As the European conquerors continued to invade the Caribbean following the voyages of Italian Christopher Columbus, sailing under the flag of Spain, so, too, Aruba was discovered.
In 1499, Spanish conquistador Alonso de Ojeda, arrived on these shores to find a peaceful tribal society of Aruaca (Arawak) Indians, who had migrated from the South American mainland to avoid confrontation with the powerful Caribe Indians. From relics dating back to 2500 B.C. found at various sites around Aruba, it has been established that small family groups lived from fish, shellfish, and sea turtles and used tools made from shells and stones. They later became farmers and made large-vessel pottery.
The arrival of the Spanish ended the period of a self-sustained culture and society. Because the island lacked the gold and other precious metals sought by the conquerors, Aruba was spared the horrors of disease and harsh treatment being inflicted elsewhere in the Caribbean. However, in 1515, the entire Indian population was abducted to work on the cattle and horse farms on Hispaniola, the Island now shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Some were allowed to return to Aruba after 1527 when Spain began active colonization of Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire.
The exchange of plants and animals from the Old World like grapes and wheat, pigs, chickens, goats, horses and cattle with the things from the New World like staples, corn, potatoes, and tomatoes, tobacco and chocolate over time enriched the diets of the Caribbean inhabitants and peoples of the Americas. This relieved them from their tasks as farmers, porters and work animals. Five hundred years after the Spaniards discovered Aruba; the rest of the world continues to discover this small island of hospitable people, elegant beaches and the assorted cuisines of the many settlers who followed the Indians and the Spaniards and later the Dutch.