In the north-west of Venezuela lies the Cordillera of Mérida, a southeastern branch of the Colombian Andes, the peaks of which reach over 5000 m. The Mérida Cordillera separates the oil fields of Lake Maracaibo from the rest of the country. West of the Cordillera, in the far north of the country, is the Guajira peninsula, one of the driest areas in Venezuela. The Cordillera continues to the east in a lower mountain range with a height of up to 2,800 m, the Caribbean Mountains, and runs parallel to the coast. The coastal area on the Caribbean is the most densely populated and the most industrially developed.
The interior of the country has still little explored landscapes.
The Guiana Mountains are in the extreme south and east. It reaches heights of up to 3,000 m and occupies almost half of the total area of Venezuela. It is a typical rainforest area.
The Orinoco, one of the most interesting rivers in South America after the Amazon, rises on the heights of the Guiana Mountains near the Brazilian border. The Oricono is 2,575 km long and drains an area of over 1,000,000 square kilometers, flowing around the Guayana mountains in a large arc and flowing into the Atlantic Ocean below Ciudad Guayana. The special thing about the Orinoco is the bifurcation, that is, that the river forms two separate watercourses at high tide, which belong to two different river systems. The Orinoco itself has a 40,000 square kilometer delta that drains into the Atlantic Ocean. During the rainy season, the Orinoco also drains via the Río Negro into the Amazon, which was first scientifically investigated by Alexander von Humboldt. 2000 km of the Orinoco watercourse are navigable, in the lower reaches it is even navigable for seagoing vessels, which facilitates the export of ores in this region.
Between the Kordillere de Mérida and the Guayan mountainous country lie the Llanos, flat undulating grass plains that are used as cattle pastures in the southwest. The cattle keepers, mostly mestizos, are called “Llaneros”. History
There are hardly any remains of the culture of the Indian tribes originally living here. Many of the tribes died out due to diseases introduced by the conquisators.
In 1498 the land was claimed by Christopher Columbus for Spain. The Spanish crown commissioned the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci to examine the country for mineral resources. But since hardly any mineral resources were found, the Spanish crown was not particularly interested in Venezuela. In the 16th century, European colonists came to the country in search of gold. Especially Italians and Spaniards settled in Venezuela. Only towards the end of the 18th century did Venezuela get its own administration in Caracas. In 1810, the struggle for freedom against Spanish rule began in Venezuela under Simón Bolívar. In 1819 the freedom fighter united Venezuela with Colombia and Ecuador to form the Republic of Greater Colombia. Venezuela separated from this association in 1830. Bloody fighting between supporters of a unitary state and supporters of a federal state brought much unrest to the country. From 1908 to 1935 the dictator J. Vicente Gómez managed to create a short period of political stability and to promote the country economically by exploring the oil reserves. A coup d’état that ended the dictatorship was followed by decades of unrest and political uncertainty. Today Venezuela is a presidential democracy.
Flora and fauna
In the far north, on the Guajira peninsula, there is a desert climate with the typical thorn bush savannahs, a desert landscape has formed on the coast. There are extensive savannah landscapes in drier areas. About half of the country is forested. One finds cloud forests on the slopes of the mountains , which merge into tropical rain forests in the lowlands. Numerous representatives of the original animal world were able to assert themselves in the primeval forests, ocelots, pumas, sloths, tapirs, howler monkeys, small bears, martens and numerous species of birds. In regions over 2,000 m there are high mountain steppes.
In the llanos, which are flooded in the rainy season, palm savannas can be found. The big blood-sucking bats live here. Another special species is the Orinoco dolphin, which lives in the river of the same name.
Venezuela lies north of the equator and is divided into three landscapes: the high mountain ranges of the Andes in the north-west and west of the country, in the east the mountains of Guayana and the Llanos in the Orinoco catchment area.
The neighbors of Venezuela are in the south of Brazil, Colombia and Guyana to the west to the east. The north-south extension is 1,100 km, the west-east extension 1,500 km. The highest point is the Pico de Bolívar at 5002 m in the north-west of the country.
The majority of the 27 million residents are mixed race, on the one hand between whites and Indians (mestizos) and on the other hand between whites and Africans (mulattos). About 20% are Europeans and only 1.5% of the population are of Indian descent. There is also a small group of around 5% who are of African origin. Most Venezuelans live in cities, the interior of the country is sparsely populated.
The Roman Catholic Church is the largest religious community in Venezuela with over 96%. 2% of the population belong to the Protestant Church and around 100,000 people belong to Jehovah’s Witnesses or other sects. The Indian population still maintains their old culture (Aruak and Karib tribes). Visit healthinclude.com for Latin America religion.
The official languages are Spanish and, for Venezuelans of Indian descent, their tribal language. English is only spoken in large tourist facilities, so basic knowledge of Spanish is very helpful when traveling.