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República Bolivariana de Venezuela1
Flag of Venezuela. Coat of Arms of Venezuela.
Flag2 Coat of Arms2
Motto: none 3
National Anthem: Gloria al Bravo Pueblo
Location of Venezuela
• Coordinates
10°30′N 66°58′W
Largest city Caracas
Official language Spanish
• President
Federal republic
• Hugo Chávez Frías
• Declared
• Recognized
From Spain
• July 5, 1811
• June 24, 1821
• Water (%)
916,445 km² ( 32nd)
• 0.3
Population (2005)
• Density
25.375.281 ( 46th)
• 27/km² ( 145th)
GDP ( PPP; 2004 est.)
• Per capita
3,331 million ( 52nd)
• ,200 ( 98th)
HDI ( 2003) 0.772 ( 75th) – medium
Currency Venezuelan bolívar (Bs.) ( VEB)
Time zone UTC -4
Internet TLD .ve
Calling code +58
Note 1: The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has been the full official title of the state since the adoption of the 1999 constitution, when the state was renamed in honour of Simón Bolívar.
Note 2: The flag and coat of arms were recently modified; the old versions are depicted.
Note 3: Historical: Dios y Federación ( English: God and Federation)
The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela ( IPA: [ˌvɛnəˈzwelə]; Spanish: República Bolivariana de Venezuela, IPA: [re'puβlika boliβaɾiana de benesu'ela]) is a country on the northern tropical Caribbean coast of South America. Venezuela borders Brazil to the south, Guyana to the east, and Colombia to the west. North of the Venezuelan coast lie the islands of Aruba, the Netherlands Antilles, and Trinidad and Tobago.A former Spanish colony, Venezuela is a Federal Republic. Historically, Venezuela has had territorial disputes with Guyana, largely concerning the Essequibo area, and with Colombia concerning the Gulf of Maracaibo (Gulf of Coquibacoa according to Colombia). This issue is not yet resolved. To this day, Venezuela is known for its petroleum industry, the environmental diversity of its territory, and its sheer natural beauty. It has been claimed that Christopher Columbus was so enthralled by Venezuela's landscape, when arriving to its coast in 1498, that he referred to the land as Tierra de Gracia (Land of Grace), which has become the country’s nickname.

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Origin and history of the name
Government and politics
National symbols

Origin and history of the name - Contents

The name "Venezuela" is believed to have originated from the cartographer Amerigo Vespucci, who together with Alonso de Ojeda led a 1499 naval expedition along the northwestern coast (known today as the Gulf of Venezuela). On reaching the Guajira Peninsula, the crew observed the distinctive stilt villages ( palafitos) that the indigenous Añu people had built over the water. This reminded Vespucci of the city of Venice and as a result the region was named Venezuela, which means Little Venice. On the other hand, Spanish conquistador and geographer Martín Fernández de Enciso, member of the same crew, says in his work Summa de Geografía that the above mentioned population was called Veneciuela, and that it was built on a large, plain rock. According to this theory, the name Venezuela could be a native word. Nevertheless, the first version remains by far the most popular and accepted version.

History - Contents

Simón Bolívar, El Libertador
Simón Bolívar, El Libertador
Venezuela was the site of one of the first permanent Spanish settlements in South America in 1522, and most of the territory eventually became part of the viceroyalty of New Granada. Parts of what is now eastern Venezuela became New Andalusia. After several unsuccessful uprisings, the country declared independence from Spain on July 5th 1811 under the leadership of its most famous son, Simón Bolívar. Nevertheless, the full control over Venezuelan territory was achieved after Bolivar, with the help of General José Antonio Páez and especially the then General Grand Marshall Antonio José de Sucre, whose battle plan Bolívar chose to follow, won the Battle of Carabobo in June 24th 1821, and after José Prudencio Padilla won the Naval Battle of Lake Maracaibo on July 24th 1823. New Granada's congress gave Bolívar control of the Granadian army who then led several countries to freedom and created a new republic called Colombia (also known as Great Colombia to differentiate it to the actual Republic of Colombia) conformed by what are now Colombia, Panama, Ecuador and Venezuela. He then led the army towards the south liberating Peru, and Bolivia (whose name comes after the Libertador) from the Spaniards. Antonio José de Sucre, who won many battles for Bolivar, was to become his natural successor until he was murdered. Venezuela became, after the war of independence, along with Colombia and Ecuador part of the Republic of Gran Colombia (República de Gran Colombia) until 1830, when the country separated through a rebellion led by the aforementioned Jose Antonio Páez and declared itself as a sovereign republic. Páez became the first president of Venezuela.Much of Venezuela's 19th and early 20th century history was characterized by political instability, political struggle, and dictatorial rule. Following the death of Juan Vicente Gómez in 1935 and the demise of caudillismo (authoritarian oligarchical rule), democratic struggles eventually forced the military to withdraw from direct involvement in national politics in 1958. Since that year, Venezuela has enjoyed an unbroken tradition of democratic civilian rule, though not without conflict.Venezuela is member of the South American Community of Nations ( SACN). (more)

