Having poor soil and aridity, Aruba was saved from plantation economics and the slave trade. In 1515, the Spanish transported the entire population to Hispaniola to work in the coppermines; most were allowed to return when the mines were tapped out. The Dutch, who took control a century later, left the Arawaks to graze livestock, using the island as a source of meat for other Dutch possessions in the Caribbean. The Arawak heritage is stronger on Aruba than on most Caribbean islands. No full-blooded aboriginals remain, but the features of the islanders clearly indicate their genetic heritage. The majority of the population is descended mostly from Arawak Indians, and to a lesser extent Dutch, Spanish, and West African ancestors. Recently there has been substantial immigration to the island from neighboring Latin American and Caribbean nations, attracted by the lure of well-paying jobs.
The two official languages are the Dutch language and the predominant, national language Papiamento, which is classified as a creole language. This creole language is formed primarily from 16th century Portuguese, and several other languages. Spanish and English are also spoken. Islanders can often speak four or more languages and are mostly Roman Catholic.