History

Original Inhabitants

Bonaire's first inhabitants were the Caiquetios, a branch of the Arawak Indians who sailed across from what is now Venezuela around 1000 AD. Traces of Caiquetio culture are at a number of archaeological sites, including those at Lac Bay and northeast of Kralendijk. Rock paintings and petroglyphs have survived at the caves at Spelonk, Onima, Ceru Pungi, and Ceru Crita-Cabai. The Caiquetios were apparently a very tall people, for the Spanish dubbed the Leeward Islands 'las Islas de los Gigantes' (the islands of the giants).

Control

Bonaire was claimed for the Spanish by Amerigo Vespucci and Alonso de Ojeda in 1499. The Spanish did little to exploit the island aside from enslaving the natives and moving them to Hispaniola. By 1526, the island was depopulated. That year, Juan de Ampues, regional governor, turned it into a cattle plantation and repopulated it with Indians.

In 1633, the Dutch, having lost the island of St. Maarten to the Spanish, retaliated by capturing Curacao, Bonaire, and Aruba. While Curacao emerged as a center of the slave trade, Bonaire became a plantation of the Dutch West India Company. A small number of African slaves were put to work alongside Indians and convicts, cultivating dyewood and maize and harvesting solar salt around Blue Pan. Slave quarters, rising no higher than a man's waist and built entirely of stone, still stand in the area around Rincon and along the saltpans as a grim reminder of Bonaire's repressive past.

The Netherlands lost control of the island twice, from 1800-1803 and 1807-1815. During these intervals, the British had control over the neighboring island of Curacao, and, by extension, Bonaire. During the German occupation of the Netherlands during World War II, Bonaire was a protectorate of Britain and the United States.

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About Bonaire