Aruba is a 33-km (20 mile)-long island of the Lesser Antilles in the southern Caribbean Sea, just 27 km (17 miles) north of the coast of Venezuela. That island’s total area of about 70 square miles makes it just over three times the area of the island of Manhattan (New York City) – which is 22 square miles. Along with Bonaire and Curacao, Aruba is part of the Netherlands Antilles, making it, in effect, legally part of the Netherlands (sharing the same Dutch nationality).
This island was first discovered by explorers Amerigo Vespucci and Alonso de Ojeda on behalf of Spain, who officially colonized it by the early 1500s. Aruba was then colonized by the Dutch by 1636, governed initially by Peter Stuyvesant (the same Dutch explorer who was instrumental in the establishment & expansion of New Amsterdam – now known as New York). From that point on, Aruba was a part of the Netherlands, interrupted only during World War II (when it became a British protectorate from 1940 to 1942, and then a U.S. protectorate from 1942 to 1945). Despite attempts to make Aruba independent (with full independence originally projected in 1996), such plans were eventually held back.
Aruba’s continued ties to the Netherlands means that it has one of the highest GDPs per capita in the Caribbean, with an economy dominated by tourism, gold mining, phosphate mining, aloe export, and petroleum refining. Most of Aruba’s tourists come from USA, (mainland) Netherlands, and Venezuela.