History of Caracas

Mother Earth Travel > Venezuela > Caracas > History

In 1567, and after many slips, the expedition commanded by Diego de Losada arrived at a beautiful valley surrounded by waters of the river Guaire, and formed by the Avila Mountain (National Park) and parts of the coastal mountain range. Losada and his expedition of 136 men defeated fierce Indian resistance and established the settlement on 25 July.

During a public ceremony, with the words: 'I take possession of these lands in the name of God, His Majesty the King and the Spanish nation,' Losada founded the famous city of Caracas. The new city was named Santiago de León de Caracas: Santiago - after the patron saint of Spain; León - after the governor of the day, and Caracas - after the Indian group which inhabited the coastal mountain range.

The city was elected as the administrative seat of the Province of Venezuela in 1577. It was the ideal place to establish the colony, owing to its proximity to the sea, abundant soil and defence from pirates, provided by the Avila. Thus it was turned into the principle seat of power.

The city's distribution was established in accordance with the Laws of Indias for the creation of the capitals of the New World, which adhered to regulations laid down by Spanish government. The specifications varied from the design of the houses, security, and accessibility and transport of water, to the dimensions used for squares and streets. A very typical way to name streets in the Caracas of Diego de Losada, was to refer to events that occurred in specific places. In fact, it is not so much the streets as the corners which are named in this way, for example, 'Peligro a Pele el Ojo' or 'Pinto to Miseria', among many others.

In 1812 the city was turned into ruins by a violent earthquake which catholic priests declared to be a punishment from God for the rebellion against the Spanish Crown. In the 19th century, under the leadership of Simon Bolívar, the city became the centre of the first revolt in the war for independence from Spain (1810-1821). Caracas became the capital of the Venezuelan Republic in 1829 and also one of the most prosperous Spanish colonial communities in South America.

In spite of its political achievements, Caracas continued to grow. During the mandate of Antonio Guzmán Blanco (who was obsessed with turning Caracas into a portrait of Paris), the city was made a great piece of urbanism: theatres, boulevards, monuments, churches, statues, hospitals, an aqueduct, a Federal Palace or Capitol were constructed. Years later, the start of the oil industry brought great transformations and saw the demographic concentration, social mobility and the great accomplishment of the public works. Thanks to the oil, Caracas became the dream of modernity. In the 1950s, the modernising vocation of dictator Marcos Pérez Jiménez, and his ideological efficiency, converted Caracas in a city full of technological and aesthetic buildings with New, modern physical environments came about through the involvement of qualified craftsmen. All of this stemmed from the oil boom.

Nowadays, Caracas is a cosmopolitan city full of contrasts, customs and traditions, and with a population that has grown from 400,000, to more than four million. It has some of the the continent's best modern architecture and it is the cultural, artistic, educational, scientific and economic centre of Venezuela. Here you can find theatre, dance, museums, historic monuments, luxurious hotels, parks, movie theatres, the finest restaurants, and towards the north, stands the magnificent Avila, watching over the city.