Archaeologists have discovered that there were two waves of Amerindian migration to Aruba. The first came from present day Venezuela about 4,000 years ago. They were semi-nomadic, living in family groups of 10-15 people and lived on what they could gather from the sea: fish, conch, turtle eggs and turtle meat.
A second group, the Caquetios, arrived much later, around 1000 AD, and were different physically, linguistically and culturally. Their villages have been discovered around the island, including Tanki Flip, Savaneta and Santa Cruz. Both peoples shared the northwest coast, now the hotel strip, where evidence has been found of their fishing activities. The Caquetios were also farmers and it is believed that the island was much greener before woodcutting, aloe farming and grazing animals were introduced. Santa Cruz was the seat of the provincial cacique, or chief. He ruled over the island’s village chiefs but was himself subordinate to a mainland chief who governed Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao and coastal Venezuela. A strict hierarchy was maintained, with status reflected in the size of your house, your body decorations and your burial.
Aruba is one of the very few Caribbean islands on which the Indian population was not exterminated although there are no full-blooded Indians now. The Aruban today is a descendant of the Caquetio Indians, with a mixture of Spanish and Dutch blood from the early colonizers. Alonso de Ojeda was the first European to set foot on Aruba in 1499. There was no plantation farming in Aruba, so African slaves were never introduced. Instead, the Indians supervised the raising of cattle, horses, goats and sheep, and their delivery to the other Dutch islands. They were generally left alone and maintained regular contact with the mainland Indians. The last Indians to speak an Indian language were buried in urns about 1800; later Indians lost their language and culture. When Lago Oil came to Aruba many workers from the British West Indies came to work in the refinery in San Nicolas, leading to Caribbean English becoming the colloquial tongue there instead of Papiamento. Of the total population today of about 84,200, including some 40 different nationalities, only about two-thirds were actually born on the island. The official language here, as in the other Netherlands Antilles, is Dutch, but Papiamento is the colloquial tongue. English and Spanish are widely spoken and the people are extremely welcoming. The crime rate is low and there are very few attacks on tourists.
History of Aruba at other webpages