The Arowaks are recognized as the first human civilization to inhabit the Netherlands Antilles. A Spanish expedition led by Alonso de Ojeda discovered the island of Curaçao for Spain in 1499, and it remained under the Spanish until the Dutch took control in 1600. Curaçao was a strategically important point for military advances against the Spanish and as the center of Caribbean slave trade. Curacao became the host of the Netherlands Antilles Government in 1954.
The Netherlands Antilles are composed of two groups of Caribbean islands 500 mi (805 km) apart: the first group, composed of Curacao (173 sq mi; 448 sq km) and Bonaire (95 sq mi; 246 sq km), is located about 40 mi (64 km) off the Venezuelan coast. Originally inhabited by Arawak Indians, these two islands as well as Aruba were claimed by Spain in 1527 and then by the Dutch in 1643. The Dutch Lesser Antilles to the north-Saint Eustatius, the southern part of St. Martin (Dutch: Sint Maarten), and Saba-make up the remainder of the island federation. First inhabited by the Carib Indians, St. Martin was explored by Columbus in 1493. In 1845, the six islands (then including Aruba) officially formed the Netherlands Antilles. In 1994, the islands voted to preserve their federation with the Netherlands.
The Netherlands Antilles was dissolved on October 10, 2010. Sint Maarten and Curacao became constituent countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, like Aruba, which separated from the Netherlands Antilles in 1896. The islands of Bonaire, Saba, and Saint Eustatius became special municipalities of the Netherlands proper.
Netherlands Antilles Tourist Attractions