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  Aruba is alphabetically first of the 'ABC Islands', along with Bonaire and Curacao, that lie just off the northern coast of Venezuela. The original inhabitants were Arawak Indians who migrated from South America. The island became known to the Europeans after Amerigo Vespucci's voyage of 1499, when he described it as "an island of giants". Spain quickly sent colonists and by 1508 there was a Spanish governor. The Dutch took control of Aruba in 1636 and the island remained in their hands since then, with brief British interludes during the Napoleonic Wars, as part of the Dutch West India Company. The island began pursuing independence in the 1940's and it is today one of four constituent countries in the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

  The climate is hot and dry, with cactus and aloe vera the predominant plants; and the island lies outside the Caribbean hurricane zone—both features make it attractive to tourists. The west and south coasts have been lined with resorts and tourism now accounts for three-quarters of the gross national product. With predictable weather, beautiful beaches, excellent diving and snorkeling, and good food and beer, Aruba is a delight to visit.

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A tiny island only 18 miles north of Venezuela
A tiny island only 18 miles north of Venezuela
Welcome to Aruba
Welcome to Aruba
An inviting view of the seashore
An inviting view of the seashore
But the land is dry and sandy
But the land is dry and sandy
All the trees are rather scrubby
All the trees are rather scrubby
Rocks and trees
Rocks and trees
Trees and rocks
Trees and rocks
Rocks and cactus
Rocks and cactus
A tall, fierce cactus in bloom
A tall, fierce cactus in bloom
A more friendly Prickly Pear Cactus, about to bloom
A more friendly Prickly Pear Cactus, about to bloom
California Lighthouse, built in 1916
California Lighthouse, built in 1916
ORANJESTAD–Capital of Aruba, and founded around 1800
ORANJESTAD–Capital of Aruba, and founded around 1800
ORANJESTAD–Archaeological Museum, established in 1850
ORANJESTAD–Archaeological Museum, established in 1850
ORANJESTAD–The churches are predominantly Dutch Reform
ORANJESTAD–The churches are predominantly Dutch Reform
ORANJESTAD–Graveyard at the church, simple and dignified
ORANJESTAD–Graveyard at the church, simple and dignified
ORANJESTAD–Colonial storage building
ORANJESTAD–Colonial storage building
ORANJESTAD–Royal Plaza Shopping Mall, in Dutch Colonial style
ORANJESTAD–Royal Plaza Shopping Mall, in Dutch Colonial style
ORANJESTAD–More brightly colored buildings for the shoppers
ORANJESTAD–More brightly colored buildings for the shoppers
The beaches and the sea are glorious, as one might expect
The beaches and the sea are glorious, as one might expect
Large blue parrot fish and some smaller finned friends will come to a dock looking for food
Large blue parrot fish and some smaller finned friends will come to a dock looking for food
ORANJESTAD–A nice island, Caribbean with European overtones
ORANJESTAD–A nice island, Caribbean with European overtones

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