Venezuela is a country on the northern coast of South America. See Exhibit A. It lies along the Caribbean Sea. The Atlantic Ocean is on the northeast. Venezuela’s western neighbor is Colombia, Brazil is to the south and Guyana is to the east. The Maracaibo Basin surrounds Lake Maracaibo in western Venezuela. Lake Maracaibo is South America’s largest lake. The Andean Highlands stretch across northern Venezuela. Pico Bolivar, in the Andean Highlands, is Venezuela’s highest peak. In central Venezuela, there are flat, grassy plains called llanos. South of the llanos, lies the Orinoco River, a major waterway that cuts across Venezuela from west to east. See Exhibit B. South of the Orinoco, the Guyana Highlands cover half of Venezuela. Here lies Angel Falls, 3,212 feet high, the highest waterfall in the world. See Exhibit C. To the far south and west in Venezuela are rain forests and jungles with toucans, macaws and monkeys. Although all of Venezuela lies within the tropical zone, temperatures and rainfall vary among the regions, depending on elevation and prevailing winds. There are four distinct climatic zones; the tropical zone, the moderate zone, the cool zone and the cold zone. See Exhibit D.
The Venezuelan flag dates from 1806. The flag later represented the 1811 Confederation of Venezuela, which consisted of seven original provinces as shown by the seven white stars on the middle stripe. In 1830, the design became the official flag of independent Venezuela. See Exhibit E.
More than twenty-one million people live in Venezuela. Most of the population lives along the northern coast. Caracas, on the northern coast, is the capital and largest city. See Exhibit F. It was founded in 1567. Other major cities are Maracaibo and Valencia. About two of every three Venezuelans are descended from a mixture of Spanish, Indian, or African ancestors. Most Venezuelans follow the Roman Catholic faith. In addition, almost all of Venezuelans speak Spanish, the country’s official language. Indians in remote areas speak various tribal languages.
Venezuela was named after Venice, Italy, where city streets are really canals. Venezuela means “Little Venice”. Indians lived in Venezuela long before the Spaniards arrived. Christopher Columbus was the first European to reach Venezuela in 1498 landing on the Paria Peninsula. Venezuela became a colony of Spain and in 1523, Spanish colonists founded the town of Cumana. Cumana is the oldest Spanish settlement in South America. Venezuelans were the first South Americans to seek independence from Spain. In 1821, Venezuelans won their independence led by Simon Bolivar. See Exhibit G. At first Venezuela joined with Colombia, Ecuador and Panama to form the Republic of Gran Colombia. Finally, in 1830, Venezuela became a separate country.
Traditional Venezuela foods include black beans, cooked bananas and rice which are usually eaten with beef, pork, poultry or fish. The traditional bread is a cornmeal cake called arepa. The national dish is the hallaca, which is a cornmeal dough stuffed and then wrapped in a banana leaf.
Venezuela has many official holidays. These holidays, in order from the beginning of the year, are: New Year’s Day, Two days of Carnival, Ash Wednesday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter, Declaration of Independence, Labor Day, Battle of Carabobo, Independence Day, Simon Bolivar’s Birthday, Columbus Day, All Saint’s Day, Death of Simon Bolivar, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve. Named after Simon Bolivar, the Bolivar is Venezuela’s currency. One American dollar is equal to 14.50 bolivars.
Venezuela is one of the world’s leading oil-producing nations. See Exhibit H. Venezuela also mines iron ore, coal, bauxite, diamonds and gold. Factories in Venezuela make steel, aluminum, paper, cloth and machines. Agriculture is part of the economy with crops including bananas, cotton, sugar cane, corn, coffee and rice.
Venezuelans enjoy sports, especially baseball. Every big city has its own major-league team. Soccer and basketball are popular too, as well as, rodeos, horse racing and bullfights. Venezuelans enjoy festivals. The best-known festival is Carnival. People fill the streets, before the holiday of Lent, with parades, dancing and games. African culture is also part of Venezuelan life as it appears in music, dance, folk tales and religious customs. The joropo is Venezuela’s national folk dance where musicians shake maracas, rattles, and play cuatros, four-stringed guitars.
In conclusion, Venezuela is a fascinating country from its beginning to modern days. It is the wealthiest nation in South America, basically due to the petroleum reserves. The people, land and lifestyle make Venezuela a remarkable country.
Internet cites visited:
1. http://sunsite.doc.ic.ac.uk/netspedition/amazon.html (Venezuelan Amazon Expedition)
2. http://venezuela.mit.edu/embassy/kids/index.html (Venezuela for Kids)