Discovered by Francisco Fajardo from the nearby Margarita Island in 1560, the valley that is now Caracas was originally inhabited by the fierce Toromaima Indian tribe. Fajardo founded the first settlement, named San Francisco, and began his subsequent attempts to drive out the indigenous population. The native peoples prevailed; however, in 1561 the founder of the Venezuelan city of Mérida, Juan Rodríguez Suárez, revived the city, after the indigenous tribes had destroyed it, and named it Villa de San Francisco.
|City Fact Comparison|
|Population of urban area1||3,153,000||10,772,000||2,688,000||12,033,000|
|Date the city was founded||25 July 1567||AD 969||753 BC||723 BC|
|Daily costs to visit the city2|
|Hotel (single occupancy)||$164||$193||$172||$129|
|Meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner)||$71||$56||$59||$62|
|Incidentals (laundry, dry cleaning, etc.)||$18||$14||$15||$16|
|Total daily costs (hotel, meals, incidentals)||$253||$173||$246||$207|
|Number of newspapers serving the city||16||13||20||11|
|Largest newspaper||Meridiano||Akhbar El Yom/Al Akhbar||La Repubblica||Renmin Ribao|
|Circulation of largest newspaper||300,000||1,159,450||754,930||3,000,000|
|Date largest newspaper was established||1969||1944||1976||1948|
|1United Nations population estimates for the year 2000.|
|2The maximum amount the U.S. Government reimburses its employees for business travel. The lodging portion of the allowance is based on the cost for a single room at a moderately-priced hotel. The meal portion is based on the costs of an average breakfast, lunch, and dinner including taxes, service charges, and customary tips. Incidental travel expenses include such things as laundry and dry cleaning.|
|3David Maddux, ed. Editor&Publisher International Year Book. New York: The Editor&Publisher Company, 1999.|
In 1567, the governor of the province of Venezuela ordered a complete conquest of the valley, and Captain Diego de Losada finally defeated the tribe and re-established the settlement on July 25 of the same year under the name Santiago de León de Caracas. In 1577, the governor Juan de Pimentel nominated the town to become the administrative center of the Province of
Things improved in the eighteenth century: the Universidad Real y Pontificia de Caracas (now called the Universidad Central de Venezuela) was founded in 1725. In 1728, the trading company Real Compañía Guipuzcoana, made up of 700 captains and merchants from the Basque region of Spain, was established. The trading company dominated trade between Spain and the colony and made significant economic contributions to Caracas, though many of its citizens complained of corruption. It was no surprise then when, in 1749, Juan Francisco de León began a riot against the company that would become known as the first open protest to lead into the independence movement. Francisco de Miranda (b. 1750) is largely credited for paving the way to the independence movement, and Simón Bolívar (1783–1830) for actually achieving it. However, the independence struggle was not easy. In 1810, a group of Caraqueños formed a coup to take over the government, denouncing the Spanish governor's authority. The clash continued until July 5, 1811, when Venezuela finally declared its independence from Spain.
Although independence was won, struggles of a different sort continued. In 1812, an earthquake struck and killed 10,000 people—destroying much of the city. The church took the opportunity to claim the disaster as a punishment from God for rebelling against the Spanish Crown. Simón Bolívar's victory at the Battle of Carabobo in 1821 again established the independence of Venezuela, though Spain did not recognize it as a country until 1845.
In the first part of the twenieth century, Caracas grew modestly and was not known for much. It was not until oil was discovered in the Maracaibo basin in 1914, and the oil boom of the 1970s hit, that the population of Caracas exploded—going from 350,000 in 1950 to five or six million today. Thanks to the oil money, Caracas became a modern, booming capital. Though remnants of the old colonial town are difficult to imagine (most colonial buildings were destroyed during modernization), its architecture is well known on the continent, and skyscrapers abound.