January 25 – Betico Croes Day in Aruba

Posted on January 25, 2016

Sadly, the fellow some call the “Father of the Aruban Nation” wasn't able to see his goal come to pass.

That happens a lot, actually – people who strive for big goals often set in motion the accomplishment of that goal, but don't live to see it. Gilberto Francois "Betico" Croes had a saying about that:

He said, “If I die in the field, grab the flag and continue the battle.”

This monument to Croes shows
him still holding the flag...

Croes said his famous quote in another language: Si mi cai na caminda, gara e bandera y sigui cu e lucha.” That looks a lot like Spanish to me, but not exactly; plus, I didn't think that an Aruban patriot would be speaking Spanish. It is probably one of the official languages of Aruba, Papiamento, which is a creole language made up of Portuguese, Dutch, African languages, and other languages (including Spanish). It is the most widely spoken language on the Caribbean ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao).

Betico Croes thought that Aruba should separate from the rest of the Netherlands Antilles and should become an autonomous country. He led a political party, helped design a national seal and flag, and co-wrote a patriotic hymn (anthem) for the island. He helped in the writing of the constitution. He worked to get a referendum vote on the question of whether Aruba should be independent of the Netherlands; a whopping 83% of the islanders voted YES.

He also worked to get Aruba to diversify its economy, especially concentrating on tourism, and he worked on plans and projects for the future he didn't live to see.

Croes helped set up the conference to discuss independence and to prepare a timetable for Aruba's autonomy, but shortly after he returned victorious from the conference, he was in an automobile accident. He went into a coma and died almost a year later, apparently never regaining consciousness.

By the way, I hope you will notice that, although Croes said “if I die in the field...continue the battle,” the battle he spoke of was political, not violent. It's tragic that he died, but there doesn't seem to be any evidence that his death was a part of any conspiracy...

Arubans honor Croes's memory today, his birthday. Croes was born in 1938 and died in 1986.

Hmm...“Father of the Aruban Nation,” independence, autonomy, and victory...But Aruba isn't independent, is it?

Aruba did become independent of the Netherland Antilles, on January 1, 1986 (just one day after Croes's car accident!), but it is still a part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It is considered an autonomous country within the kingdom, along with Curaçao, Sint Maarten, and the Netherlands. It has its own parliament but depends on the Netherlands for foreign policy and defense.

Full-on independence was scheduled for 1996, ten years after Aruba's separation from the Netherland Antilles. But in 1995 it was postponed... indefinitely.

Good for tourism

Aruba is sunny and arid. Actually, knowing that they can be pretty sure that they are going to have sunny weather is a good thing for tourists, who often travel to Aruba to enjoy the beaches, scuba diving, and sky diving.

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