In the 19th century it was a gold rush, in 1924 it was the opening of an oil refinery, and today it is tourism that draws people from around the world to the shores of Aruba. Its breathtaking white sand beaches, ideal tropical temperatures, and separation from the hurricane belt make this Caribbean island an ideal destination. From that gold rush to today, Aruba has enjoyed a steady economy, and its shores are lined with hotels, casinos, and shops that provide employment and financial stability. With the influences of indigenous heritage, colonization, Dutch culture, and its close proximity to South America (just 20 miles to Venezuela), Aruba has a beautifully unique and diverse culture.
Once a part of the Netherlands Antilles, Aruba is now self-governing while remaining under the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Discussions of full independence have been put on hold, not appearing urgent or necessary. Although the Netherlands controls defense and foreign affairs, the island’s government handles all local matters. With Aruba being so close to South America, it has often become a transit point for the drug trade and illegal immigration, leading to issues of money laundering and crime, for which the local government is seeking solutions.
The vast majority of Arubans would identify themselves as Christians, and most of those (about 75%) are within the Catholic church. But many Christian churches dot the island, representing all different ethnicities, backgrounds, denominations, and theologies. Christian radio and TV programs are also prominent across the island. Sadly, foreign influences via televangelists and prosperity preachers have brought division within the Church. But, with 59 out of every 100 marriages ending in divorce, 42% of births occurring outside of marriage, and many teens experimenting with drugs, many pastors and churches see the need to come together in unity to combat declining morality with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.