Caracas is the capital and largest city of Venezuela. It is located in the north of the country, following the contours of the narrow Caracas Valley on the Venezuelan coastal mountain range (Cordillera de la Costa). The valley's temperatures are springlike. Terrain suitable for building lies between above sea level. The valley is close to the Caribbean Sea, separated from the coast by a steep 2200 m high mountain range, Cerro Avila; to the south there are more hills and mountains.
El Distrito Metropolitano de Caracas (Metropolitan District of Caracas) includes the Distrito Capital (the capital city proper) and four other municipalities in Miranda State including Chacao, Baruta, Sucre, and El Hatillo. The Distrito Capital had a population of 2,097,350 as of 2009, while that of Distrito Metropolitano was estimated at 3,196,514 as of (2008).
At the time of its founding, more than five hundred years ago, the valley of Caracas was populated by indigenous peoples. Francisco Fajardo, the son of a Spanish captain and a Guaiqueri cacica, attempted to establish a plantation in the valley in 1562 after founding a series of coastal towns. Fajardo's settlement did not last long. It was destroyed by natives of the region led by Terepaima and Guaicaipuro. This was the last rebellion on the part of the natives. On 25 July 1567, Captain Diego de Losada laid the foundations of the city of Santiago de Leon de Caracas.
During the 1600s, the coast of Venezuela was frequently raided by pirates. With the coastal mountains as a barrier, Caracas was relatively immune to such attacks – one of the reasons it became the principal city of the region. However, in the 1680s, buccaneers crossed the mountains through a little-used pass while the town's defenders were guarding the more often-used one, and, encountering little resistance, sacked and set fire to the town.John Lombardi, Venezuela, Oxford, England, 1982, p 72.
The cultivation of cocoa under the Compania Guipuzcoana de Caracas stimulated the development of the city, which in 1777 became the capital of the Captaincy General of Venezuela.
An attempt at revolution to gain independence organized by Jose Maria Espana and Manuel Gual was put down on 13 July 1797. But the ideas of the French Revolution and the American Wars of Independence inspired the people, and on 5 July 1811, a Declaration of Independence was signed in Caracas. This city was also the birthplace of two of Latin America's most important figures of the Venezuelan War of Independence: Francisco de Miranda and "El Libertador" Simon Bolivar. An earthquake destroyed Caracas on 26 March 1812, which was portrayed by authorities as a divine punishment for the rebellion against the Spanish Crown. The war continued until 24 June 1821, when Bolivar gained a decisive victory over the royalists at the Battle of Carabobo.Maurice Wiesenthal, The History and Geography of a Valley, 1981.
As the economy of oil-rich Venezuela grew steadily during the first part of the twentieth century, Caracas became one of Latin America's economic centers, and was also known as the preferred travel hub between Europe and South America. During the 1950s, Caracas began an intensive modernization program which continued throughout the 1960s and early 1970s. The Universidad Central de Venezuela, designed by modernist architect Carlos Raul Villanueva and now a UNESCO monument, was built. New working- and middle-class residential districts sprouted in the valley, extending the urban area towards the east and southeast. Joining El Silencio, also designed by Villanueva, were several workers' housing districts, 23 de Enero and Simon Rodriguez. Middle class developments include Bello Monte, Los Palos Grandes, Chuao, and El Cafetal. On 17 October 2004, one of the Parque Central towers caught fire. The dramatic change in the economic structure of the country, which went from being primarily agricultural to dependent on oil production, stimulated the fast development of Caracas, and made it a magnet for people in rural communities who migrated to the capital city in an unplanned fashion searching for greater economic opportunities. This migration created the rancho (slum) belt of the valley of Caracas.
The flag of Caracas consists of a burgundy red field with the version of the Coat of Arms of the City (effective since the 1980s). The red field symbolises the blood spilt by Caraquenian people in favour of independence and the highest ideals of the Venezuelan Nation. Later, in the year 1994, presumably as a result of the change of municipal authorities, it was decided to increase the size of the Caracas coat of arms and move it to the centre of the field. This version of the flag is still in use today.
The coat of arms of the City of Caracas was adopted by the Libertador Municipality to identify itself. Later, the Metropolitan Mayor Office assumed the lion, the scallop and Saint James' Cross for the same purpose.
The anthem of the city is the Marcha a Caracas, written by the composer Tiero Pezzuti de Matteis with the lyrics by Jose Enrique Sarabia. The lyrics are said to be inspired by the heroism of the Caracas people, and the memory of the City of Red Roofs. Incidentally, the National Anthem of Venezuela (Gloria al Bravo Pueblo) recites: "...Y si el despotismo levanta la voz, seguid el ejemplo que Caracas dio." , reflecting the fact that, in addition to generously giving many heroic fighters to wage the War of Independence, the junta set up in Caracas (19 April 1810) served as inspiration for other regions to do the same, as did its declaration of independence a year later.
