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The Netherlands Antilles is composed of several islands, grouped into two. Saba, Sint Eustatius and Sint Maarten make up the Leeward Islands. Bonaire and Curaçao make up the Windward Islands located north of Venezuela. Both group of islands were discovered for Spain: the leeward islands by Alonso de Ojeda in 1499, and the windward islands by Christopher Columbus in 1493. When they first arrived in the islands, it was inhabited by the Arawak Indians. The Dutch came in and colonized the islands during the 17th century. The slave trade in the Netherlands Antilles flourished, but quickly floundered when slavery was abolished in 1863. It was the burgeoning oil industry in Curaçao that saved the Netherlands Antilles’ economy. In 1954, the islands became autonomous; from a colonial territory, they are now part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Aruba used to be a part of the Netherlands Antilles, until it was granted a status aparte, thus becoming a separate part of the kingdom. Due to political strains in the relationships between the islands, referendums regarding the Netherlands Antilles’ future were held. The majority of people of Sint Maarten and Curaçao voted for a status aparte, similar to that of Aruba. On the other hand, the islands of Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatious will become a special municipality of the Netherlands. As bijzondere gemeente, they will resemble regular Dutch municipalities: having a mayor, alderman, municipal council, etc. Dutch laws will also take effect in the islands. December 15, 2008 will mark the day the Netherlands Antilles disbanded.