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The area which would eventually become Oranjestad was originally settled by the Arawak Indians. Traveling north from a number of settlements in South America, the Arawak Indians settled in Oranjestad at the beginning of the millennium and thrived in the area for nearly fifteen hundred years before the area was touched by European exploration.
At the beginning of the sixteenth century, Spanish explorers began to arrive at Oranjestad. The first to reach the island area was Alonso de Ojeda, who originally named the island Oro Hubo after the gold he found there. Variations of this name may be how the island came to be called Aruba. After a period of brief exploration, the Spanish decided that Aruba was not the place for further settlement, and they moved out. The Arawak Indians enjoyed another century and a half of peace on the island before visitors again reached the area.
In the mid-seventeenth century, the Dutch came to the area and set up a colony there. Oranjestad remains under Dutch control to this day. In the mid eighteenth century, the area surrounding Oranjestad became a refuge for criminals. Most common were pirates who would hide in the area and take over ships which docked there temporarily.
In the mid-nineteenth century, gold was rediscovered in the area and the wider world began to take a greater interest in Oranjestad. In more recent times, modern gold (oil) has also been discovered here.