Identification. Aruba is a multicultural island society with both Caribbean and Latin American features in its culture and social structure. Its people have been strongly influenced by the globalization of world culture.
Location. Aruba is the most southeastern island of the Caribbean archipelago. It is located 27 kilometers off the coast of the Venezuelean peninsula of Paraguana and 90 kilometers west of Curaçao. Together with Curaçao and Bonaire, it forms the Dutch Leeward Islands. Aruba's area is 193 square kilometers. The climate is tropical, with an average temperature of 28° C. The main rainy season is from October to January. Yearly rainfall usually does not exceed 50 centimeters.
Demography. The population and housing census of 1991 showed that 66,687 people live on Aruba, not including an estimated 2,500 to 5,000 illegal aliens. Compared to the period 1972-1981, during which the population increased 4.2 percent, the growth rate climbed to 10.6 percent between 1981 and 1991, mostly owing to immigration after 1987. The proportion of foreign-born inhabitants has risen from 18.5 percent in 1981 to 23.9 percent in 1991.
Linguistic Orientation. The traditional language of Aruba is Papiamento (Talk), a creole language that is also spoken on Curaçao and Bonaire. The origins of Papiamento are much debated. Two points of view dominate the discussion. According to one, it originated as a lingua franca, based on Portuguese and West African languages, during the seventeenth-century slave trade. Others maintain that it developed during the interaction between the Spanish and the Dutch. Indian names of plants and places are included in its lexicon. Owing to 350 years of colonial domination, Dutch is the official language in education and public affairs. The oil industry, tourism, and subsequent migration brought English and Spanish to the island, which are the second- and thirdmost spoken languages. Most Arubans are multilingual.