Friday, May 31, 2002

Today's Geography Lesson: Aruba

That far-flung tendril of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, best known for a great pair of gams and a walk-on role in the film Mission Impossible. (Who can forget Tom Cruise being asked "would you consider the cinema of the Caribbean -- Aruba, perhaps"? Such poise! Such grace! Alas, a little country like that always gets ignored by the Academy come Oscar time. Tragic, really.)

After initially signing on as a jewel in Spain's crown in 1499, Aruba was stolen by the Dutch -- in 1636 -- in a daring raid filled with high-tech weaponry, squinty-eyed square-jawed heroes, the foiling of laser security systems, and two or three strategically placed explosions.

Sneering delicately south towards Venezuela, Aruba typically portrays exactly the kind of restful vacation spot you'd expect from a place known on-and-offscreen for its white sandy beaches and well-regulated [by trade winds, that is] temperate clime. 81 degrees Fahrenheit last year, this year, and probably next year. Even to the casual observer, it's obvious Aruba lucked out by growing up outside the Caribbean hurricane belt.

Worldly but not weary, the urbane Aruban's performance on the governmental stage [appearing regularly in the capital city of Oranjestad -- check your program for details] typically demonstrates a sophisticated blend of Dutch civil and English common law techniques in the parliamentary democracy The Netherlands is known for.

Aruba is mostly Roman Catholic and multilingual -- Dutch, Papiamento[*], English, and Spanish -- and simply adores tourist's shopping dollars. Aruba's currency is the effortlessly sexy guilder/florin, which has been tied to the US dollar at a fixed rate since the mid-80's.

When on tour with its annual production of Bigger Than Washington DC, And Less Traffic, Too, Aruba typically performs evenings in the major ports of Barcadera, Oranjestad, and Sint Nicolaas, and can usually be spotted at a trendy nightclub after the show indulging in drinks and a little dancing.

To find an Aruba webcam, keeps your eyes peeled for the .aw Internet country code!

A regular importer of -- yep, tourists -- machinery and electrical equipment, crude oil and foodstuffs, Aruba exports animals and animal products, art, machinery and transport equipment, and the occasional laundered drug dollar to The Netherlands, Columbia, and that wacky northern neighbor, the United States.

Aruba's flag is as sophisticated as you might expect: blue, with two narrow, horizontal, yellow stripes across the lower portion and a red, four-pointed star outlined in white in the upper hoist-side corner.

[*] That's a spiffy dialect of Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and English.

Facts: The CIA World Factbook

Film Critique: Sidra Vitale