20 Fascinating Facts About Venezuela
1. Before colonization, Venezuela was inhabited by the Carib, Arawak, and Chibcha peoples. There is evidence of human habitation in Venezuela going back more than 10,000 years.
2. In 1498, during his third trip to South America, Christopher Columbus became the first European to set foot in what is now Venezuela.
3. Spanish colonization began in 1521 and lasted until 1810 when Venezuelans first declared independence from Spain.
4. Modern Venezuela was one of three countries created in 1830 following the collapse of Gran Colombia, the short-lived republic (1819–30) created by revolutionary Simón Bolívar. It included the territories of present-day Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Panama as well as parts of northern Peru, western Guyana, and northwest Brazil.
5. The Venezuelan flag includes the tricolor initially adopted by Gran Colombia along with an arc of stars that represent the original provinces. It also includes a coat of arms that features a wheatsheaf, a horse, tools, weapons, flags, two cornucopia, and branches of laurel and palm bound by ribbon.
6. In 1998 Venezuelans elected controversial left-winger Hugo Chavez, a former army officer who declared a ‘Bolivarian revolution’, named after Simón Bolívar.
7. Hugo Chavez was in office for 14 years. During this time he styled himself as a champion of the poor, investing billions of dollars of Venezuela’s oil wealth into social programs. He died in 2013.
8. In recent years, Venezuela has struggled economically and suffered from hyperinflation. In 2020, a UN survey found a third of Venezuelans – 9.3 million people – were not getting enough to eat.
9. The humanitarian crisis has led to more than 4.5 million people fleeing overseas leading to a population decline.
10. Venezuela has the world’s tallest waterfall. Angel Falls has a height of 979m (3,212ft) and a drop of 807m (2,648ft).
11. They are named after American aviator Jimmie Angel. In 1933, he became the first person to fly over the falls, confirming their existence.
12. Venezuela has one of the world’s highest numbers of gun deaths. In 2016 it was the 6th highest, making it one of six countries that make up over 50% of the world’s firearm-related deaths.
13. Venezuela is thought to have the world’s largest oil reserves at 303.2 billion barrels (17.9% of the world’s total) as well as large amounts of coal, iron ore, and gold.
14. Venezuela has some of the most dangerous roads in the world (7th) and the most dangerous in South America.
15. Venezuela has the world’s cheapest gasoline (petrol). For years the price has averaged around $0.01 per liter.
16. The world’s largest rodent can be found in Venezuela. The capybara can grow up to 1.4m long and weigh up to 65kg.
17. The most electric place on Earth is Venezuela. Where the Catatumbo River meets Lake Maracaibo, lightning flashes up to 28 times a minute. Known as the Beacon of Maracaibo, the Catatumbo lightning or the ‘everlasting storm’, there is an average of 260 storm days per year.
18. 50% of amphibian and 23% of reptilian species in Venezuela are endemic, meaning they are not found anywhere else in the world.
19. The Miss Venezuela beauty pageant has produced six Miss World and seven Miss Universe winners.
20. The 1981 Miss Universe winner, Irene Sáez, ran for president in 1998. Following her success in the global beauty pageant, she went on to become a mayor and a governor in Venezuela, before losing out to Hugo Chávez in the presidential race of 1998.