Aruba, once part of the Royal Kingdom of the Netherlands, was granted independence in 1986. From that historic moment on, the Arubans have been responsible for their own future. And that future is called tourism.
With the necessary diligence and huge tax benefits, large American chains such as Holiday Inn and Radisson were tempted into opening hotels in the area and cruise ship facilities were slowly expanded.
The result: more than a million tourists each year. The local population has profited from these developments, but many still feel that enough is enough and wonder how much tourism their little island can tolerate. Although Aruba has changed dramatically over the past few decades, the government cannot afford to turn its back the tourist industry and is constantly proposing new projects.
Padú Lampe, otherwise known as Padú del Caribe, shoots me a look of surprise when I ask him whether Aruba benefits from all this tourism. “Of course!” he says. Born in 1920, his health is starting to fail him and he rarely leaves his house anymore. But he has always enjoyed the constant stream of tourists. “All these people that come to visit my island!” he says with a glimmer in his eye.
Poet, composer, musician, writer, painter: Padú is without a doubt one of Aruba’s most celebrated sons and everyone adores him. “O, Aruba, dushi tera…” His trembling fingers strike the piano keys as he performs the national anthem for me; a national anthem written by him.
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