Government and politics - Contents

The National Assembly Building in downtown Caracas.
The National Assembly Building in downtown Caracas.
The Venezuelan president is elected by a popular vote, with direct and universal suffrage, and functions as both head of state and head of government. The term of office is six years, and a president may be re-elected to a single consecutive term. The president appoints the vice-president and decides the size and composition of the cabinet and makes appointments to it with the involvement of the legislature. The president can ask the legislature to reconsider portions of laws he finds objectionable, but a simple parliamentary majority can override these objections.The unicameral Venezuelan parliament is the National Assembly or Asamblea Nacional. Its 165 deputies, of which three are reserved for indigenous peoples, serve five-year terms and may be re-elected for a maximum of two additional terms. They are elected by popular vote through a combination of party lists and single member constituencies. The highest judicial body is the Supreme Tribunal of Justice or Tribunal Supremo de Justicia, whose magistrates are elected by parliament for a single 12-year term. The National Electoral Council (CNE) is in charge of electoral processes; it is formed by five main directors elected by the National Assembly.

Subdivisions - Contents

Venezuela is subdivided into 23 states (estados), a Capital District (Distrito Capital) correspondent to the city of Caracas, and the Federal Dependencies (Dependencias Federales). The country is also divided into ten administrative regions (regiones administrativas), the administrative regions were established by presidential decrees.

Political Map of Venezuela
Political Map of Venezuela
# State Capital # State Capital
1. Amazonas Puerto Ayacucho 13. Mérida Mérida
2. Anzoátegui Barcelona 14. Miranda Los Teques
3. Apure San Fernando de Apure 15. Monagas Maturín
4. Aragua Maracay 16. Nueva Esparta La Asunción
5. Barinas Barinas 17. Portuguesa Guanare
6. Bolívar Ciudad Bolívar 18. Sucre Cumaná
7. Carabobo Valencia 19. Táchira San Cristóbal
8. Cojedes San Carlos, Cojedes 20. Trujillo Trujillo
9. Delta Amacuro Tucupita 21. Yaracuy San Felipe
10. Falcón Coro 22. Vargas La Güaira
11. Guárico San Juan De Los Morros 23. Zulia Maracaibo
12. Lara Barquisimeto 24. Federal Dependencies n/a

Note: The Venezuelan Federal Dependencies are not a real state, but an special territorial subdivision.

Administrative Region States
Capital Miranda, Vargas, Capital District (Caracas)
Central Aragua, Carabobo, Cojedes
Insular Nueva Esparta, Federal Dependencies
Nor - Oriental Anzoátegui, Monagas, Sucre
Zulian Zulia
Guayana Bolívar, Amazonas, Delta Amacuro
Andean Barinas, Mérida, Trujillo
South - Occidental Táchira, Páez Municipality of Apure
Llanos Apure (excluding Paez Municipality), Guárico
Central - Occidental Falcón, Lara, Portuguesa, Yaracuy

Geography - Contents

Venezuela is home to a wide variety of landscapes, such as the north-easternmost extensions of the Andes mountains in the northwest and along the northern Caribbean coast, of which the highest point is the Pico Bolívar at 5,007 m.
The Angel Falls (Salto Ángel), world's highest waterfall
The Angel Falls (Salto Ángel), world's highest waterfall
The center of the country is characterized by extensive plains known as the llanos that stretch from the Colombian border to the river delta of the Orinoco east. To the south are found the dissected Guiana Highlands, home to Angel Falls, the world's highest waterfall, and the northern edge of Amazonia. This is a classical division, however.The country can also be divided into nine geographical areas, some corresponding to the natural regions, one being the Andes Range. The Lake Maracaibo region comprehends the lowlands near the Gulf of Venezuela. The Coro System, a mountainous block in the northern occidental territory, is the fount of several sierras and valleys. The Central Range is tied up with the coast and the hills surrounding Caracas, while the Eastern Range, separated from the Central by the Gulf of Cariaco, covers all of Sucre State and northern Monagas. The Llanos Region involves a third part of the country's area, above the Orinoco River. Under it, is the South Orinoco Region (the Guianas, above described). The Insular Region is formed by the Nueva Esparta State and the Federal Dependencies. The last geographical region is the Deltaic System forms a pantanous triangle, covering Delta Amacuro State, with the Atlantic platform branching off the coast.
Mt. Kukenan, in Venezuela.
Mt. Kukenan, in Venezuela.
The Orinoco River is the largest and most important river of the country, originating one of the biggest watersheds in Latin America. Other important rivers are the Caroní and the Apure.The local climate is tropical and generally hot and humid, though more moderate in the highlands. The capital, Caracas is also the country's largest city. Other major cities include Maracaibo, Barquisimeto, Valencia, Maracay, and Ciudad Guayana.Venezuela is one of the seventeen megadiverse countries, for the great number of animal and vegetable species that habitate there. (more)

