Maracaibo is the
second-largest city in Venezuela after the national capital Caracas and is the
capital of Zulia state.
of the city was 1,571,885 in the 2001 Census, the metropolitan area
is similar in population
with Zulia state at just under 3 million in the Census. An intercensal estimate
for 2009 by
Nacional de Estadística
lists 1,891,800 for Maracaibo and
around 3.7 million for the metropolitan area and Zulia state.
Maracaibo is nicknamed La Tierra del Sol
("The Beloved Land of the Sun").
The city was founded three times. First in 1529 by the German
Ambrosio Alfinger, who named it Maracaibo or Villa de Maracaibo.
The lack of activity in the zone made Nicolas de Federman evacuate
the village in 1535 and move its population to Cabo de la Vela
nearby Coro. A second attempt by Captain Alonso Pacheco turned into
failure. The third and definite foundation of the city, occurs in
1574 when Captain Pedro Maldonado, under Governor Diego de
Mazariego', command establishes the village with the name of Nueva
Zamora de Maracaibo to honour Mazariego's place of birth, Zamora in
Spain. Since its definite foundation the town began to develop as a
is based on the western side of Lake Maracaibo which is the dominant feature of the oil-rich
Maracaibo Basin. Favoured by prevailing
winds and a protected harbour, the city is located on the shores of
the lake where the narrows, which eventually lead to the Gulf of
The name Maracaibo comes from the brave Cacique (Indian Chief) Mara
a young native who valiantly resisted the Germans and died fighting
them. It is said that when Mara fell, the Indians shouted "Mara
cayo !!" (Mara fell !!), thus originating the city name. Other
historians say that the first name of this land in Indian language
was "Maara-iwo" meaning "Place where serpents abound".
For about 390 years, Maracaibo remained isolated and separated from
the rest of the country. Transportation was only possible across
the lake by ferry or other marine transport.
Cars, buses, and lorries, with their constant flow of manufactured
goods and agricultural product, depended on the ferry system
between the city and the eastern shore with their roads to connect
to the country's motorway system. Maracaibo and the Lake Maracaibo region's
economy was more linked to Colombia than to
eastern Venezuela due to the natural route available through Lake
Maracaibo then leading to the sea.
This isolation was both a challenge and an advantage. The very
nature of the city's location made for a population known for their
independent thought and character. The history of this region is
plagued with stories about the creation of an independent and
sovereign nation apart from Venezuela, a nation called La
República Independiente del Zulia
, which means The
Independent Republic of Zulia,
but this has never come to be.
Nevertheless, in the minds and hearts of many citizens of Zulia,
this far-away dream is a long-lived desire. Zulia has all that is
necessary to be a successful country: beautiful landscapes, fruits,
vegetables, bread, people, and oil.
The dictatorial regime of General Marcos Pérez Jiménez
1950s set as a goal the construction of a bridge connecting the two
lake shores. Various bridge projects for the spanning of the Lake
Maracaibo narrows near the city were in the works. The general's
government had decided that this "city of independent thought"
should be more "connected" to the rest of the country.
Proposals for a bridge design that included rail transport and
tourist facilities were seriously considered. The fall of the Pérez
Jiménez government on January 23, 1958, quickly led to a less
elaborate design project that was approved and funded by a
democratic and more conservative government.
building of "El Puente Sobre El Lago de Maracaibo "General Rafael
Urdaneta"—(General Rafael Urdaneta Bridge over Lake Maracaibo) named after the distinguished
General hero of the War of
Independence was opened to public traffic in 1962.
project was completed on schedule in 40 months.
This bridge construction project was a remarkable feat. Built under
very difficult conditions, when completed, it became the longest
prestressed concrete bridge in the world. The structure is in
constant use and remains today as the most important link between
Maracaibo, along with much of the state of Zulia, and the rest of
Maracaibo was elevated to the status of Roman Catholic Archdiocese
on 30 April 1966 with the creation
of the Archdiocese of
. Since November 2000, its Archbishop has been
Ubaldo Ramón Santana
Henry Morgan's Attack
In March of 1669, Henry Morgan
Maracaibo, which had emptied out when his fleet was first spied,
and moved on to the Spanish settlement of Gibraltar on the inside
of Lake Maracaibo in search of more treasure. A few weeks later,
when he attempted to sail out of the lake, Morgan found an occupied
fort blocking the inlet to the Caribbean, along with three Spanish
ships. These were the Magdalena, the San Luis, and the Soledad. He
destroyed the Magdalena and burned the San Luis by sending a dummy
ship full of gunpowder to explode near them, after which the crew
of the Soledad surrendered. By faking a landward attack on the
fort, thereby convincing the Spanish governor to shift his cannon,
he eluded their guns and escaped.
