribbean Sea, and the multi-cultural makeup of the country. The Dutch flag is also popular here, displaying the unity of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The kind and gentle Arubans also love to dance. Carnaval is hugely popular and can go on for weeks and weeks, with large colourful parades and festivities enjoyed by all. It really is the kind of place you’ll never want to leave.
There are sights to feast on such as Mount Jamanota, the highest point of the country, 620 feet high at its highest point. An alluring mountain rising dramatically from the landscape it presides over. And then there’s the quaint and elegant tower at Fort Zoutman. Opening in 1866, its striking facade and joyful colours are analogous to the uplifting and empyrean nature of the country the tower resides in.
Then there’s the truly remarkable Eagle Beach, the wonderful soft white sand and amazing trees combine to create a sumptuous and stunning vista of almost unparalleled delight. Simple yet graceful.
But my favourite sight of Aruba is Alto Vista Chapel, a Lilliputian marvel of pantagruelian charm. A bonny little chapel, opening in 1952, standing high and mighty atop a hill with nothing but gorgeous blue waters as a backdrop. A serene and ethereal gem. A comely structure of essential form, one of ageless wonder and ethereal beauty. A toothful structure, most certainly.
Aruba. The country of joy, diversity and goodwill.
Images (Click on Them to Enlarge)
1) The flag of Aruba
2) Alto Vista Chapel
3) Eagle Beach
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