Maracay History Facts and Timeline
(Maracay, Aragua, Venezuela)
This Venezuelan city came about directly from the conquistadores. History suggests that the city was actually named after a local chief who took his name, Maracayo, from a small species of wild cat found in the area.
The land was awarded to one Sebastian Diaz de Alfaro, who passed it on to his son Mateo in the late 16th century. Earliest records of an actual settlement at Maracay date from 1701, when Bishop Diego de Banos y Sotomayor founded a parish here.
The Growth of the City
The city's population had grown to more than 7,000 within a century, mainly on the back of harvesting and exporting anil (a plant used to dye fabrics an indigo colour) in huge quantities to Europe. This plant was among the city's main agricultural products and was a key reason behind the growth of the city, although it also flourished off other crops such as wheat, coffee, cacao and tobacco.
Political and Territorial Administration
In both the 19th and 20th centuries, the city became a war prize during Venezuela's various squabbles. Over the years, the history of Maracay has seen it change hands between several provinces, starting out as part of the Caracas province and then the Aragua province, followed by the Guzman Blanco and Bolivar states respectively.
Finally, it became the capital of the Aragua state and has remained so to this day. It played a key role in some famous battles in the country, namely the 'La Trinidad' siege between 1812 and 1813, and the assault of the Cabrera in the year of 1816, as well as the Maracay Combat of 1818, when the revolutionary troops were soundly beaten.
Juan Vicente Gomez
The city grew further during the dictatorship of Juan Vicente Gomez, between 1908 and 1935. He took a liking to the city, since it was close to Caracas
and a pleasant base, and went on a beautification spree that resulted in some of the key attractions of Maracay history that still stand today, including the bizarre Arc of Triumph, an impressive Opera House, the bull plaza (modelled on Seville's renowned bull ring) and of course the Hotel Jardin (Garden Hotel). This is a key landmark nowadays and one of the city's biggest tourist attractions, boasting spacious gardens. Not surprisingly, his mausoleum is also built here.
The years of Gomez's dictatorship were important in the history of Maracay, as the city went through rapid economic and urban transformation. Several industries had been created by the 1950s, which played a key role in the city's industrialisation. The 1960s saw many immigrants move in, as well as a number of invasion movements.
The city of today is very much influenced by Venezuela's military, being the home of an aviation industry and several military bases, along with a prominent military university. However, on the outskirts of the city lies a very significant national park consisting of lush rainforest, full of many ferns and other indigenous flora.