François de Pons
, an agent to
the French government in Caracas, provides some historical insight
into the people of Maracaibo in his travel journal . The following
excerpts describe the local population of Maracaibo:
- They perform coasting, or long voyages, with equal
facility; and when all trade is suspended by the operations of war,
they enter privateers. Bred up in the neighbourhood of the
lake, they are mostly all expert swimmers and excellent
divers. Their reputation stands equally high as
soldiers. Those who do not enter into the sea service,
form plantations, or assist in cultivating those, which belong to
their fathers. Nothing proves better their aptitude for
this kind of occupation, than the immense flocks of cattle with
which the savannas of Maracaybo [sic] are covered.
He also notes the appreciation of literature, the arts, education,
and culture among the people of Maracaibo:
- But what confers the greatest honour on the inhabitants of
Maracaibo, is their application to literature; in which,
notwithstanding the wretched state of public education, they make
considerable progress....They likewise acquired the art of
elocution, and of writing their mother tongue with the greatest
purity; in a word, they possessed all the qualities which
characterise men of letters.
During the period of de Pons' visit, however, he believed the men
of Maracaibo to lack integrity with regard to honouring their
- After allowing that the inhabitants of this city possess
activity, genius, and courage, we have nothing further to say in
their praise. They are accused of violating their
promises, and even of attempting to break through written
engagements. Their character, in this respect, is so
notorious, that every stranger whom business induces to visit
Maracaybo, affirms, that it would be much better to enter into
commercial speculations with the women, because they appear
themselves to possess that sincerity and good sense which are every
where else considered as belonging particularly to men.
The City at Night
Maracaibo has become a large metropolitan city, comprising two
municipalities: to the north the municipality of Maracaibo and to
the south the San Francisco municipality (established in 1995).
years, due to political/economic and cultural reasons, many have
moved to Maracaibo from rural areas and other cities (including
In the political arena, the citizens of Maracaibo (and most other
cities and municipalities in Zulia state) have in recent years
voted for a competitive political system in where the governor is
from a certain political party and the mayor or mayors are from the
opposite political party. This system has brought many good things
to the city and the state; for example, if the governor builds a
bridge, one of the mayors will build two, if a mayor cleans a
public park, the governor retaliates by cleaning and remodelling
another one. Currently the governor is Pablo
from the Un Nuevo Tiempo
party, and the mayor of Maracaibo, Giancarlo Di Martino
, is from the
Movimiento Quinta Republic
party. Both parties are their opposite in Venezuelan politics; in
the past the governor of the state was Francisco Arias Cárdenas
the Causa Radical
and the mayor of
Maracaibo was Rosales, the current governor.
Maracaibo also boasts one of the best universities in the country,
the state university. La
Universidad del Zulia
(LUZ) is well renowned for its
excellent law and medical schools. Other major universities and
schools include Universidad Rafael Belloso
(URBE), with its excellent engineering school, and
, with one of the country's leading psychology
Culture in Maracaibo is very indigenous and autochthonous, is
recognized in every state and city in Venezuela, and is very
influential with its gaitas
desserts, style, living, and customs. Most major houses of
advertising in Venezuela acknowledge how opposite the culture of
Maracaibo is from that of Caracas. Studies of both prove, for
example, that Caracas' leading soft drink brand is Coke
, while in Maracaibo it is Pepsi
. This has made many brands create special
localised advertising of their products (including several Pepsi
commercials spoken by local celebrities).
(and most of the inhabitants of Zulia
state) are known to be the only users, in Venezuela, of the
Castilian dialect, using words such as "vos" when referring to the
second person singular, as is done in Argentina, Uruguay, and much
of Central America; in the rest of the country the word "tu" or
"usted" is used. This has led Maracuchos to be recognized almost
anywhere by their rough accent.
Maracuchos are extremely proud of their city, their culture, and
all of Zulia. They usually claim that Venezuela wouldn't be the
country it actually is without Zulia. Rivalry with
inhabitants of other regions is common, specially with
Gochos (people of the Mérida and Táchira state) and Caraqueños (people of the city of
Unfortunately, the city of Maracaibo has no facilities to treat
domestic sewage. All sewage is pumped into Lake Maracaibo, which
along with the removal of the land bridge to the sea, has been
responsible for transforming the lake from crystal clear waters
teeming with fish to a brackish green mess.
Law and government
Maracaibo has one municipality: Maracaibo Municipality
Venezuelan law specifies that municipal governments have four main
functions: executive, legislative, comptroller, and planning. The
executive function is managed by the mayor
who is in charge of representing the municipality's administration.