Caracas has five municipalities: Baruta, El Hatillo, Chacao, Libertador and Sucre. The constitution of Venezuela specifies that municipal governments be divided into executive and legislative branches. The executive government of the municipality is governed by the mayor, while the legislative government is managed by the Municipal council. In 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 these municipalities would be delegated to the Alcaldia Mayor, physically located in the large Libertador municipality, in the center of the city.
In 2009, Congress stripped the mayor of control of Libertador and replaced him with an official hand-picked by the president.
Businesses located here include service companies, banks, and malls, among others. Most economic activity is in services, excepting some industries established in its metropolitan area. The Caracas Stock Exchange and Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) is headquartered here. The PDVSA is the largest company in Venezuela and negotiates all the international agreements for the distribution and export of petroleum. When the company existed, the airline Viasa had its headquarters in the Torre Viasa."World Airline Directory." Flight International. March 30, 1985. 130." Retrieved on June 17, 2009."World Airline Directory." Flight International. March 26, 1988. 125.
Small and medium industry contribute to the Caracas economy. The city has communication and transportation infrastructure between the metropolitan area and the country. Caracas is a regional center for the distribution of products. The high concentration of population has also been an important factor for the growth of retail wholesale markets, which form the fastest-growing segment of commerce in the region. Important industries in Caracas include chemicals, textiles, leather, food, iron and wood products. There are also rubber and cement factories.
Cost of living
A 2009 United Nations survey reported that the cost of living was 89% higher than its baseline, New York City.
Caracas is contained entirely within a valley of the Venezuelan central range, and separated from the Caribbean coast by a roughly 15 km expanse of El Avila National Park. The valley is relatively small and quite irregular, the altitude with respect to sea level varies from between 870 and 1,043 meters , with 900 meters in the historic zone. 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 Avila, which rises to 2,159 meters . 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 Avila. The La Mariposa and Camatagua reservoirs provide water to the city.
Under the Koppen climate classification, Caracas has a Tropical savanna climate. Caracas is also intertropical, with precipitation that varies between 900 and 1,300 millimeters (annual), in the city proper, and up to 2,000 millimeters 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 , with the average of the coldest month (January) and the average of the warmest month (May) , which gives a small annual thermal amplitude of . In the months of December and January abundant fog may appear, in addition to a sudden nightly drop in temperature, until reaching 07 C or less. This peculiar weather is known by the natives of Caracas as the Pacheco. In addition, nightly temperatures at any time of the year usually do not remain above 20 C , which results 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 Avila.
The population of Caracas proper (Distrito Capital) is estimated to be 2,097,350 as of 2009, while that of the Metropolitan District of Caracas is estimated at 3,196,514 as of (2008). The conurbation including the surrounding suburbs has an estimated population of 4.3 million as of 2010.
The Federal Capitol occupies an entire city block, and, with its golden domes and neoclassical pediments, can seem even bigger. The building was commissioned by Antonio Guzman Blanco in the 1870s, and is most famous for its Salon Eliptico, an oval hall with a mural-covered dome and walls lined with portraits of the country's great and good.
The Caracas East Park was designed by Brazilian architect Roberto Burle Marx. It is a green paradise in the middle of the city, and it contains a small zoo. A replica of the ship led by Francisco de Miranda, the Leander, is being built in the southern part of the park. Before there used to exist a replica of the Santa Maria ship, used by Christopher Colombus in his voyages to America.
Teresa Carreno Cultural Complex
The Teresa Carreno Cultural Complex (Complejo Cultural Teresa Carreno), or more commonly the Teresa Carreno Theatre (Teatro Teresa Carreno), is one of the most important Theaters of Caracas and Venezuela, where symphonic and popular concerts imagine frequently, operas, ballet and theatre.
Simon Bolivar birthplace house
Skyscrapers may loom overhead, but there is more than a hint of original colonial flavour in this neatly proportioned reconstruction of the house where Simon Bolivar was born on 24 July 1783. The museum's exhibits include period weapons, banners and uniforms.
Much of the original colonial interior has been replaced by monumental paintings of battle scenes, but more personal relics can be seen in the nearby Museo Bolivariano. Pride of place goes to the coffin in which Bolivar's remains were brought from Colombia; his ashes now rest in the National Pantheon.
Venezuela's most venerated building is five blocks north of Plaza Bolivar, on the northern edge of the old town. Formerly a church, the building was given its new purpose as the final resting place for eminent Venezuelans by Antonio Guzman Blanco in 1874.
