Caracas, Venezuela History

Caracas, Venezuela History

Venezuelan painting from the beginning of the 20th century representing Diego de Losada, conqueror of the region. Demography of Caracas is the capital city of Venezuela according to simplyyellowpages.

Caracas is the name of the tribe that inhabited the Valley of the Caracas, one of the coastal valleys contiguous to the current city to the north, a place name still in force. This tribe was known by the Spaniards settled on the pearl island of Cubaguadue to their slave expeditions to that coast between 1528 and 1540, which is why it became a common word among the Spaniards of the eastern part of the country as a reference toponym for the entire area and with this, the name was generalized to the lands of the Caracas area.

Many were the attempts, and also the failures, of this process. But it was not until the year 1567, when an expedition from El Tocuyo arrived in the valley, preceded by Captain Diego de Losada, that he succeeded in founding a town with the name of Santiago de León de Caracas.

However, there are several theories about the source that led to the name of Santiago de León de Caracas. The most widespread is that the city bears the name

  • Santiago in honor of Santiago Matamoros (Saint Jacob, the murderer of Arabs), for the traditional apostle of the Spanish reconquest, who was the military saint of the Kingdom of Spain;
  • León, in honor of the surname of the governor of the province at the time, Ponce de León; and
  • Caracas, by the aborigines who populated the province at the time of its foundation.

As can be seen, if the surname León were taken as a case to explain the name of the city, it could be argued that Ponce and not León should have been the chosen surname, an argument that some authors allege to disqualify this hypothesis, since there is as an example the city of Ponce, named and founded by a Ponce de León in Puerto Rico.

Another thesis, the one that has become more relevant, follows the theory that Santiago de León comes from the aforementioned origins but that the name of Caracas was taken from a flower that the Indians called “caraca”, which was abundant in the valley where today there is the city. This flower, actually an herb, also called locally as «pyre», is the well-known Amaranth, which has a high nutritional value due to its high protein content. In fact, the name Caracas is taken by the resident captain from the name of the Province of Caracas, and this in turn comes from the name of an ethnic group on its coast. The Pimentel Relationship (from 1578) offers an explanation to the name of Caracas as the gentilicio given to that tribe, and reports that it effectively alludes to that plant since the ethnic group is as abundant as the pyre or Amaranth with whom other aboriginal ethnic groups compare it, giving them for it the name of Caracas.

A third hypothesis alleges that the name of Santiago was decided by Diego de Losada, the founder of the city, after the Spanish victory in the battle of Maracapana in memory of the day the Caracas Indians of the coast “gave peace” (or surrendered) in July 1567 before the representative of the king, Diego de Losada, since apparently said formal act of surrender of these Caracas was deliberately done on July 25, 1567, the day of Santiago.

The name “León” is also due to the day the city was founded, the day of San León, according to this novel thesis, which is liturgically celebrated on March 1. Although clearly it is seen as much as the flag, as the shield of the city reminds of the flag and the shield of the Kingdom of León respectively.



The antecedents of the foundation of Caracas originate in the cattle herd of San Francisco, established in 1560 by the mestizo Francisco Fajardo. This foundation was made from another previous population founded on the coast of Caracas by Fajardo himself, and as a consequence of his attempts to populate the Toromaimas Valley (or San Francisco Valley), to support and defend the exploitation of mines. of gold discovered the previous year in the nearby area of Los Teques, where Cacique Guaicaipuro lived. Fajardo left twice, in 1555 and 1558, from Margarita, his native island, to found cities on the mainland, using his familiarity and friendship with the Indians that populated the north-eastern and north-central coasts of Venezuela, and taking advantage of the advantage of mastering the language of the Caracas Indians, his relatives from the coast.

When the Spanish conqueror Juan Rodríguez Suárez arrived at the San Francisco herd, the region was at war against the Spanish invaders, and the herd was attacked daily with the consequent loss of people and animals. In order to strengthen that facility and use it as a strategic base for the future conquest of the territory, Rodríguez Suárez turned it into Villa de San Francisco, appointed mayor and councilmen, and distributed land among the soldiers. However, this foundation did not survive the attack by the Indians of the Teques, Mariches, Toromaimas and other residents of the province confederated by Guaicaipuro.

In 1567 the Spanish conqueror Diego de Losada, following a “royal cedula” (king’s decree) issued in 1563 as a result of the depopulation of San Francisco, populated the place, ordered its rebuilding and formally re-founded the city in March 1568with the name from “Santiago de León de Caracas”, a name on which there is currently academic controversy, taking the toponym of Caracas from the name carried by the indigenous people who inhabited the region when the conquerors arrived.

Colonial period

Shortly after its foundation, the city would become the head of the Province of Venezuela, mainly due to its climate and its effective mountainous defense against corsairs and pirates. Around 1576, Governor Juan de Pimentel established it as his residence, which involved the third change of the administrative capital of the province of Venezuela, from Coro on the western coast of the country to El Tocuyo in 1545 and then to Caracas in 1578. Since then the city remained the capital of the Province of Venezuela and at the end of the 18th century, with the administrative changes made by the Spanish Empire, it would be the capital of the Captaincy General of Venezuela. In 1577, Pimentel himself had drawn the first urban plan of the city, designed in accordance with the Ordinances of Felipe II that meticulously established the dimensions of the streets, squares, blocks or blocks and the orthogonal arrangement (that is, in a grid) of the entire city, indicating how it should widen over time. The Plan of Pimentel from 1578, the only one that is preserved from the layout of the city until 1760, shows a small Castilian city ordered by squares in a grid with 4 streets and 25 blocks around a Plaza Mayor, as was the norm in the Hispanic cities of Indies.

In 1595 there was in Caracas for the only time a failed invasion attempt by the British privateer Amías Preston, who, commanding 500 men, managed to assault and later burn the city.

Around 1600 the church of San Francisco, attached to the convent of the same name, made of calicanto and solid stone, already dominated the landscape of the city, dwarfing the old Iglesia Mayor, now the Cathedral of Caracas.

In 1641 the city was shaken by the destructive San Bernabé earthquake, which destroyed everything that was built, the reconstruction will be slow and laborious, many of the large buildings would be erected after several decades.

In 1678 a defensive wall of enclosure began to be manufactured, surrounding the city, this for fear of the French corsairs who more than once have tried to take it. The remains of this project of wall and military defenses that were never completed are the names of corners of Caracas that still remain, such as those of Luneta and the corner of the Redoubt.

At the beginning of the 18th century, a new neighborhood of Canarian islanders, La Candelaria, to the east of the city, was home to a large part of the Canarian immigrants who, as “shore whites”, did the tasks that the Mantuanos, or native whites, children of the descendants of the conquerors.

The 24 of July of 1783 was born in Caracas, the Liberator of Venezuela, Simon Bolivar, who was born in a birthplace of the Liberator Simon Bolivar in the center of the city. Currently the birthplace of Bolívar is considered a historical heritage of the city and a national monument, and is used as a museum. At the beginning of the 19th century the city had around 30 thousand residents.

Caracas, Venezuela History