Discover one of South America’s most famous yet least visited natural wonders: Explore Angel Falls.. and beyond A photo posted by Chimu Adventures (@chimuadventures) on Sep 21, 2016 at 9:30pm PDT The world’s highest waterfall is Venezuela’s premier highlight and a place no adventurous traveller should miss visiting. It’s not only that the falls are spectacularly dramatic (which they are) …READ MORE
So, Venezuela has held elections.. What does that mean exactly? After 17 years of leftist rule it does appear that Chavez’s Bolivarian revolution is over. Well of sorts, Venezuela has just voted for parliamentary elections, not Presidential – and the makeup of the parliament has changed markedly. The ruling socialist movement has seen a big loss of seats, as the …READ MORE
Venezuela was colonised by Spain in 1522 and finally declared independence in 1811, beginning the Venezuelan War of Independence. The first Venezuelan republic was brought down by the rebellion of the Venezuelan llaneros (herders) and a devastating earthquake that struck Caracas in 1812. A second Venezuelan republic in 1813 was also crushed after only a few months.
Independence was not securely established until 1821 when Simon Bolivar won the Battle of Carabobo and with the Granadian army under his control, he liberated several countries and founded Gran Colombia. Venezuela gained full independence in 1830 after the collapse of Gran Colombia.
During the 19th century, Venezuela was ruled by military strongmen (caudillos) and the country suffered political turmoil. A democratic process was implemented in 1958 and the country then had a series of democratic governments. There was still more turmoil to follow with the 1989 Caracazo riots, two attempted coups in 1992 as well as the impeachment of President Perez in 1993 for he embezzlement of public funds.
Hugo Chavez was elected in 1998 and the Bolivarian Revolution launched.
Situated in the north of South America, Venezuela has a shoreline along the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean and borders Colombia to the west, Brazil to the south and Guyana to the east.
The Central region is the most populous part of Venezuela and includes the capital Caracas. Guayana is the largely uninhabited area south of the Orinoco River and makes up about half of Venezuela’s territory. It includes rainforest in the Amazonas, table-top mountains in the Gran Sabana as well as the flat marshlands of the Orinoco Delta formed as the Orinoco River makes its way to the sea. Los Llanos is the region of vast open plains where the main cattle ranches are found. The Northeast region covers an area of coastline of the Caribbean and North Atlantic and land to the south. The Northwest region borders the Caribbean coast, the Gulf of Venezuela and Lake Maracaibo and includes the Maracaibo lowlands and the Andes mountains.
Although located in the tropics, the climate of Venezuela varies from humid low-lying plains where the average temperature reaches as high as 35°C to glaciers and highlands where the average annual temperature is only 8°C.
The highest point in the country is Pico Bolivar (La Columna) at 5,007 metres.
Venezuela’s natural resources include petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, gold, bauxite, other minerals, hydropower and diamonds.
The people of Venezuela come from a wide range of cultural backgrounds, but the majority of the population is of mestixo or mixed heritage and the three main groups are indigenous, African and Spanish. The ethnic minorities consist of groups that descend mainly from African or indigenous people.
During the colonial period, many of the European immigrants came from the Canary Islands and this had a significant cultural impact on the cuisine and customs of the country. The exploitation of oil brought US citizens into Venezuela followed by waves of immigrants from other parts of Europe, the Middle East and China. The Spanish influence is evident in the bull fighting.
Over 90% of the population lives in urban areas in northern Venezuela and even though almost half of Venezuela’s land area lies south of the Orinoco, only 5% of the population lives there.
Spanish is the first language of Venezuela but there are also numerous indigenous dialects including Wayuu, Warao and Pemón.
Venezuela’s predominant religion is Roman Catholic with 92% of the population estimated to be Roman Catholic. There are also a growing number of Santería (mixture of Christianity and Voodoo) followers whose rituals include the slaughter of roosters, chickens or goats.
The influences of Africa can be heard in Venezuela’s music and the use of drums. The national musical instrument is the cuatro. Venezuela’s cuisine is also an amalgamation of flavours and influences from the various immigrant populations. A typical dish is arepas – thick corn tortillas split and stuffed with a variety of fillings such as shredded chicken and avocado or black beans with cheese. Other popular dishes include cachapas (corn pancakes topped with a salty cheese), empanadas, shrimp soup and pabellon, a lunch dish consisting of rice, black beans, meat and fried plantain. Venezuela is also a leading producer of cacao beans so try the Venezuelan chocolate!
Oil was discovered early in the 20th century and Venezuela’s economy is highly dependent on oil revenues that account for around 80-90% of export earnings. The 1980’s oil glut resulted in an external debt crisis and a long running economic crisis. Inflation peaked at 100% in 1996 and poverty rates rose to 66% in 1995. More than 60% of Venezuela's international reserves are in gold.
Venezuela exports rice, corn, fish, coffee, beef, pork and tropical fruits. The country also manufactures and exports steel, aluminium and cement. Production is concentrated around Ciudad Guayana near the Guri Dam. This is one of the largest in the world and provides 75% of Venezuela’s electricity.
Venezuela is a federal republic with one federal district, 2 federal territories, 23 states and 72 federal dependencies. The President is elected by vote and is both head of state and head of government. The term of office is 6 years, but the President can be re-elected any number of times. Universal suffrage is granted to those 18 years of age, but voting is not compulsory.
The political and economic histories of Venezuela are strongly intertwined since government revenues from the tax on the sale of oil are used to promote the economic growth of the country. Much of the government’s oil revenues have also landed in the pockets of the various military dictators and government officials.