Aruba is an island in the Caribbean Sea, just a short distance
north of the Venezuelan Paraguaná Peninsula, and it
forms a part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Unlike much
of the Caribbean region, it has a dry climate and an arid,
cactus-strewn landscape. This climate has helped tourism,
however, as visitors to the island can reliably expect warm,
sunny weather. Discovered and claimed for Spain in 1499, Aruba
was acquired by the Dutch in 1636. The island's economy has
been dominated by three main industries. A 19th-century gold
rush was followed by prosperity brought on by the opening
in 1924 of an oil refinery. The last decades of the 20th century
saw a boom in the tourism industry.
seceded from the Netherlands Antilles on January 1, 1986,
and became a separate, self-governing member of the Kingdom
of the Netherlands. Movement toward full independence was
halted at Aruba's request in 1990.