Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao have always been somewhat connected, in size, shape, history and geography. Arbua is somehow the cleaner, safer, most expensive, tourist popular and developed island of the 3. The ABC’s are just a skip away from Venezuela but you couldn’t be farther away from a Venezuelan reality than you are when that 5 star Norwegian cruise ship arrives in Aruba’s port and dumps off 3000 rich Americans. But there were alot of Venezuelans and Colombians living and working in Aruba, so many that most people I met didn’t speak Dutch or English very well. Then there are the Dutch there, living and working in paradise, happy to speak English to every tourist but clearly showed a preference to their own kind. And then there are the medical students, thousands of them, mostly coming from American states that rejected their applications, or elsewhere where medical school wouldn’t have nearly as much sun and fun as in the Caribbean. The Chinese, who’ve learned the local papiamento language, run all the corner stores and supermarkets.
It’s easy to see how the island has turned into a melting pot of languages and cultures, but one thing is clear, that tourism rules. The island’s economy is dependent on the dozens of hotels, split between the low-rise area and high-rise area, and the 1, 2, 3, or 4 cruise ships that dock every day, all day in Oranjestad. Aruba has outmarketed itself from Curacao and Bonaire because it has the safety that Curacao doesnt, and the facilities and beaches that Bonaire doesn’t. But they all have world-class windsurfing, kite-surfing, and no shortage of diving and snorkeling. What’s amazing is that only the shores around the island are calm enough for snorkeling and diving, thanks to the outlying coral reefs, since no ferry service is available between the 3 islands. They’ve attempted a few different routes, but the heavy winds and crazy waves make everyone seasick, so they’ve never survived. Instead you’re stuck to the little Insel air planes that shuttle people island to island, and all the while Venezuela is just around the corner, but they cant run flights or ferries there either because everytime they try that, it becomes a massive good and drug-smuggling operation. Too bad, I guess, but not sure for who.