Caracas History Facts and Timeline

(Caracas, Miranda, Venezuela)

The history of Caracas dates back over 400 years, when indigenous communities occupied much of the valley. In the year of 1562, Spanish explorer Francisco Fajardo arrived with the ambitions of creating a plantation here, after first establishing a series of settlements along the northerly coastline.

Fajardo's initial settlement was soon destroyed by the region's natives, but it would be the natives' last rebellion. In July of 1567, the foundations of Caracas, then called Santiago de Leon de Caracas, were laid by powerful Spanish conquistador Diego de Losada.

Rise to Prominence in History

For much of the 17th century, Venezuela's shoreline regularly endured attacks by pirates. As the coastal mountains acted as something of a natural obstacle for Caracas, it fortunately remained relatively unaffected. This was to be one of the principal reasons why it developed into the region's number one city. However, the city was caught off-guard during the 1860s, when buccaneers bravely ventured across the mountains, evading the town's defenders in the process. Caracas was subsequently ransacked and burned to the ground.

By the middle of the 18th century, cocoa was proving to be an important and highly profitable crop in Venezuela and Caracas soon jumped onboard. This burst of income stimulated the city's development and its fortunes were led by the Spanish trading company named the Royal Gipuzkoan Company of Caracas. Soon after, in the year of 1777, the city became the Spanish administrative district of the newly formed Captaincy General of Venezuela.

Independence from Spanish Rule

Many locals grew tired of their Spanish rule and plans were afoot for a rebellion. However, whilst these attempts were thwarted in 1797 and largely unsuccessful, the dream of independence had been sown in the minds of many Venezuelans. Both the American Wars of Independence and also the French Revolution had a great affect on the country and eventually, a Declaration of Independence was drawn up, being signed in the city of Caracas in 1811. This resulted in the start of the lengthy Venezuelan War of Independence. Of note, the city was where two of the most important Venezuelan independence fighters were born, namely Simon Bolivar and also Sebastián Francisco de Miranda Rodriguez.

One of the biggest disasters in Caracas history was when it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1812, an event which the authorities chose to use to their advantage, claiming that it was an act of God, punishing the country for not accepting Spanish rule. The Venezuelan War of Independence lasted until 1821, when Bolivar successfully defeated the Royalist forces during the Battle of Carabobo, resulting in the eventual achievement of the independence of Venezuela.

Oil and Economy

Venezuela's economy grew at a steady rate during the first few decades of the 20th century owing to the presence of oil, and Caracas developed into an important Latin American city, known for its wealth and thriving economy. It also functioned as a major transportation hub, being conveniently sited at the northern tip of South America and therefore offering good connections to much of Europe.

In the middle of the 20th century, Caracas was keen to improve its infrastructure and facilities, and many modernisation schemes were discussed and implemented. These improvements continued for several decades. The impressive Universidad Central de Venezuela (Central University of Venezuela) was relocated from its original site, where it had been founded way back in 1721, and new residential neighbourhoods came into being all around the valley.

The history of Caracas is defined by the rapid change in Venezuela's economy, after it went from being predominantly a country of farming, to one based around the 'black gold' - oil. This encouraged the city's overall development and soon people chose to migrate here from rural communities, believing that the capital city would provide a better lifestyle. As a result of this huge growth in the urban population, together with the lack of proper housing, the development of the rancho (slum) areas was almost inevitable.