Aruba (/əˈruːbə/ ə-roo-bə; Dutch pronunciation: [aˈruba]) is a 33 kilometre long (20 mi) island of the Lesser Antilles in the southern Caribbean Sea, located 27 km (17 mi) north of the coast of Venezuela. Together with Bonaire and Curaçao, it forms a group referred to as the ABC islands of the Leeward Antilles, the southern island chain of the Lesser Antilles. Collectively, Aruba and the other Dutch islands in the Antilles are commonly referred to as the Netherlands Antilles or the Dutch Antilles.
Aruba is a generally flat, riverless island in the Leeward Antilles island arc of the Lesser Antilles in the southern part of the Caribbean. It has white sandy beaches on the western and southern coasts of the island, relatively sheltered from fierce ocean currents. This is where most tourist development has occurred. The northern and eastern coasts, lacking this protection, are considerably more battered by the sea and have been left largely untouched by humans.
The hinterland of the island features some rolling hills, the best known of which are called Hooiberg at 165 meters (541 ft) and Mount Jamanota, the highest on the island at 188 meters (617 ft) above sea level. Oranjestad, the capital, is located at 12°19′N 70°1′W.
To the east of Aruba are Bonaire and Curaçao, two island territories which once formed the southwest part of the Netherlands Antilles. This group of islands is sometimes called the ABC islands.
The Natural Bridge was a large, naturally formed limestone bridge on the island's north shore. It was a popular tourist destination until its collapse in 2005.
The population is estimated to be 80% mixed Black/White/Caribbean Amerindian and 20% other ethnicities.
The Arawak heritage is stronger on Aruba than on most Caribbean islands. Although no full-blooded Aboriginals remain, the features of the islanders clearly indicate their genetic Arawak heritage. Most of the population is descended mostly from Arawak, and to a lesser extent Spanish, Italian, Dutch, and a few French, Portuguese, British, and African ancestors.
Recently, there has been substantial immigration to the island from neighboring American and Caribbean nations, possibly attracted by the higher paid jobs. In 2007, new immigration laws were introduced to help control the growth of the population by restricting foreign workers to a maximum of three years residency on the island.
Demographically, Aruba has felt the impact of its proximity to Venezuela. Many of Aruba's families are descended from Venezuelan immigrants. There is a seasonal increase of Venezuelans living in second homes.
Aruba has one of the highest standards of living in the Caribbean region. There is a low unemployment rate.
The GDP per capita for Aruba was estimated to be $21,800 in 2004; among the highest in the Caribbean and the Americas. Its main trading partners are Venezuela, the United States and the Netherlands.
The island's economy has been dominated by five main industries: tourism, gold mining, phosphate mining (The Aruba Phosphaat Maatschappij), aloe export, and petroleum refining (The Lago Oil and Transport Company and the Arend Petroleum Maatschappij Shell Co.). Before the "Status Aparte" (a separate completely autonomous country/state within the Kingdom), oil processing was the dominant industry in Aruba despite expansion of the tourism sector. Today, the influence of the oil processing business is minimal. The size of the agriculture and manufacturing sectors also remains minimal.
The inflation on Aruba in 2007 was 8.7%.
The official exchange rate of the Aruban florin is pegged to the US dollar at 1.79 florins to 1 USD. Because of this fact, and due to a large number of American tourists, many businesses operate using US dollars instead of florins, especially in the hotel and resort districts.
On 18 March, Aruba celebrates its National Day. In 1976, Aruba presented its National Anthem (Aruba Dushi Tera) and Flag.
Aruba has a varied culture. According to the Bureau Burgelijke Stand en Bevolkingsregister (BBSB), as of 2005 there are ninety-two different nationalities living on the island. Dutch influence can still be seen, as in the celebration of "Sinterklaas" on 5 and 6 December and other national holidays like 30 April, when in Aruba and the rest of the Kingdom of the Netherlands the Queen's birthday or "Dia di La Reina" (Koninginnedag) is celebrated.
Christmas and New Years Eve are celebrated with the typical music and songs for gaitas for Christmas and the Dande for New Year, and the "ayaca", "ponche crema," ham, and other typical foods and drinks. Millions of florins worth of fireworks are burnt at midnight on New Year's Eve. On 25 January, Betico Croes' birthday is celebrated. Dia di San Juan is celebrated on June 24.
Besides Christmas, the religious holy days of the Feast of the Ascension and Good Friday are holidays on the island.The holiday of Carnaval is also an important one in Aruba, as it is in many Caribbean and Latin American countries, and, like Mardi Gras, that goes
on for weeks. Its celebration in Aruba started, around the 1950s, influenced by the inhabitants from the nearby islands (Venezuela, St Vincent, Trinidad, Barbados, St. Maarten and Anguilla) who came to work for the Oil refinery. Over the years the Carnival Celebration has changed and now starts from the beginning of January till the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday with a large parade on the last Sunday of the festivities (Sunday before Ash Wednesday).
Tourism from the United States has recently increased the visibility of American culture on the island, with such celebrations as Halloween and Thanksgiving Day in November.