Caracas (/ - -/,, Spanish: [kaˈɾakas]), officially Santiago de León de Caracas, abbreviated as CCS, is the capital and largest city of Venezuela, and the center of the Metropolitan Region of Caracas (or Greater Caracas). Caracas is located along the Guaire River in the northern part of the country, within the Caracas Valley of the Venezuelan coastal mountain range (Cordillera de la Costa). The valley is close to the Caribbean Sea, separated from the coast by a steep 2,200-metre-high (7,200 ft) mountain range, Cerro El Ávila; to the south there are more hills and mountains. The Metropolitan Region of Caracas has an estimated population of almost 5 million inhabitants.
The center of the city is still Catedral, located near Bolívar Square, though some consider the center to be Plaza Venezuela, located in the Los Caobos area. Businesses in the city include service companies, banks, and malls. Caracas has a largely service-based economy, apart from some industrial activity in its metropolitan area. The Caracas Stock Exchange and Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) are headquartered in Caracas. PDVSA is the largest company in Venezuela. Caracas is also Venezuela's cultural capital, with many restaurants, theaters, museums, and shopping centers. Caracas has some of the tallest skyscrapers in Latin America, such as the Parque Central Towers. The Museum of Contemporary Art of Caracas is one of the most important in South America.
Caracas has one of the highest per capita murder rates in the world, with 111.19 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants.
Before the city was founded in 1567, the valley of Caracas was populated by indigenous peoples. Francisco Fajardo, the son of a Spanish captain and a Guaiqueri cacica, who came from Margarita, began establishing settlements in the area of La Guaira and the Caracas valley between 1555 and 1560. Fajardo attempted to establish a plantation in the valley in 1562 after these unsuccessful coastal towns, but it did not last long: it was destroyed by natives of the region led by and Guaicaipuro. Fajardo's 1560 settlement was known as Hato de San Francisco, and another attempt in 1561 by was called Villa de San Francisco, and was also destroyed by the same native people. The eventual settlers of Caracas came from Coro, the German capital of their Klein-Venedig colony around the present-day coastal Colombia–Venezuela border; from the 1540s, the colony had been de facto controlled by Spaniards. Moving eastward from Coro, groups of Spanish settlers founded inland towns including Barquisimeto and Valencia before reaching the Caracas valley.
On 25 July 1567, Captain Diego de Losada laid the foundations of the city of Santiago de León de Caracas. De Losada had been commissioned to capture the valley, and was successful by splitting the natives into different groups to work with, then fighting and defeating each of them. The town was the closest to the coast of these new settlements, and the colonists retained a native workforce, which allowed a trade network to develop between Caracas, the interior, and Margarita; the towns further inland produced ample cotton products and beeswax, and Margarita was a rich source of pearls. The Caracas valley had a good environment for both agricultural and arable farming, which contributed to the system of commerce but meant that the town's population was initially sparse, as it was only large enough to support a few farms.
In 1577, Caracas became the capital of the Spanish Empire's Venezuela Province under the province's new governor, Juan de Pimentel (1576–1583). In the 1580s, Caraqueños started selling food to the Spanish soldiers in Cartagena, who often docked in the coastal city when collecting products from the empire in South America. Wheat was growing increasingly expensive in the Iberian Peninsula, and the Spanish profited from buying it from Caracas farmers. This cemented the city in the empire's trade circuit.
During the 16th and 17th centuries, the coast of Venezuela was frequently raided by pirates. With the coastal mountains of the Central Range as a barrier, Caracas was relatively immune to such attacks, compared to other Caribbean coastal settlements, but in 1595 the Preston–Somers expedition landed and around 200 English Privateers, including George Somers and Amyas Preston, crossed the mountains through a little-used pass while the town's defenders were guarding the more frequently used one. Encountering little resistance, the invaders sacked and set fire to the town after a failed ransom negotiation. The city managed to rebuild, using wheat profits and "a lot of sacrifice". In the 1620s, farmers in Caracas discovered that Cacao beans could be sold, first selling them to native people of Mexico and quickly growing across the Caribbean. The city became important in the Viceroyalty of New Spain, as well as moving from largely native slave labor to African slaves, the first of the Spanish colonies to become part of the slave trade. The city was successful and operated on cacao and slave trade until the 1650s, when an alhorra blight, the Mexican Inquisition of many of their Portuguese traders, and increased cacao production in Guayaquil greatly affected the market. This and the destructive 1641 earthquake put the city into decline, and they likely began illegally trading with the Dutch Empire, which Caraqueños later proved sympathetic to; by the 1670s, Caracas had a trading route through Curaçao.
