It is a happy island, captivated by its turquoise sea, it attracts with its white beaches. Its population is only about 100,000, but more than 90 nationalities and 40 religions coexist in it. The natives speak four languages perfectly, celebrate the authenticity of the gastronomic offer and tourism is the driver of its economy.
“Bon bini” in Papiamento (hello, in Spanish). This is how Aruba welcomes its visitors before tackling them on an adventurous list: boat rides with stops in Boca Catalina and Malmok; walks in the center of Oranjestad, the capital, to show part of its history and architecture; Sunny afternoons at Eagle Beach and Baby Beach, considered some of the best beaches in the world, 4×4 jeep adventures with tours of Kadirkiri Caves.
“He who comes doesn’t want to leave,” says tour guide John Marvin Kelly, as he tours the island from end to end on a journey through Aruba’s natural attractions in a stylized jeep safari.
Johnny’s tour, as locals and foreigners call it, can last four hours or all day. The corners of the island surprise even the man who earns a living by doing this work for 25 years.
“Fasten your seat belts,” he said before heading toward Baby Natural Bridge.: In 2005 during Hurricane Katrina.
It stops at Io Rock Formations, gigantic monoliths with panoramic views of the island. There he explains how Aruba – an autonomous region of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which covered the island’s needs after the attack whose economy was hit by the epidemic – has gradually revitalized tourism, particularly with the return of visitors from the United States, but also from countries such as Colombia, which launched two trips Two directs to the island this year, one from Jose Maria Cordova.
Aruba, off the coast of Venezuela, is now closer to Medellin. Sarpa Airlines narrowed the distance between Aruba and Medellin in January by enabling a direct route operating with two frequencies on Wednesday and Sunday. An hour and a half flight prevents tourists traveling from the capital of Antioquia from stopping in Bogota. This, in addition to other measures, is part of the island’s tourism authorities’ efforts to speed up its economic revitalization.
But Aruba and Medellin have a greater connection. The urban art that today coats the buildings of San Nicolas, the second most important area on the island, has made this area a prominent place for tourism.
Located 19 kilometers southeast of Oranjestad, San Nicolas is the genesis and reason why nearly a hundred nationalities have lived together in Aruba, ever since the inactive oil refinery opened there a century ago.
With the closure of the refinery, companies left the area. The island turned to tourism to find the new engine for its economy and San Nicolas gradually fell into oblivion, but seven years ago Tito Bolivar found inspiration to change the face of that city during a trip to Colombia.
When visiting graffiti in Bogota, Tito missed the fact that art is not celebrated in Aruba with the same pride that is celebrated on the clear waters of the island.
Later, when he toured the murals of Comuna 13 in Medellin, he had more certainty. He knew that Aruba had more than 360 days of sunshine a year, so he decided to turn San Nicholas into a canvas and save it from desertion. Consider teaching or opening a workshop. “But I didn’t even know how to draw.”
In 2016, she held her first Aruba Art Gallery in San Nicolas, a social platform to support local artists and emerging talent. “The murals I saw in Colombia were my first love of art and the murals we pick up here are a gift to Saint Nicholas with the idea that one day it will not be recognized as a place to be forgotten.”
The streets of San Nicolas, which seemed doomed to be known as a district of prostitution, are today an open-air gallery. “We bring musicians, theatre, poets, fashion shows, photography and projects for children. We highlight the culture of Aruba in San Nicolas, which was the most important place on the island and little by little became a deserted place,” Bolivar highlights.
The frescoes recovered from the destroyed buildings whose facades today celebrate such symbols of Aruba as Brikichi, the national bird, culture and diversity, such as the “Carnival nymph” by Chilean sculptor and ceramicist Isidora Paz. Or works with social and environmental messages are signed, such as the three-dimensional sculpture of the more than seven-meter-high iguana that made up the Portuguese Bordalo II, in which he used trash and waste.
Six years later, with more than 50 murals by European artists and international guests from Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Curaçao, the Czech Republic, Portugal, the Netherlands and Italy, among others, San Nicolas is giving Aruba a new status: in 2019 Forbes named the city the art capital of the Caribbean.
“Every now and then I bring someone from Colombia to Aruba just to say thank you because the inspiration came from there”
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