Caracas History, Venezuela
Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, is the best proof why the country is called the land of contrasts. While it isn’t one of the top tourist destinations in Venezuela, Caracas is a very interesting city steeped in history. Nestled at the foot of Mount Avila, surrounded by beautiful natural spots, the city looks like an urban oasis in a sea of green. Caracas brings together the wealthiest and the poorest city of the country: there are many extremely poor neighborhoods, or barrios, but also modern business districts and luxurious mansions. The friendliness of the local people, the lively nightlife and historical sites draw a sizeable tourist crowd to Caracas every year. This Caracas History Guide will briefly go over the major historical events that shaped Caracas into what it is today.
Caracas History - Founding and Early History
Caracas was founded almost half a millennium ago by Spanish conquistadores led by Francisco Fajardo, and the original name of the settlement was San Francisco. The city was destroyed by local tribes, but it was rebuilt by Juan Rodríguez Suárez, the founder of Merida. The Spanish tried to drive out the indigenous peoples, but did not succeed until Diego de Losada defeated the local tribes for good, and renamed the city Santiago de León de Caracas. In the 17th century, the coasts of Venezuela were continuously pillaged by pirates, so Caracas, somewhat protected by the surrounding mountains, became the most important city in the country. Throughout its early history, Caracas has been prone to a series of disasters. In 1595, it was burned to the ground by pirates, and 1641 it was destroyed by an earthquake.
Caracas History - Flourishing Period and Independence
In the 18th century, Caracas seemed to regain its footing. The first Venezuelan university was established in 1725, the Real Compañía Guipuzcoana trading company contributed significantly to the economic development of the city, and the first seeds on the independence movement were planted at the end of the 18th century. The joint efforts of two of Latin America’s most famous heroes, Francisco de Miranda and Simon Bolivar led to a Declaration of Independence, signed in 1811. Unfortunately, more natural disasters followed this victory: in 1812, an earthquake razed much of Caracas to the ground. However, the city was rebuilt, and in 1845, Spain recognized Venezuela as an independent country.
Caracas History - Modern Times
In the 20th century, the city’s economy continued to flourish, and Caracas become South America’s most important business centers. Many old crumbling buildings were modernized, and parts of the city, such as the University, were declared World Heritage Sites. The fast-developing economy of Caracas drew many people from the rural areas, but many of them ended up living in the slums. Nowadays, Caracas might not be as popular with tourists as Maracaibo, but its appeal has begun to be noticed and appreciated by more and more visitors.
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