National Flag Of Bonaire

Bonaire Amerindians Tribes

Bonaire's history is deeply rooted in its inhabitants and their culture. The tranquil beauty of the island is reflected in the faces of her people. From the first inhabitants, the Caiquetios (a branch of the Arawak Indians) who sailed from the coast of Venezuela almost 1000 years ago, to the many cultures now living and working in Bonaire today, the island has a distinct character that is all its own.

Kralendijk - Bonaire circa 1907 The first Europeans came to Bonaire in 1499, when Alonso de Ojeda and Amerigo Vespucci arrived and claimed it for Spain. Finding little of commercial value and seeing no future for large-scale agriculture, the Spanish decided not to develop the island. Instead, they unceremoniously enslaved the Indians and moved them off to work in the plantations on the Island of Hispanolia, effectively leaving the island unpopulated.

The name Bonaire is thought to have originally come from the Caiquetio word 'Bonay', a name that meant low country. The early Spanish and Dutch modified its spelling to Bojnaj and also Bonaire. The French influence while present at various times never was strong enough to make the assumption that the name means 'good air'. Regardless of how the name came about, the island remained as a lonely outpost until 1526.

It was in that year, 1526, that cattle were brought to the island by then governor Juan de Ampues. Some of the Caiquetios were returned to act as laborers and in a few years, the island became a center for raising other animals such as sheep, goats, pigs, horses and donkeys. Since they were being raised more for their skins and not their meat, they required little tending and were allowed to roam and fend for themselves.

The result was large herds of animals that far outnumbered the population. Today, there are a number of wild donkeys that still inhabit the Kunuku (outback), but the majority now enjoy life at the Donkey Sanctuary, where their needs are attended. Many goats can also be seen foraging in less populated areas of the island.

Bonaire's early years were not ones of prosperity. Her inhabitants were mostly convicts from other Spanish Colonies in South America. The only permanent settlement was the village of Rincon, located far inland where it was thought to be safe from marauding pirates. In those years, development was discouraged in favor of the richer, more productive colonies.


In 1633, the Dutch took possession of Curacao, Bonaire and Aruba. The largest island, Curacao, emerged as a center of the notorious slave trade. Bonaire then became a plantation island belonging to the Dutch West Indies Company.

It was during those early years that the first African slaves were forced to work, cutting dyewood and cultivating maize and harvesting solar salt. Grim reminders of those days still remain in the form of slave huts and salt pans which were laboriously constructed by hand. They are an important part of the island's heritage and have been left to stand mute testimony to Bonaire's repressive beginning.

Source of this information can be found hereHistory Of Bonaire