Bonaire was part of the Netherlands Antilles until the country's dissolution on 10 October 2010, when the island (including Klein Bonaire) became a special municipality within the country of the Netherlands.
Bonaire's earliest known inhabitants were the Caquetio Indians, a branch of the Arawak who came by canoe from Venezuela in about 1000 AD. Archeological remains of Caquetio culture have been found at certain sites northeast of Kralendijk and near Lac Bay. Caquetio rock paintings and petroglyphs have been preserved in caves at Spelonk, Onima, Ceru Pungi, and Ceru Crita-Cabai. The Caquetios were apparently a very tall people, for the Spanish name for the ABC Islands was 'las Islas de los Gigantes' or 'the islands of the giants.'
In 1526, Juan de Ampies was appointed Spanish commander of the ABC Islands. He brought back some of the original Caquetio Indian inhabitants to Bonaire and Curaçao. Ampies also imported domesticated animals from Spain, including cows, donkeys, goats, horses, pigs, and sheep. The Spaniards thought that Bonaire could be used as a cattle plantation worked by natives. The cattle were raised for hides rather than meat. The Spanish inhabitants lived mostly in the inland town of Rincon which was safe from pirate attack.
The Dutch West India Company was founded in 1621. Starting in 1623, ships of the West India Company called at Bonaire to obtain meat, water, and wood. The Dutch also abandoned some Spanish and Portuguese prisoners there, and these people founded the town of Antriol which is a contraction of "al interior" or "inside." The Dutch and the Spanish fought from 1568 to 1648 in what is now known as the Eighty Years War. In 1633, the Dutch, having lost the island of St. Maarten to the Spanish, retaliated by attacking Curaçao, Bonaire, and Aruba. Bonaire was conquered in March 1636. The Dutch built Fort Oranje in 1639.
While Curaçao emerged as a center of the slave trade, Bonaire became a plantation of the Dutch West India Company. A small number of African slaves were put to work alongside Indians and convicts, cultivating dyewood and maize and harvesting solar salt around Blue Pan. Slave quarters, built entirely of stone and too short for a man to stand upright in, still stand in the area around Rincon and along the saltpans as a grim reminder of Bonaire's repressive past.
During the Napoleonic Wars, the Netherlands lost control of Bonaire twice, once from 1800 to 1803 and again from 1807 to 1816. During these intervals, the British had control of the neighboring island of Curaçao and of Bonaire. The ABC islands were returned to the Netherlands under the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1814. During the period of British rule, a large number of white traders settled on Bonaire, and they built the settlement of Playa (Kralendijk) in 1810.
From 1816 until 1868, Bonaire remained a government plantation. In 1825, there were about 300 government-owned slaves on the island. Gradually many of the slaves were freed, and became freemen with an obligation to render some services to the government. The remaining slaves were freed on 30 September 1862 under the Emancipation Regulation. A total of 607 government slaves and 151 private slaves were freed at that time.
In 1867 the government sold most of the public lands, and in 1870 they sold the saltpans. The entire population became dependent on two large private landowners, and this caused a great deal of suffering for many people. Many inhabitants were forced to move to Aruba, Curaçao, or Venezuela.
World War II
During the German occupation of the Netherlands during World War II, Bonaire was a protectorate of Britain and the United States. The American army built the Flamingo Airport as an air force base. After Germany invaded the Netherlands on 10 May 1940, many Dutch and German citizens were interned in a camp on Bonaire for the duration of war. In 1944, Princess Juliana of the Netherlands and Eleanor Roosevelt visited the troops on Bonaire.
This section requires expansion with: More history. (October 2009)
After the war, the economy of Bonaire continued to develop. The airport was converted to civilian use and the former internment camp was converted to become the first hotel on Bonaire. The Dutch Schunck family built a clothing factory known as Schunck's Kledingindustrie Bonaire. In 1964, Trans World Radio began broadcasting from Bonaire. Radio Netherlands Worldwide built two short wave transmitters on Bonaire in 1969. The second major hotel (Bonaire Beach Hotel) was completed in 1962. Salt production resumed in 1966 when the salt pans were expanded and modernized by the Antilles International Salt Company, a subsidiary of the International Salt Company. The Bonaire Petroleum Corporation (BOPEC) oil terminal was opened in 1975 for trans-shipping oil.