Parque Central Complex
At a short distance east of Plaza Bolivar is Parque Central, a concrete complex of five high-rise residential slabs of somewhat apocalyptic-appearing architecture, crowned by two 56-storey octagonal towers, one of them is under repair due to the fire which burnt the building on 17 October 2004.
Parque Central is Caracas' art and culture hub, with museums, cinemas and the Teresa Carreno Cultural Complex. The Mirador de la Torre Oeste, on the 52nd floor, gives a 360 bird's-eye view of the city.
Plaza Bolivar is the focus of the old town with the monument to El Libertador, Simon Bolivar, at its heart. Modern high-rise buildings have overpowered much of the colonial flavor of Caracas' founding neighbourhood.
Plaza Venezuela is the geographic center of Caracas. It is a large urban plaza at the entrance of the Central University of Venezuela. Kinetic artists have displayed their works there, including Carlos Cruz-Diez, Alejandro Otero and Jesus Soto. East of the Plaza is the Plaza Venezuela Fountain, a large computerized display of water, music and colored light refurbished in 2009 to include the latest available technology.
Plaza Caracas was constructed in 1983. It is in the Simon Bolivar Center, at the foot of the 30-story towers, dominating El Silencio District and forming a unique testimony to the early days of the modernization of the city. It has various levels for pedestrian and motorised traffic, and contains the business, shops, restaurants, services of a zone in which are concentrated public and private institutions.
El Hatillo is a colonial town located at the south-east suburbs of Caracas in the municipal area of the same name. This small town, which is one of Venezuela's few well-preserved typical colonial areas, gives an idea of what Caracas was like in centuries past.
Cerro El Avila
Cerro El Avila (Mountain El Avila) , is a mountain in the mid-North of Venezuela. It rises next to Caracas and separates the city from the Caribbean Sea. It is considered the lung of Caracas due to the fact that there is a lot of vegetation on it.
This zone contains restaurants with varied gastronomical specialties, along with pubs, bars, pools and art galleries.
Altamira is a neighborhood located in the Chacao municipality of Caracas, it has its own Metro Station, many hotels, malls and restaurants, and is an important city business and cultural centre , the Francisco de Miranda avenue (a major avenue in Caracas) and the Distibuidor Altamira (a congested highway exit) are both located in Altamira.
Caracas contains a number of religious buildings, first among them, the Caracas Cathedral. Situated on the northeast corner of the Plaza Bolivar, it was founded in 1594. The parents of Simon Bolivar are buried there, besides its hand carved altars, it possesses works of art such as, The Resurrection by Rubens, the Presentation of the Virgin by Murillo, and the Last Supper, an unfinished work by the Venezuelan painter Arturo Michelena.
The Iglesia de San Francisco is of historical value. Bolivar's funeral was held here twelve years after his death. Here he was proclaimed Libertador in 1813 by the people of Caracas. The church has gilded baroque altarpieces, and retains much of its original colonial interior, despite being given a treatment in the 19th century under the auspices of Antonio Guzman Blanco, which was intended to be modernizing. It contains some 17th century masterpieces of art, carvings, sculptures and oil paintings. The Central University of Venezuela, established during the reign of Philip V, was lodged for centuries in the church cloisters next door, which today are the seat of the Language Academy, and the Academies of History, Physics, and Mathematics.
The Mosque of Sheikh Ibrahim Al-Ibrahim is the second largest mosque in Latin America. For many years it was the biggest.
Colleges, universities and international schools
Central University of Venezuela
The Central University of Venezuela (Universidad Central de Venezuela in Spanish) is a public University. Founded in 1721, it is the oldest university in Venezuela and one of the first in Latin America. The university campus was designed by architect Carlos Raul Villanueva and it was declared World Heritage by UNESCO in 2000. The Ciudad Universitaria de Caracas, as the main Campus is also known, is considered a masterpiece of architecture and urban planning and it is the only university campus designed in the 20th century that has received such recognition by UNESCO.
Simon Bolivar University
The Simon Bolivar University is a public institution located in Caracas, Venezuela with scientific and technological orientation. Its motto is "La Universidad de la Excelencia" ("University of Excellence"). Both nationally and globally, Simon Bolivar University is a well-known school with a high reputation in scientific and engineering careers.
Universidad Catolica Andres Bello
Universidad Nacional Experimental Simon Rodriguez
Universidad Santa Maria
Universidad Jose Maria Vargas
Universidad Nueva Esparta
Universidad Experimental Politecnica Antonio Jose de Sucre
Universidad Pedagogica Experimental Libertador
Universidad Alejandro de Humboldt
Universidad Bolivariana de Venezuela
International Christian School
Colegio Internacional de Caracas
British School of Caracas
Escuela Campo Alegre
There are professional Association Football, baseball and several other sports.