Economy - Contents

Amuay Bay oil refinery complex in Paraguaná Peninsula
Amuay Bay oil refinery complex in Paraguaná Peninsula
The petroleum sector dominates the economy, accounting for roughly a third of Venezuela's GDP, around 80% of export earnings, and more than half of government revenues. The oil sector operates through the government-owned Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), which among other things owns the US-based distributor CITGO, which has 14,000 service stations in the US.Venezuela also depends highly on the agricultural sector; both coffee and cocoa are crops with major potential for export-led growth.Venezuela is one of the five founding members of OPEC. The idea itself (an international oil cartel) was the initiative of Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonzo, who proposed it as a response to low domestic and international oil prices in August 1960. Since December 2005, Venezuela is a member of Mercosur, joining with Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, although it has yet to finalize policy changes in order to gain voting rights.

Demographics - Contents

View of an old suburban area of Maracaibo
View of an old suburban area of Maracaibo
The Venezuelan people comprise a rich combination of heritages. The historically present Amerindians, Spanish colonists and Africans were joined by Italians, Portuguese, Arabs, Germans, and others from neighbouring countries in South America during waves of immigration in the 20th century. About 85% of the population live in urban areas in the northern portion of the country. While almost half of Venezuela's land area lies south of the Orinoco river, this region contains only 5% of the population.The national and official language is Spanish, but numerous indigenous languages also exist ( Wayu, Pemon, Warao, etc), as do languages introduced by immigrants. 96% of the population is at least nominally Roman Catholic. Around 4% of the population adheres to other faiths.

Military - Contents

Culture - Contents

Above, image of a crowd dancing joropo, the emblematic Venezuelan dance
Above, image of a crowd dancing joropo, the emblematic Venezuelan dance
The Venezuelan culture comes from a wide variety of heritages, mainly of the indigenous populations, Spanish and African provenance, dating from the Colony. Before this period, indigenous cultural manifestations were expressed in art ( petroglyphs), crafts, architecture ( shabonos) and social organization. Aboriginal culture was subsequently assimilated by Spaniards; over the years, the hybrid culture had diversified by region. Venezuelan art is gaining attention within and outside the country. Firstly dominated by religious motives, in the late 19th century changed to historical and heroic representations, led by Martín Tovar y Tovar. Modernism took over in the 20th century. Some very remarkable Venezuelan artists include Arturo Michelena, Cristóbal Rojas, Armando Reverón, Jesús-Rafael Soto, Carlos Cruz-Diez (who both contributed greatly to kinetic art), and Manuel Cabré.
Image of a traditional public performance by the Diablos Danzantes de Yare (Dancing Devils of Yare)
Image of a traditional public performance by the Diablos Danzantes de Yare (Dancing Devils of Yare)
Venezuelan literature began developing soon after Spanish conquest, and it was dominated by Spanish culture and thinking. Following the rise of political literature during the Independence War, was the Romanticism, the first important genre in the region, whose great exponent was Juan Vicente González. Although mainly focused on narrative, poets figure with great importance, being Andrés Eloy Blanco the most famous of them, aside Fermín Toro. Major writers and novelists are Rómulo Gallegos, Teresa de la Parra, Arturo Uslar Pietri, Adriano González León, Miguel Otero Silva and Mariano Picón Salas. Another great poet and humanist was Andrés Bello, besides being and educator and an intellectual.Other philosophers and intellectuals, like Laureano Vallenilla Lanz and José Gil Fortoul, along with many other writers, sustained the theory of the Venezuelan positivism.The great architect of the Venezuelan Modern era was Carlos Raúl Villanueva, who designed and built the Universidad Central de Venezuela, ( World Heritage Site) and its Aula Magna. Venezuelan architecture examples are the National Pantheon, the Baralt Theatre, the Teatro Teresa Carreño,and the General Rafael Urdaneta Bridge.Autoctonal music styles are sort of a crisol of the Venezuelan cultural inheritages, most noted in groups like Un Solo Pueblo and Serenata Guayanesa. The national musical instrument is the cuatro. The national songs are mainly from the llanos area and its environment, so is the case of the Alma Llanera (by Pedro Elias Gutierrez and Rafael Bolivar), Florentino y el Diablo (by Alberto Arvelo Torrealba) and Caballo Viejo (by Simón Díaz). The gaitas is also a popular style, played generally on Christmas, typical of Zulia State. The national dance is the joropo. Teresa Carreño was a world famous piano virtuosa during late 19th century.Venezuela is also a reference for their world famous baseball players, such as Luis Aparicio, David Concepción, Oswaldo Guillén, Andrés Galarraga, Omar Vizquel, Luis Sojo, Bobby Abreu, and Johan Santana, winner of the Cy Young Award in 2004. Although baseball is tremendously popular (it's the national pastime), football (soccer) is also gaining popularity, due to the increasing performance of the Venezuela national football team.
  • Music of Venezuela
  • Cuisine of Venezuela
  • Venezuelan Spanish