In 1728, the Guipuzcoan Company of Caracas was founded by the king, and the cacao business grew in importance. Caracas was made one of the three provinces of Nueva Granada, corresponding to Venezuela, in 1739. Over the next three decades the Viceroyalty was variously split, with Caracas province becoming the Venezuela province and then the Captaincy General of Venezuela in 1777, with Caracas as the capital. Venezuela then attempted to become independent, first with the 1797 Gual and España conspiracy, based in Caracas, and then the successful 1811 Venezuelan Declaration of Independence. Caracas then came under worse luck: in 1812, an earthquake destroyed Caracas, a quarter of its population migrated in 1814, and the Venezuelan War of Independence continued until 24 June 1821, when Simón Bolívar defeated royalists in the Battle of Carabobo. Urban reforms only took place towards the end of the 19th century, under Antonio Guzmán Blanco: some landmarks were built, but the city remained distinctly colonial until the 1930s.
Caracas grew in size, population, and economic importance during Venezuela's oil boom in the early 20th century. In the 1950s, the metropolitan area of Gran Caracas was developed, and the city began an intensive modernization program, funding public buildings, which continued throughout the 1960s and early 1970s. Cultural landmarks, like the University City of Caracas, designed by modernist architect Carlos Raúl Villanueva and declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2000; the Caracas Museum of Contemporary Art; and the Teresa Carreño Cultural Complex were built, as well as the Caracas Metro and a developed downtown area. Urban development was rapid, leading to the growth of slums on the hillsides surrounding the new city. Much of the city development also fell into disrepair come the end of the 20th century, with the 1980s oil glut and political instability like the Caracazo, meaning maintenance can not be sustained. The economic and social problems persist throughout the capital and country, characterized as the Crisis in Venezuela. Caracas is the most violent city in the world.
Coat of arms
The coat of arms was adopted in 1591. Simón de Bolívar, an ancestor of Venezuelan liberator Simón Bolívar, had been named the first procurator general of the Venezuelan province in 1589. He served as the representative of Venezuela to the Spanish Crown, and vice versa. In 1591, de Bolívar introduced a petition to King Philip II for a coat of arms, which he granted by Royal Cedula on 4 September that year in San Lorenzo. The coat of arms represents the city's name with the red Santiago (St. James') cross. It originally depicted "a brown bear rampant on a field of silver, holding between its paws a golden shell with the red cross of Santiago; and its seal is a crown with five golden points". In the same act, the king declared Caracas as "The Most Noble and Very Loyal City of Santiago de León de Caracas".
Caracas is contained entirely within a valley of the Venezuelan Central Range, and is separated from the Caribbean coast by a roughly 15-kilometre (9 mi) expanse of El Ávila National Park. The valley is relatively small and quite irregular, and the altitude varies from between 870 and 1,043 meters (2,854 and 3,422 ft) above sea level; the historic center lies at about 900 meters (3,000 feet) above sea level. This, along with the rapid population growth, has profoundly influenced the urban development of the city. The most elevated point of the Capital District, wherein the city is located, is the Pico El Ávila, which rises to 2,159 meters (7,083 feet).
The main body of water in Caracas is the Guaire River, which flows across the city and empties into the Tuy River, which is also fed by the El Valle and San Pedro rivers, in addition to numerous streams which descend from El Ávila. The La Mariposa and reservoirs provide water to the city. The city is occasionally subject to earthquakes – notably in 1641 and 1967.
Geologically, Caracas was formed in the Late Cretaceous period, with much of the rest of the Caribbean, and sits on what is mostly metamorphic rock. Deformation of the land in this period formed the region.
Under the Köppen climate classification, Caracas has a mix of tropical savanna climate (Aw) with subtropical highland (Cwb) influences due to its altitude. Caracas is also intertropical, with precipitation that varies between 900 and 1,300 millimeters (35 and 51 inches) (annual), in the city proper, and up to 2,000 millimeters (79 inches) in some parts of the Mountain range. While Caracas is within the tropics, due to its altitude temperatures are generally not nearly as high as other tropical locations at sea level. The annual average temperature is approximately 23.8 °C (75 °F), with the average of the coldest month (January) 22.8 °C (73 °F) and the average of the warmest month (July) 25.0 °C (77 °F), which gives a small annual thermal amplitude of 2.2 °C (4.0 °F).