Professional teams include Deportivo Italia, Caracas Futbol Club, SD Centro Italo Venezolano, Estrella Roja FC and Real Esppor Club. The Deportivo Italia has arrived to the semifinals of international tournaments such as the Copa Libertadores de America, while the Caracas Futbol Club has arrived to the quarterfinals.
Baseball teams Tiburones de La Guaira and Leones del Caracas play in the Estadio Universitario de la UCV, of the Central University of Venezuela, with a capacity of 26,000 spectators.
Another baseball team started in Caracas: the Navegantes del Magallanes. It was moved to Valencia, Carabobo.
Association Football stadiums include:
Estadio Olimpico de la UCV, with capacity of 30 000 spectators is seat of the Deportivo Italia and Caracas Futbol Club.
Brigido Iriarte stadium, with a capacity of 12 000 spectators . The Caracas Futbol Club opened its own stadium in 2005, Campo Deportivo Cocodrilos.
Cocodrilos de Caracas plays in the Venezuelan professional basketball league. They play their games in the "Gimansio Jose Beracasa" in the neighbourhood of El Paraiso.
Caracas is the seat of the National Institute of Sports and of the Venezuelan Olympic Committee.
Caracas hosted the 1983 Pan American Games.
Association Football: Deportivo Italia, SD Centro Italo Venezolano, Estrella Roja Futbol club, Caracas Futbol Club, Real Esppor Club.
Baseball: Tiburones de la Guaira, Leones del Caracas.
Basketball: Cocodrilos de Caracas.
Caracas is Venezuela's cultural capital, boasting many restaurants, theaters, museums, and shopping centers. The city is also home to an array of immigrants from but not limited to: Spain, Italy, Portugal, the Middle East, Germany, China, and Latin American countries. The city has the reputation as being one of the most dangerous cities in the world.
Museums, libraries and cultural centres
Caracas, has been a city with great cultural aspirations throughout the course of its history. Institutions such as the old Atheneum bear witness to this awareness. The National library holds a great amount of volumes, and affords abundant bibliographic information for the student of the discovery and independence of Venezuela. The museum of Colonial Art has on show an interesting exhibition of Venezuelan art from the periods previous to its independence with fountains, furniture, colonial courtyards etc. In the Fine Arts Museum are kept some archaeological finds with some good examples of precolombine pottery.
Since 1974, Caracas has had a Contemporary Art Museum, containing works representing the most important tendencies in contemporary art, and since 1982, counts with a Children's Museum, a privately managed museum foundation, with the purpose of teaching children about science, technology, culture and arts. The Natural Science Museum, has a rich collection os archaeological pieces from the primitive native cultures, in these collections and in other no less important galleries the cultural aspirations of Caracas are more than evident.
File:Palacio de las Academias Caracas Venezuela.jpg|Palace of the Academies
File:Aula Magna-Calder-UCV.JPG|Inside of the UCVs Aula Magna
File:Teatro nacional.jpg|National Theater
Caracas has a gastronomical heritage due to the influence of immigrants, leading to a choice of regional and international cuisine. There is a variety of international restaurants including French, Arabic,Italian, Spanish, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, and Mexican. The district of La Candelaria contains Spanish restaurants, resulting from Galician and Canarian immigrants that came to this area in the mid-20th c
Caracas has been the birthplace of many politicians and artists that notably shaped the country's history and culture:
Francisco de Miranda
Luisa Caceres de Arismendi
Fernando Paz Castillo
Antonio Guzman Blanco
Martin Tovar y Tovar
Jose Angel Lamas
Juan Antonio Perez Bonalde
Juan Bautista Plaza
Juan Pablo Perez Alfonzo
Juan Vicente Torrealba
The Caracas Metro has been in operation since 1981. With 4 lines and more than 50 stations, it covers a great part of the city, it also has an integrated ticket system, that combines the route of the Metro with those offered by the Metrobus, a bus service of the Caracas Metro.
Buses are the main means of mass transportation. There are two bus systems: the traditional system and the Metrobus. The traditional system runs a variety of bus types, operated by several companies on normal streets and avenues:
* Autobus; large buses.
* Camioneta; medium size buses.
* microbus or camionetica; vans or minivans.
IFE; train services to and from Tuy Valley cities of Charallave and Cua.
Simon Bolivar International Airport, the biggest and most important in the country is located outside the city, roughly from the downtown area.
Caracas Aerial Tramway
In March 2009 four of the five Caracas districts launched Plan Via Libre to reduce traffic (the pro-Chavez Jorge Rodriguez' Libertador District is currently not cooperating as the other districts are in the hands of the opposition). On each weekday, cars with certain number plates are banned from entering key parts of the city centre; the numbers rotate so that any particular car is banned one day a week.
Caracas is twinned with:
1967 Caracas earthquake
Large Cities Climate Leadership Group