August 15th, 2011
09:28 AM ET

Familiar spotlight on Aruba after disappearance stirs up local frustration

The disappearance of Robyn Gardner has brought the international media back to Aruba, and Arubans aren’t happy about it. After the prolonged investigation without resolution in the Natalee Holloway case the summer of 2005, tourism took a hit. The locals are nervous and not keen to see us again.

There is no way to keep a low profile on an island when you’re CNN. A photograph of us reporting in front of the prosecutor’s office was on the front page of the island’s most popular paper, The Diario, the day after we landed.

Since then, other networks have followed us to Aruba. NBC’s satellite dish now sprouts from the hotel grounds. An unnamed television team was having lunch near the site where Gardner reportedly vanished while snorkeling. Once the manager of the restaurant knew they were members of the media, he threw them out, refusing their money for the meal they had already been served. It’s a very strong reaction for a place whose maroon and white license plates boast “One Happy Island.”

That’s an extreme example. I have been here many times, and always, unfortunately, for bad news. I was here for much of the Holloway frenzy, but even now, I find most here are extremely polite and friendly. However, if you ask them if they know anything about the current case and would they be willing to be interviewed, people grow silent. Twice my requests were met with the same response. One person said “here is someone who could talk" to me while writing down a name and phone number. Only it was the number for the island’s solicitor general, and I already had it.

This story, although tragic, hasn't reached the Holloway kind of media madness, at least not yet. But like then, rumors are quick to spread. On the beach by the Marriott hotel north of town, the buzz was that Nancy Grace had arrived on the island the night before on a private jet.

The Aruban government learned from its mistakes in the Holloway case. This time, immediately after Gardner was reported missing, a very aggressive search by land, sea and air was launched. The solicitor general, who is the spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, is readily available for interviews, and police quickly asked the FBI to assist their investigation in the U.S.

Another important difference? The person of interest is an American, not one of their own with ties to the justice system. The politics are not the same.

But many of the faces of the returning members of the media are the same.

The greeting I get from friends on the island is often with a sigh: “It’s nice to see you, but not necessarily good to see you.”

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Filed under: Aruba
soundoff (268 Responses)
  1. Xerxes 2011

    "Aruba, Jamaica, oooooh im gonna killa! Bermuda Bahama come on baby mama, Bodies in the sand, We'll get there fast And then you'll die slooow, That's where we wanna go! Everybody knows that you dont get arrested from it all"- Killer's Kokomo Song

    August 15, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Proud Arubiano

    Ow, I forgot. for those who think that we are a 3rd world country. Ur Wrong. If we were a 3rd world country, we Arubians wold live in huts not brick houses. Everywhere you turn, there are brick houses, everybody here owns at least 2 cars. Everyone's connected to the internet and everyday WE HAVE BREAD ON THE TABLE. I pity you.

    August 15, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • What's an Arubiano? A drink?

      I think that you first need to be an independent nation before we can classify you as a 3rd world country. Right now, you're a nice little part of the Netherlands, and lets just face it. Curacao is just a nicer place.

      August 15, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Proud Arubiano

      Arubiano in English is an Arubian, hellloooo

      August 15, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • JIm

      Arubiano? Is it somewhere in the middle between "Arubian" and "Arubiana"? That tells a lot about islanders' moral values... I will pass your island sailing my boat...

      August 15, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  3. But...

    You are ill.

    August 15, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Anna

    so you are telling me it's safer in the States than Aruba? really?
    I am more scared travelling to the States considering it's okay for people to walk around carrying guns, yeah that's really safe!

    August 15, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      I know it's hard but try and not be a dumb clam. It's not legal in to carry a gun in most of the US without a permit and that permit is very hard to come by.

      August 15, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hamid77

      You've never been to the States I take it. Growing up in Lebanon, and having lived and traveled throughout Europe, Asia, and North America, I'd say I felt safer in the States than in most other countries. I guess a lot of people do carry guns in the States, but I've ever only had a gun pointed at me in London, UK, and they're mostly banned there.

      August 15, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • CarmenSo

      Yes but we don't generally let our serial killers go home. What is with you people and blondes anyways?

      August 15, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • CarmenSo

      Hamid when I lived in London the IRA set off a bomb near the apartment complex I was staying in. A fricken BOMB. Then while I was on a collect call home the police harassed me and wanted to know how I was paying for my collect call. At least in the US we don't have to worry about random explosions and the police harassing you while making a phone call

      August 15, 2011 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • JG

      The people licensed to carry weapons aren't the ones you have to worry about.

      August 15, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Correlia

      FYI- Open carry is legal in most states- some have strange laws about the gun being loaded or not. (CA)

      Very few have a permit to open carry. Most states' permits are for concealed carry.

