Venezuela: History

South America's Hidden Gem

The Spanish first established a colony on mainland Venezuela in 1522 in the present day city of Cumaná. Caracas was successfully settled by the Spanish in 1567, although indigenous people have lived in the Caracas Valley far longer. Venezuelans tried to gain independence from Spain unsuccessfully in the late 1700s. Inspired by the American and French Revolution, a Declaration of Independence was signed in Caracas in 1811. Caracas was the birthplace of two of the most important figures in the Venezuela’s War of Independence – Francisco de Miranda and Simón Bolívar. The War of Independence continued for 10 years until Bolívar gained a decisive victory against the royalists. In the 20th century, Venezuela’s oil reserves have helped Caracas become a leading Latin American economic centre. The city’s economic shift from agriculture to oil production (and its increase in wealth) has attracted rural migrates to the city and the Caracas Valley. Shanty towns and make shift slums now line much of the Caracas Valley. In 1998 Hugo Chavez was elected as President of Venezuela and has begun a programme to redistribute some of the nation’s oil wealth to improve health facilities and education for the poor in Venezuela.