For a brief historical outline of the Netherlands Antilles click here.
The history of Bonaire.
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 visible 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). The name the Caiquetios gave to their island was adapted into Spanish as 'Boynay.'
After a falling out with Queen Isabella in 1495, Columbus lost his exclusive rights to explore the New World, and the Caribbean became open territory. Alonso de Ojeda and Amerigo Vespucci (from whom the Americas derive their name) were among the first to take advantage of the situation: in 1499 they landed on Bonaire and claimed it for Spain. Bonaire had neither gold nor sufficient rainfall to encourage large-scale agricultural production, so the Spanish saw very little reason to develop the colony. Instead, they forced the native Caiquetios into slavery on the large plantations of the island of Hispaniola. By 1515, Bonaire had been mostly depopulated.
In 1526, Juan de Ampues, governor of Bonaire, Curacao, and Aruba, began to raise cattle on the island. He brought in a number of Caiquetios and some Indians from Venezuela as laborers, and within a few years cows, sheep, goats, pigs, donkeys, and horses were being raised on the island. Valued less for their meat than for their hides, the animals needed little tending and were Generally let loose to wander freely around the island. Before long they greatly outnumbered the human inhabitants, and today the island counts substantial populations of donkeys and goats among its wildlife.
Over the next few centuries, few of the island's inhabitants were to arrive willingly. There was a small inland settlement at Rincon, safe from the predations of pirates, but development was not encouraged as it was in other, richer colonies. Bonaire's immigrants were mostly convicts from the Spanish colonies in South America. Dutch admiral Boudewijn Hendricksz dropped off a group of Spanish and Portuguese prisoners, who founded the town of Antriol. For much of the next 300 years, even after the island was ceded to the Dutch, Bonaire remained a notorious penal colony.
Most of the population is descended from black slaves, while the remainder are various admixtures of native American Indian, Spanish, and Dutch. The vast majority are Roman Catholic. Some 70 percent of the island's surface is coral limestone, from which the capital, Kralendijk, meaning "coral dike," derives its name; Kralendijk is a small, quiet town with some fine examples of Dutch colonial architecture. Source: Enc. Brit. CD 99, and others.
On 10 September 2004 the population of the island Bonaire (10.185) voted for the status of a Special Municipality of the Netherlands; also Saba (1.424) on 1 October 2004, and Sint Eustatius (2.498) on 8 April 2005.
Bonaire as well as Saba and Sint-Eustatius become new Special Municipalities of the Kingdom of the Netherlands on 15 December 2008.
The Dutch Dominicans and Dominican Sisters on Bonaire
On this island the Dutch Dominicans founded the parishes of Entrejol and Kralendijk (since 1827). There are no stamps of these events.
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