In 1499, Amerigo Vespucci discovered Bonaire by an expedition. Indians lived on Bonaire ages before Amerigo arrived. At the northern part of Bonaire, you still can see some Indian drawings in several places. In 1527, the Spanish started a colony, which lasted more than a century. In 1634, the Dutch occupied Curaçao to start a maritime base to fight against Spain. Once the Dutch chased away Spanish people, Bonaire became a Dutch colony in 1636. In 1639, they drew up an economic development project to produce salt, corn planting and stockbreeding were developed. Salt production became Bonaire's main source of revenue. To continue salt production, the Dutch brought a large number of slaves from Africa to Bonaire. Between 1800 and 1816 the French and British pirates took over Bonaire. For a small period, the British leased Bonaire and its slaves to a New York merchant. In 1816, the Dutch took over again and set up a system of government plantations (Brasil-wood, aloe, cochenille, etc.) and the salt pans (saliñas).
After the abolition of slavery in 1863, the government operations turned out to be uneconomic and they sold Bonaire. Until 1926, Bonaireans migrate to Curaçao and Aruba to work in the oil industry. Even today, Curaçao has one of the largest refineries in the world. Automation of the oil industry in the late fifties made a lot of workers unemployed and returned to Bonaire.
Happily, the tourists discovered the Caribbean and the beauties of Bonaire. In 1951, the first hotel opened its doors. Tourism is the most favored industry of Bonaire today, but the Bonaireans prefer to keep tourism low-key and tranquil.
Bonaire was the first of the Antilles to protect the environment on land and sea to preserve a national park and safeguard her flamingoes. In 1964, Trans World Radio began broadcasting Christian programs over the entire Western Hemisphere, the Middle East, North Africa and even behind former Iron Curtain. In 1969, Radio Nederland Wereldomroep, the Dutch World Broadcasting Co., started his own short-wave installation. The last broadcast was on June 30, 2012. These antennas used to be located south east from Washington / Slagbaai National Park but were demolished in November 2012. Trans World Radio has five large antennas near Salt Lake.
Since October, 10th 2010 Bonaire, Statia and Saba are no longer part of the former Dutch Antilles, but has been given the status of special municipality with direct ties to The Netherlands. These three islands are known as Caribbean Netherlands. Since that date Curaçao and Sint Maarten are separate countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, similar to Aruba.