Date Local Name English Name Remarks
January 1 Día de Año Nuevo New Year's Day Beginning of the Civil Year
January 6 Día de Reyes Epiphany Christian feast, the visit of the three Magi to Jesus.
Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday Carnaval Carnival -
From Palm Sunday to Easter Semana Santa Holy Week Commemoration of the Passion and Resurrection of Christ.
March 19 Día de San José Saint Joseph's Day In honor of Saint Joseph
April 19 19 de abril Beginning of the Independence Movement Remembering the 1810 coup d'état and start of the Venezuelan Independence
May 1 Día del Trabajador Labour Day -
June 24 Batalla de Carabobo Battle of Carabobo Ensurance of the Venezuelan Independence; tagged also as Army's Day
July 5 5 de julio Independence Day Signing of the Venezuelan Declaration of Independence
July 24 Natalicio del Libertador Birth of Simón Bolívar Also tagged as Navy's Day.
October 12 Día de la Resistencia Indígena Day of Indigenous Resistance Previously, in Venezuela the holiday was called Día de la Raza, conmemorating the arrival of Christopher Columbus to the Americas.
November 1 Día de Todos los Santos All Saints Day -
November 17 to November 19 Feria de la Chinita Feria of La Chinita Only in Zulia State; celebrating the miracle of Our Lady of Rosario of Chiquinquirá.
December 8 Inmaculada Concepción Immaculate Conception Celebrating the preservance of Mary, the mother of Jesus from the original sin by the Grace of God.
December 24 Nochebuena Christmas Eve Birth of Jesus (Divino Niño).
December 31 Nochevieja New Year's Eve Final day of the Civil Year

Personalities - Contents

  • List of Venezuelans
  • List of players from Venezuela in Major League Baseball

National symbols - Contents

The orchid (Cattleya mossiae)
The orchid (Cattleya mossiae)
Venezuela's national symbols include the Flag, the Coat of Arms, and the National Anthem. Other elements relative to the typical flora and fauna of the territory are remarkable. The governments through history have officially declared these as national symbols:
National Flower
  • The orchid (Cattleya mossiae)
This kind of orchid is also known as Flor de Mayo (May Flower). Was first discovered in the northern land in 1839. Was given the status of National Flower on 23 May 1951.
National Tree
  • The araguaney (Tabebuia chrysantha)
Called aravanei by the caribes, it can be found mostly in regions with temperate weather. It can reach a height between 6 and 12 m. The araguaney flourishes within the period following a rainy season, mostly on the first months of the year. Rómulo Gallegos referred to these months as "La primavera de oro de los araguaneyes" (the golden spring of the araguaneyes). Declared National Tree on 29 May 1945.
A turpial
A turpial
National Bird
  • The turpial (Icterus icterus)
Fully coloured with yellow-orange tones except in the head and the wings, which are black with a few tones in white; also has a blue spot surrounding the eyes. It can be found in woods, the llanos, at the shores of jungles, and in northern and southern Orinoco. The turpial is fairly appreciated due to its singing and was declared the National Bird on 23 May 1958.
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