An announced referendum that was scheduled on 26 March 2010 on the future of the island of Bonaire was cancelled in February 2010. The Governor of the Dutch Antilles, Frits Goedgedrag, decided to cancel it because it probably contravened international law, since part of the population is barred from voting. European Dutch nationals are only allowed to vote if they arrived on the island before 1 January 2007. The referendum was postponed to September and then October 2010. Eventually the referendum was held on 17 December 2010, with 84% voting in favour of becoming part of the Netherlands. However, as the 35% voter turnout rate was below the required 51%, the results of the referendum were declared invalid.
Bonaire's economy is mainly based on tourism. The island caters mainly to scuba divers and snorkelers, as there are few sandy beaches, while the surrounding reefs are easily accessible from the shore. Bonaire is world renowned for its excellent scuba diving and is consistently rated among the best diving locations in the world. Bonaire's license plates carry the logo Divers Paradise (in English). Bonaire is also consistently recognized as one of the best destinations for snorkeling. Wind surfers also make a strong group of island tourists, as the east side of the island (facing the Caribbean Sea) has the large waves and wind gusts needed for windsurfing. Lac Bay, in the south east, is shallow, yet windy, and hence is considered an excellent place for intermediate sailors to improve their skills. Tourism infrastructure in Bonaire is contemporary and based on time-share resorts. There are a few small bed and breakfasts. Most resorts have an on-site dive shop. The rest are affiliated with a dive operation.
The island is ringed by a coral reef which is easily accessible from the shore along the western and southern sides. Furthermore, the entire coastline of the island has been declared a marine sanctuary, preserving local fish life. Montastraea annularis was the most common coral during a recent 2011 survey.
The coral reef around uninhabited Klein Bonaire is particularly well preserved, and it draws divers, snorkelers, and boaters.
Bonaire also has several coral reefs where seahorses can be found.
Bonaire is also famed for its flamingo populations and its donkey sanctuary. Flamingos are drawn to the brackish water, which harbours the shrimp upon which they feed. Starting in the 16th century, the Dutch raised sheep, goats, pigs, horses and donkeys on Bonaire, and the descendants of the goats and donkeys roam the island today, with a small population of pigs roaming as well.
Environmental issues are a cause for concern, particularly with unregulated and illegal dumping of raw sewage and chemical pollutants which leach through the permeable limestone of the island and threaten the quality of groundwater. This is particularly of concern at the landfill site, which environmentalists state has no impermeable membrane present to prevent possible groundwater contamination by toxic waste. Destruction of wildlife habitat for commercial development thus threatening endangered species is also highlighted as a problem.
Bonaire's first airport was located near Tra'i Montaña Subi Blanku and walked across the current path of Kralendijk to Rincon and was built in 1936. The airport proved to be too small when American soldiers arrived on Bonaire in the second half of 1943. The commander stated that a new airport had to be built. In December 1943, construction began in the vicinity of where the present airport now stands. The new airport, named "Flamingo Airport", was put into use in 1945. A small terminal was built that was suitable for the number of passengers at the time. This building was used until mid-1976. The airport had received many extensions of both the runway and the terminal itself.
Today, the airport is known as Flamingo International Airport and is served by a variety of both domestic and international airlines. Services from the US include, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Insel Air. Airlines providing European service include Arkefly and KLM. Consistent air service from Curaçao is available through Divi Divi Air, EZAir and Insel Air, and also direct service from Aruba to Bonaire is provided by Tiara Air.
The airport comes equipped with a fire station, control tower, and hangar. Plans are underway for modifications to the current airport facilities, runway and the fire station.
The Old Malmok lighthouse is in Washington Slagbaai National Park.
Bonaire has a land area of 288 km² (111 sq. miles), while Klein Bonaire is a further 6 km² (2.3 sq. miles). Bonaire's Afdeling Bevolking (census) office reported that the population was 14,006 inhabitants in December 2006, which gives Bonaire island proper a population density of 49 inhabitants per km².
Washington Slagbaai National Park, located at the north side of the island, is an ecological preserve. The highest point of Bonaire, the mountainous Brandaris, 240 m (784 feet) high is located within this preserve and has a complete view of the island.