In the months of December and January abundant fog may appear, in addition to a sudden nightly drop in temperature, until reaching 8 °C (46 °F). This peculiar weather is known by the natives of Caracas as the Pacheco. In addition, nightly temperatures at any time of the year are much (14 to 20 °C) lower than daytime highs and usually do not remain above 24 °C (75 °F), resulting in very pleasant evening temperatures. Hail storms appear in Caracas, although only on rare occasions. Electrical storms are much more frequent, especially between June and October, due to the city being in a closed valley and the orographic action of Cerro El Ávila.
|Record high °C (°F)||31.9
|Average high °C (°F)||23.3
|Daily mean °C (°F)||19.6
|Average low °C (°F)||15.9
|Record low °C (°F)||7.1
|Average rainfall mm (inches)||15.3
|Average rainy days (≥ 1.0 mm)||6||4||3||7||13||19||19||18||15||15||13||10||142|
|Average relative humidity (%)||73.7||74.2||73.0||76.3||75.4||75.1||74.1||74.0||74.9||74.7||73.7||74.7||74.5|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||229.4||217.5||235.6||183.0||182.9||183.0||210.8||217.0||213.0||210.8||210.0||213.9||2,506.9|
|Source 1: Instituto Nacional de Meteorología e Hidrología (INAMEH)|
|Source 2: World Meteorological Organization (rainfall data), Hong Kong Observatory (sun only), NOAA(extremes)|
According to the population census of 2011 the Caracas proper (Distrito Capital) is over 1.9 million inhabitants, while that of the Metropolitan District of Caracas is estimated at 2.9 million as of 2011. The majority of the population is mixed-race, typically with varying degrees of European, African, Indigenous and occasional Asian ancestry. There is a noteworthy Afro-Venezuelan community. Additionally, the city has a large number of both European Venezuelans and Asian Venezuelans who descend from the massive influx of various immigrants Venezuela received from all across Eurasia during the 20th century; in particular are descendants of Spaniards, Portuguese, Italians, Chinese, Colombians, Germans, Syrians and Lebanese people. In 2020, the poorest 55% of the Caracas population lived on about a third of its land, in poorly-planned slums that are generally dangerous to live in and access.
Venezuela and its capital, Caracas, are reported to both have among the highest per capita murder rates in the world. Caracas is the city with the highest homicide rate in the world outside of a warzone, with a 2016 rate of around 120 murders per 100,000 people. Most murders and other violent crimes go unsolved, with estimates of the number of unresolved crimes as high as 98%. The U.S. Department of State and British Foreign and Commonwealth Office have issued travel warnings for Venezuela (especially Caracas) due to high rates of crime.
Businesses that are located in Caracas include service companies, banks, and malls, among others. It has a largely service-based economy, apart from some industrial activity in its metropolitan area. The Caracas Stock Exchange and Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) are headquartered here. PDVSA, a state-run organization, is the largest company in Venezuela, and negotiates all the international agreements for the distribution and export of petroleum. When it existed, the airline Viasa had its headquarters in the Torre Viasa.
Several international companies and embassies are located in El Rosal and Las Mercedes, in the Caracas area. The city also serves as a hub for communication and transportation infrastructure between the metropolitan area and the rest of the country. Important industries in Caracas include chemicals, textiles, leather, food, iron, and wood products. There are also rubber and cement factories. Its nominal GDP is US$70 billion and the GDP (PPP) per capita is US$24,000.
A 2009 United Nations survey reported that the cost of living in Caracas was 89% of that of the survey's baseline city, New York. However, this statistic is based upon a fixed currency-exchange-rate of 2003 and might not be completely realistic, due to the elevated inflation rates of the last several years.
In 2013, the World Economic Forum evaluated countries in terms of how successful they were in advertising campaigns to attract foreign visitors. Out of the 140 countries evaluated, Venezuela came last. A major factor that has contributed to the lack of foreign visitors has been poor transport for tourists. Venezuela has limited railway systems and airlines. High crime rates and the negative attitude of the Venezuelan population towards tourism also contributed to the poor evaluation.
In an attempt to attract more foreign visitors, the Venezuelan Ministry of Tourism invested in multiple hotel infrastructures. The largest hotel investment has been in the Hotel Alba Caracas. The cost for the general maintenance of the north and south towers of the hotel is approximately 231.5 million Venezuelan bolivars. Although the Venezuelan Ministry of Tourism has taken the initiative to recognize the importance of the tourism industry, the Venezuelan government has not placed the tourism industry as an economic priority. In 2013, the budget for the Ministry of Tourism was only 173.8 million bolivars, while the Ministry of the Youth received approximately 724.6 million bolivars. The tourism industry in Venezuela contributes approximately 3.8 percent of the country GDP. The World Economic Forum predicts Venezuela's GDP to rise to 4.2 percent by 2022.