      August 15, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Truth

      Anna, disregard all the cr@p the people above have posted... You are much safer in Aruba considering that people go missing every single day in the US... I have a couple of friends that have traveled the world only to be mugged for the first time here in the US... Just always remember to be aware of your surroundings...

      August 15, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Buttset

    Forget about Aruba. Go to Cuba, no one disappears there.

    August 15, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Paul

    It's not Aruba. It's incredibly dumb women. Aruba is less dangerous than any American City. Like a previous poster said it's not Disneyland so get your head out of your butt and pay attention. And why are they always blond? Hello??

    August 15, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • JG

      It's not the blonde that automatically makes you dumb. I'm highly intelligent, I hold degrees and graduated with honors and I am a blonde woman. I know how to take care of myself. I don't get drunk with strange men or walk down alleys alone at night or any other stupid thing that women do then blame other people for their stupidity.

      August 15, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      @ JG – Everyone who went to college thinks they're smart (ever hear someone tell you how stupid they were?), but college doesn't mean you common sense or smarts. I don't by the dumb blonde thing posted by some of the idiots on this forum. These things can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime. I don't care if you think you know how to take care of yourself, you are not immune to being another statistic along with thousands of girls world wide every year.

      August 15, 2011 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Alicia

    I'm sure this guy thought he could get away with murder like joran did. Aruba, stop whinig you brought this on yourself by not pursuing Natalle's murderer. Peru should sue you also.

    August 15, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
  8. iwatchu

    The media is now reporting on themselves.....interesting, conflict of interest, inflated ego......lol

    August 15, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Helium-3

    I've also been to Aruba for vacation and it is very safe compared to Mexico and the Bahamas. I would feel safe walking at night back to the hotels. You can't say this about Mexico, especially DF. How many of you would say walking around Mexico (even in resort places like Puerto Vallarta) is safe without worrying about get jacked or scammed? You always worry about the surroundings in Mexico.

    August 15, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • JIm

      I was in Mexico, Acapulco in 2010 and it was safe, police patrolled streets and my wife and me were walking at niight everywhere. We had a blast and no gangsters were present. Mexico turned out to be a great spot for us.

      August 15, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • JG

      I don't think comparing anything to Mexico with it's cartels makes a good point right now, you might as well have used Pakistan or Iraq. No one in their right mind goes to Mexico right now.

      August 15, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Quincey9

    " We now go live for an exclusive interview with the most recently appointed head of tourism promotion for Aruba Mr. ,.... Hang on,... This just in ... he's hung AND shot himself in addition to swallowing 800lbs of various poisons, several small animals, an entire bag of cement and had himself run over by around 45 cars, two trains and a slow moving bus that made frequent stops while he was trapped beneath. Not a good year for tourism. Nope... Not at all"

    August 15, 2011 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
  11. David Witcraft

    The media formula for disappearance cases that get attention is sadly uniform. The Arubans should bar entry by attractive american blondes, then if someone goes missing, the media won't care anyway. How many tourists have gone missing in Aruba since Holloway? None, if you go by media coverage. I suspect the real number is higher. It's not the Aruban's fault. People still go to Cancun and Acapulco, which are practically war zones! Aruba just happens to be a nice place to cover a story from......

    August 15, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  12. the Doc

    It isn't whether Aruba is safe or not, nor whether Arubians are nice. The issue is, you don't prosecute killers. Until you do, most Americans won't travel to or invest in your island "paradise."

    August 15, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • beautifulblueeyedblond

      Aruba doesn't prosecute killers? What do you know? I'm getting a feeling that you are basing your opinion on ONE single case. Do I say that the whole justice system is crap just because a woman got away with killing her child? No. you need evidence. and until there is enough evidence you cannot put a person in jail. O

      August 15, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Kris

    I am an American from New Hampshire and would like to tell all of the Aruban people that I absolutely love your island! My husband, two young children and I travel there once a year. I have always felt extremely safe and comfortable in Aruba. The people are so much more friendly than I would ever find here in the US. I love the US, it's my home, so don't take this the wrong way. BUT....I will return to Aruba very soon and I know how safe I will be. Love Love Love Aruba!! 🙂

    August 15, 2011 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • sjm

      Totally agree with you Kris. We are from MA and found our recent Aruba vacation the easiest, most pleasant ever. Great people, great place, kids can't wait to go back!

      August 15, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Otto

    Nancy Grace should disappear in Aruba. That would boost tourism.

    August 15, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • one happy island

      even better is if they cancel that circus show she has! That would be welcome news!!!

      August 15, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  15. barbara

    This article told us absolutely nothing new about the case.

    August 15, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
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