The legislative branch is represented by the Municipal Council,
composed of seven councillors
with the deliberation of new decrees and local laws. The
comptroller tasks are managed by the municipal comptroller
's office, which oversees accountancy
. Finally, planning is represented by
the Local Public Planning Council, which manages development
projects for the municipality. According to United Nations
reports, Maracaibo like
Caracas has significant infrastructure deficiencies under current
government, including shortfalls in clean drinking water
The city of Maracaibo is located at the denominated Maracaibo
. It has low fertility, typical of a dry-tropical forest.
It presents a great number of rivers, sewers and gorges.
dominates the entrance to Lake Maracaibo.
is one of the cities of Venezuela where the highest temperatures are registered, it
has a severe warm climate, only attenuated by the moderating
influence of the lake, its average historical temperature is 29
In the past the climate of the city, as well in all the
coast of the Lake Maracaibo, was unhealthy, due to the combination
of high temperatures with high humidity, being a zone of
importance. At the present time, the effects of urban development,
and control of plagues, has almost eradicated that. The registered
high temperature of the city is 41.0 °C, and the low 18.0 °C.
Avg low °F
|Avg high °C
|Avg low °C
Colleges and universities
Several universities are based in the city:
Sambil Mall, North
- The Maracaibo
Metro, also known as Metro del Sol Amado (due
to the city nickname), is a subway system currently under
construction, it encompasses the suburbs of Maracaibo with the
city's downtown. Currently, six metro stations are open and
- Buses are the main means of mass transportation, this system
runs a variety of bus types, operated by several companies on
normal streets and avenues:
- bus; large buses.
- buseta; medium size buses.
- microbus or colectivo; vans
- por puesto; cars.
- La Chinita
International Airport, was opened on November 16, 1969, during
the government of president Rafael
Caldera to open a gate to the western part of the country and
alleviate congestion from the Simon Bolivar Airport near Caracas,
which manages about 90% of the international flights in
Venezuela. In fact, the only international destinations
from Maracaibo are Aruba, Bogotá, Barranquilla, Cartagena, Curaçao, Miami and Panama City.
- General Rafael
Urdaneta Bridge, inaugurated in 1962, is located at the
Maracaibo, in western
Venezuela. The bridge connects Maracaibo with much of
the rest of the country. It is named after General Rafael
Urdaneta, a Venezuelan hero in the War of Independence.
Made of concrete, it spans 8.7 kilometres (5.4 miles). The bridge
is a cable-stayed bridge
carries only vehicles. The competition to design the bridge started
in 1957 and was won by Riccardo
Morandi, an Italian.
Construction was done by several companies.
They included: Grün &
, Julius Berger
, Bauboag AG
, Philipp Holzmann AG
, Wayss & Freytag
and K Ingeniería.
Due to the regionalistic nature of Marabinos, they strongly support
their native teams. Maracaibo, and the rest of Zulia, are
represented in baseball by the Águilas del Zulia, a Venezuelan
winter league team that plays in the Liga Venezolana de
Béisbol Profesional,and which is based in the Estadio Luis
Aparicio El Grande.
Regional teams include the Unión Atlético Maracaibo
and the Zulia FC
, and the Gaiteros del Zulia
, a team that participates in the
Liga Profesional de Baloncesto de Venezuela
, whose home is
the 5.000-people Pedro Elías Belisario Aponte
Their city has one football stadium:
In the 2000 Little
League World Series
, the Sierra Maestra Little League of
Maracaibo, Venezuela defeated Bellaire Little League of Bellaire,
Texas in the championship game of the 54th Little League World
Carabobo street contains much of the
city's famous colonial architecture
An interesting aspect of the city, is the humor and the musical
culture of its people, the Gaita Zuliana
, is a traditional
from the region.
known that Maracaibo was culturally separated from the rest of
Venezuela, for geographical and historical reasons.
Maracaibo maintained separated the city, with its neighboring
states and Caracas, capital of
Venezuela. The people from Maracaibo, having been
influenced by Andalusian colonists, apply the term "vos" instead of
usted (English: "you");
making it one of the few places in the Americas to use the Castilian dialect.
" term, the fast speaking and the strong tone of the
voice, produced a particular style, that nowadays is a “mark of
origin” of the people from Maracaibo.
is also home to an array of immigrants from but not limited to:
Spain, Italy, Germany, and Latin American
countries.The General Rafael
Urdaneta Bridge, the freeway Machiques - Colón, and the
ship transportation, unites the
communications of the city, with the rest of Venezuela, this united
with the oil boom, cultivated since 1914, is going to conform a new
Our Lady of Rosario of Chiquinquirá
Is one of
the many popular representations of the Virgin Mary in Venezuela.
The image is most venerated in Maracaibo.
The story of discovery of the virgin dates from the XVIII century
. An old lady would make a living
by washing other people's clothes, a job she did every morning at
the shores of the lake. On 18 November 1709, she had taken a bulk
of clothes, and as usual, headed to the lake to start washing them.
