Bonaire History

Bonaire history is similar to Aruba and Curacao mainly due to their close proximity to each other.

Rock paintings and petroglyphs can be found in some of the caves. They are the only traces left from the first inhabitants, the Caiquetios, part of the Arawak Indian tribe.

In 1499, Bonaire was occupied by the Spanish and the natives were enslaved and transported to Hispaniola.

In 1526 the appointed Spanish commander imported domesticated animals from Spain including horses, donkeys, cows, goats, pigs, and sheep, turning the island into a cattle plantation. He brought back many of the enslaved caiquetios to work the ranch. The town of Antriol was founded in 1623. Its inhabitants were mainly Spanish and Portuguese prisoners abandoned on the island from ships of the Dutch West India Company.

The Dutch and the Spanish fought from 1568 to 1648 in what is now known as the Eighty Years War. In 1633, the Dutch, having lost the island of St. Maarten to the Spanish, retaliated by attacking Curacao, Bonaire, and Aruba, now called the ABC Islands. Bonaire was conquered in March 1636, and became a plantation of the Dutch West India Company.

African slaves, Caiquetios slaves and convicts were forced to cultivate maize (corn) and dyewood (a tree that produces red dye for textiles). The slaves also harvested evaporate solar salt. The stone hovels, (photo) less than 4 feet tall, and much too short for a man to stand in, are still evident around Rincon and along the saltpans as a dreadful reminder of oppression in Bonaire History.

During the Napoleonic Wars, the Netherlands lost control of Bonaire twice, during which time the British took both Bonaire and Curacao. During this time, a large number of white English traders settled on the Bonaire.

Bonaire Dive Dock

In 1814, the ABC islands were returned to the Netherlands under the Anglo-Dutch Treaty.

After the abolition of slavery in 1863, many of the former slaves stayed on as sharecroppers.

In 1940, Bonaire was a under the protection of Britain and the United States during the World War II German occupation of the Netherlands. Many Dutch and German citizens were interned in a camp on Bonaire for the duration of war. The Flamingo Airport, now Bonaire’s International airport, was originally built as a U.S. Air Force base. And the internment camp later became the first hotel on Bonaire.

Throughout Bonaire history, the island was fought over, for its location, its beauty, and its resources.

Today, Bonaire is a peaceful island with world renowned scuba dive vacations and resorts.

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