Lac Bay, (also known as Lac Cai or Lac Cay) on the eastern side of the island, is a windsurfer's paradise. Locals Taty and Tonky Frans in 2004 were ranked in the top five of the world's freestyle windsurfing professionals.
Atlantis Beach, on the western part of the island, is the local kitesurfing spot.
Bonaire's educational system is patterned after the Dutch system. Early grades are taught solely in Papiamentu, with more and more Dutch being introduced as the grade level progresses.
The only generally recognized towns on the island are Kralendijk (the capital) and Rincon.
Kralendijk has many suburbs/neighbourhoods, although on an island with such a small population, the distinction is not always clearcut. Kralendijk's suburbs/neighbourhoods include:
Other smaller settlements include:
Labra, Ishiri, Kokorobi, Jan Doran, Vlijt, Rigot, Porto Spano, and Kunchi were several smaller towns that had existed in the national park, but were later abandoned.
Dutch is the official language of Bonaire, as it is part of the Netherlands. According to the 2001 census, it is the main language of 8.8% of the population. The most widely spoken language is the creole languagePapiamentu, which is the primary language of 74.7% of the populace and is recognized by the government.Spanish is the main language of 11.8% of the people, English is the primary language of 2.8%, and other languages account for 1.8%.
End of October 2012, the radio station was closed and installations dismantled.
The most popular sports on Bonaire are baseball, athletics, association football, tennis, and volleyball. The Bonaire Football Federation is an associate member of CONCACAF and the Bonaire Volleyball Federation is an associate member of NORCECA. The Baseball teams play in the Caribbean region of Little league and Pony league. Bonaire was also confirmed as the 218th Table Tennis National association.
"Bevolkingsontwikkeling Caribisch Nederland; geboorte, sterfte, migratie" (in Dutch). Central Bureau of Statistics. 2012. Retrieved 13 December 2012.
^ Papiamentu can be used in relations with the government "Invoeringswet openbare lichamen Bonaire, Sint Eustatius en Saba" (in Dutch). wetten.nl. Retrieved 14 October 2012.
The domain for the Netherlands Antilles has remained active after its dissolution. The ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 code BQ was established for the entity "Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, Saba". ("ISO 3166-1 decoding table". International Organization for Standardization. Retrieved 17 December 2010.) An Internet ccTLD has been reserved by the IANA, but no registrar has been assigned.
(Dutch)"Wet openbare lichamen Bonaire, Sint Eustatius en Saba
(Law on the public bodies of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba)". Dutch Government. Retrieved 14 October 2010.
"Antillen opgeheven". NOS Nieuws. 18 November 2009. Retrieved 10 October 2010.
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"Fort Oranje(Bonaire)". Retrieved 19 February 2009.
"The Map Room: Caribbean: Bonaire". British Empire. Retrieved 10 October 2010.
Anonymous (15 June 2007). "Imprisoned Innocents". Bonaire Reporter. p. 7. Retrieved 19 February 2009.
Sint Jago, Junnes E. (2007). Wuiven vanaf de waranda (in Dutch). Utrecht: Gopher. ISBN 9789051794960. OCLC 150262823.
"Divi Flamingo Beach Resort Bonaire". Retrieved 19 February 2009.
"Bonaire Beach Hotel". Retrieved 19 February 2009.
"Cargill Salt Company". Retrieved 19 February 2009.
"Bonaire Petroleum Company". Archived from the original on 2007-03-01. Retrieved 19 February 2009.
Uncertainty about Bonaire referendum – Radio Netherlands, 2 February 2010
"Bonaire referendum cancelled". Expatica.com. Retrieved 10 October 2010.
Bonaire referendum postponed again – Radio Netherlands, 10 August 2010
The Referendum that wasn't – Bonaire Reporter, 24 December 2010
Jekielek, P (2011). "A 'BLAGRRA' Assessment of Coral Bleaching and Disease in Bonaire". In: Pollock NW, ed. Diving for Science 2011. Proceedings of the American Academy of Underwater Sciences 30th Symposium. Dauphin Island, AL: AAUS; 2011. Retrieved 16 April 2013.
Anonymous (9 February 2008). "Flotsam and Jetsam". Bonaire Reporter. p. 2. Retrieved 19 February 2009.
^ "Households by the most spoken language in the household Population and Housing Census 2001". Central Bureau of Statistics.