This old lady was at her chores when she saw a wooden board
floating towards her. She picked it up thinking that it might be of
some use. When she finished her work, she went home carrying the
clothes, the board and a small vase with fresh water. She then
placed the board on top of the vase. Then, she noticed a small
figure in the board but could not tell what it was like.
She fell asleep, and when she awoke up it was already late and
dark. She decided to go to a local grocery store to buy some
candles. On her way back a small gathering of people had formed
outside her house, and after coming closer she noted that her home
was filled with light. After entering she and some of the
neighbours witnessed the small wooden board floating in the air
surrounded by light with a bright crisp image of the Virgin Mary.
At this, everyone was amazed and called the event a miracle.
Since that day the street where she lived was renamed "El Milagro"
which means ¨Miracle¨ in Spanish, and to this day it is one of the
most important streets in the neighbourhood of "El Saladillo" in
the city of Maracaibo.
is the name of an Afro Venezuelan folk
from Maracaibo, it is normally
considered a christmas
According to Joan Corominas, it popularised in the middle 60's of
the XX century in all the country, and it fused with other types of
music like salsa
in the 70's. There are many famous
Gaita groups like: Maracaibo 15
, Barrio Obrero,
Cardenales del Éxito, Guaco
started was a gaita
group, now is a Tropical music
band), Koquimba, Melody Gaita,
Estrellas del Zulia, Saladillo, and many others.
- Ricardo Aguirre - Composer and
- Wilson Alvarez - Former Major
League Baseball left-handed pitcher.
- Luis Aparicio -
Former shortstop in Major League Baseball and a member of the
Hall of Fame.
Domingo de las Nieves Rus y Ortega Azarraulia - statesman of
high caliber who abrogated for the secession of Zulia as a separate
and independent state.
- Rafael Maria Baralt -
Artillery captain, engineer, journalist, historian, philologist,
- Gustavo Chacin - MLB starting
pitcher for the Toronto Blue
- Gilberto Correa - TV host.
- David Cubillan
- Basketball player, Marquette University.
- Chiquinquirá Delgado -
actress & TV host.
- Lupita Ferrer - Actress.
- Juan Bautista Fuenmayor
- Historian, politician, lawyer, teacher, and founder of the first
- Betulio González - Former
- Geremi Gonzalez - MLB player for the Chicago
Cubs, Tampa Bay Devil Rays,
Boston Red Sox, New York Mets, and the Milwaukee Brewers.
- Juan Pablo Guanipa -
- Ninibeth Leal - Miss World 1991.
- Jesus Enrique Lossada -
Journalist, lawyer, parliamentary, President of the Universidad del Zulia, teacher,
- Carlos Meyer - Fighter pilot. The
only Latin American member (though ethnic
German) of the Red Baron's flying
circus, awarded the Iron Cross during
World War I.
- Armando Molero - Songwriter.
Fernández Morán - A research scientist. He developed the
diamond scalpel and founded "IVIC", the Venezuelan scientific
research institute ("Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones
- Lila Morillo - Actress &
- Francisco Ochoa - First
President of the Universidad del
- Udon Perez - Author of the Zulia State Anthem.
- Francisco Javier Pirela
- Conspirator against the Spanish Crown.
- Venancio Pulgar - Zulian
caudillo, partisan for the independence of the
- Nick Pocock - Former cricketer,
ex-captain of Hampshire.
- Joaquin Primo de Rivera
- Governor, shifted industrialization in the state.
- Daniel Sarcos - TV host.
- Monica Spear - Miss Universe 2005 4th runner up.
- Orlando Urdaneta - Actor.
- Rafael Urdaneta - Hero of the
Latin American war for independence.
- Vivian Urdaneta - Miss
- Patricia Velásquez -
Actress and fashion model.
||Venancio Pulgar • Idelfonso Vázquez • Coquivacoa • Barrio 18 de
Octubre • Juana de Ávila • El Naranjal • San Jacinto (La Marina) •
Mara Norte • La Trinidad • Las Tarabas • La Estrella • Maracaibo I
• Maracaibo II • Lago Mar Beach • Antonio Borjas Romero • San
Isidro • Francisco Eugenio Bustamante • San Rafael • Ziruma • San
Miguel • Luis Hurtado Higuera • Manuel Dagnino • Cristo de Aranza •
Cecilio Acosta • Cacique Mara • El Amparo • Raúl Leoni • Caracciolo
Parra Pérez • Los Olivos • Chiquinquirá • Santa Lucía • Santa Rosa
• Bolívar • Bella Vista • Historic zone of Maracaibo • El Saladillo
• Isla Dorada
Maracaibo has four sister city
Panoramic view of Maracaibo from the
Line note references