Aruba is an island in the Caribbean situated approximately 27 kilometres (17 miles) off the coast of Venezuela. It is 33 kilometres (21 miles) long, and has a total area of 193 kilometres squared (74,5 sq. miles), just about twice the size of Manhattan (New York, NY). While Aruba is an independent country, it is still a part of The Kingdom of the Netherlands (Koninkrijk der Nederlands). Also part of The Kingdom of the Netherlands are the islands Bonaire and CuraÃ§ao, which together with Aruba form the ABC Islands. The capitol of Aruba is Oranjestad. Situated on the south west coast of the island, Oranjestad is also the largest town on the island with a population of a little over 30.000 people. Other large towns include Noord, San Nicolaas, Savaneta, and Paradera.
Aruba is a small island, but retains a very vast landscape. The coast to the south is lined with white sand beaches and turquoise waters. The coast to the north has much more volatile waters and much more jagged and rocky beaches. The centre of the tiny island is baren desert. The climate is extremely regular with average temperatures varying little from 28C (82F) year-round. Average annual rainfall is around 500mm (20 in.).
Historically the island's first inhabitants were immigrants of the Arawak Tribe coming from Venezuela. Amerigo Vespucci was the first European to find the Island in the year 1499. In 1508, Spain colonized the island and held rule for over a century.
The island, like many Caribbean islands, is extremely linguistically diverse. Typically most Arubans speak at least four languages. Papiamento is the native language, and is spoken by almost all natives. It is a creole, and most noticeably strong mix of Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and English, with some remnants of native Arawak vocabulary. Papiamento is a tonal language, a feature not seen in any other Caribbean creole. Papiamento is the main, everyday conversational language of the people .
Because Aruba is a country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, all official, educational, and governmental tasks are completed in Dutch. Due to the proximity of Aruba to Venezuela (and the rest of South America), Spanish plays a large part in everyday life. Many radio and television stations are in Spanish, so most Arubans speak (or at least understand) it. A large percentage of Aruba's economy is funded by tourism. In the Caribbean especially, English acts as a lingua franca amongst tourist, therefore in order for the country to maximise profits, most Arubans speak English as well.
Aruba is a popular vacation destination for many Americans. The picturesque beaches, exciting nightlife, and nearly perfect weather conditions make Aruba a great getaway year round.