On 8 March 2000, the year after a new constitution was introduced in Venezuela, it was decreed in Gaceta Official N° 36,906 that the Metropolitan District of Caracas would be created and that some of the powers of the Libertador, Chacao, Baruta, Sucre, and El Hatillo municipalities would be delegated to the Alcaldía Mayor, physically located in the large Libertador municipality, in the center of the city. The Metropolitan District of Caracas was suppressed on 20 December 2017 by the Constituent National Assembly of Venezuela.
Caracas is Venezuela's cultural capital, with many restaurants, theaters, museums, and shopping centers. The city is home to many immigrants from Spain, Italy, Portugal, the Middle East, Germany, China, and other Latin American countries.
Professional sports teams in the city include the football clubs Caracas Fútbol Club, Deportivo Petare, Atlético Venezuela, SD Centro Italo Venezolano, Estrella Roja FC and Deportivo La Guaira. Deportivo Petare has reached the semi-finals of international tournaments, such as the Copa Libertadores, while the Caracas Fútbol Club has reached the quarterfinals. Baseball teams Tiburones de La Guaira and Leones del Caracas play at University Stadium, with a capacity of nearly 26,000 spectators.
The football stadiums in the city include the Olympic Stadium, home to Caracas Fútbol Club and Deportivo La Guaira, with a capacity of 30,000 spectators, and the Brígido Iriarte Stadium, home to Atlético Venezuela, with a capacity of 12,000 spectators. In basketball, the Cocodrilos de Caracas play their games in the Poliedro de Caracas in the El Paraíso neighborhood.
Central University of Venezuela
The Central University of Venezuela (Universidad Central de Venezuela, UCV) is a public university founded in 1721: it is the oldest university in Venezuela. The university campus was designed by architect Carlos Raúl Villanueva and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.
Simón Bolívar University
The Simón Bolívar University (Universidad Simón Bolívar, USB) is a public institution in Caracas that focuses on science and technology. Its motto is "La Universidad de la Excelencia" ("University of Excellence").
- Academia Militar de Venezuela
- Escuela de Formación de Oficiales de las Fuerzas Armadas de Cooperación
- Universidad Católica Andrés Bello
- Universidad Nacional Experimental de la Gran Caracas
- Universidad Metropolitana
- Universidad Nacional Experimental de las Artes
- Universidad Monteávila
- Universidad Nueva Esparta
- Universidad Santa Maria
- Universidad Alejandro de Humboldt
- Universidad Nacional Experimental de las Fuerzas Armadas
- Universidad Nacional Experimental Simón Rodríguez
- Universidad Bolivariana de Venezuela
- Universidad José María Vargas
- Universidad Pedagógica Experimental Libertador
- Universidad Experimental Politécnica Antonio José de Sucre
- British School of Caracas
- Colegio Internacional de Caracas
- Escuela Campo Alegre
- International Christian School
- Tomchei Tmimim
- Lycée Français de Caracas - Colegio Francia
The Caracas Metro has been in operation since 27 March 1983. With 4 lines, 47 stations and about 10 more to be constructed. It covers a great part of the city and also has an integrated ticket system that combines the route of the Metro with those offered by the Metrobús, a bus service of the Caracas Metro. In 2010, the first segment of a new ariel cable car system opened, Metrocable which feeds into the larger metro system.
Buses are the main means of mass transportation. There are two bus systems: the traditional system and the Metrobús. Other transportation services include the IFE train to and from the Tuy Valley cities of Charallave and Cúa; the Simón Bolívar International Airport, the biggest and most important in the country; the metro additional services Caracas Aerial Tramway and Los Teques Metro (connecting Caracas with the suburban city of Los Teques); and the Generalissimo Francisco de Miranda Air Base used by military aviation and government airplanes.
Twin towns – sister cities
Caracas is twinned with:
Union of Ibero-American Capital Cities
- Andorra la Vella, Andorra
- Asunción, Paraguay
- Bogotá, Colombia
- Buenos Aires, Argentina
- Caracas, Venezuela
- Guatemala City, Guatemala
- Havana, Cuba
- Quito, Ecuador
- La Paz, Bolivia
- Lima, Peru
- Lisbon, Portugal
- Madrid, Spain
- Managua, Nicaragua
- Mexico City, Mexico
- Montevideo, Uruguay
- Panama City, Panama
- Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
- San Jose, Costa Rica
- San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States
- San Salvador, El Salvador
- Santiago, Chile
- Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
- Tegucigalpa, Honduras
- Greater Caracas
- Large Cities Climate Leadership Group
- La Silsa
- List of metropolitan areas of Venezuela
- Venezuela 60-day state of emergency
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