|— City —|
|Santiago de León de Caracas|
|Top left: Simón Bolívar Center; top right: Parque Central Complex; middle: Plaza Venezuela Fountain; bottom left: Plaza Bolívar; bottom right: Los Próceres Monument.|
|Nickname(s): La Sultana del Ávila (The Avila's Sultana)
La Sucursal del Cielo (Heaven's Branch on Earth)
|Motto: Ave María Purísima, sin pecado concebida, en el primer instante de su ser natural|
|State||Venezuelan Capital District
|Founded||25 July 1567|
|Founder||Diego de Losada|
|Metropolitan||Municipalities: Libertador, Chacao, Baruta, Sucre, El Hatillo|
|- Body||Alcaldía Metropolitana de Caracas|
|- Mayor||Antonio Ledezma (ABP)|
|- Urban density|
|- Rural density|
|- Metro density|
|Demonym||caraqueño (m), caraqueña (f)|
|Time zone||VST (UTC-04:30)|
|- Summer (DST)||not observed (UTC-04:30)|
|ISO 3166 code||VE-A|
|The area and population figures are the sum of the figures of the five municipalities (listed above) that make up the Distrito Metropolitano.|
Caracas (), officially Santiago de León de Caracas, is the capital and largest city of Venezuela; natives or residents are known as Caraqueños. It is located in the northern part of the country, following the contours of the narrow Caracas Valley on the Venezuelan coastal mountain range (Cordillera de la Costa). The valley's temperatures are springlike. Terrain suitable for building lies between above sea level. The valley is close to the Caribbean Sea, separated from the coast by a steep 2200 m (7400 ft) high mountain range, Cerro Ávila; to the south there are more hills and mountains.
El Distrito Metropolitano de Caracas (Metropolitan District of Caracas) includes the Distrito Capital (the capital city proper) and four other municipalities in Miranda State including Chacao, Baruta, Sucre, and El Hatillo. The Distrito Capital had a population of 2,097,350 as of 2009, while that of Distrito Metropolitano was estimated at 3,196,514 as of (2008).
At the time of its founding, more than four hundred years ago, the valley of Caracas was populated by indigenous peoples. Francisco Fajardo, the son of a Spanish captain and a Guaiqueri cacica, attempted to establish a plantation in the valley in 1562 after founding a series of coastal towns. Fajardo's settlement did not last long. It was destroyed by natives of the region led by Terepaima and Guaicaipuro. This was the last rebellion on the part of the natives. On 25 July 1567, Captain Diego de Losada laid the foundations of the city of Santiago de León de Caracas.
During the 17th century, the coast of Venezuela was frequently raided by pirates. With the coastal mountains as a barrier, Caracas was relatively immune to such attacks – one of the reasons it became the principal city of the region. However, in the 1680s, buccaneers crossed the mountains through a little-used pass while the town's defenders were guarding the more often-used one, and, encountering little resistance, sacked and set fire to the town.
An attempt at revolution to gain independence organized by José María España and Manuel Gual was put down on 13 July 1797. But the ideas of the French Revolution and the American Wars of Independence inspired the people, and on 5 July 1811, a Declaration of Independence was signed in Caracas. This city was also the birthplace of two of Latin America's most important figures of the Venezuelan War of Independence: Francisco de Miranda and "El Libertador" Simón Bolívar. An earthquake destroyed Caracas on 26 March 1812, which was portrayed by authorities as a divine punishment for the rebellion against the Spanish Crown. The war continued until 24 June 1821, when Bolívar gained a decisive victory over the royalists at the Battle of Carabobo.
As the economy of oil-rich Venezuela grew steadily during the first part of the 20th century, Caracas became one of Latin America's economic centers, and was also known as the preferred travel hub between Europe and South America. During the 1950s, Caracas began an intensive modernization program which continued throughout the 1960s and early 1970s. The Universidad Central de Venezuela, designed by modernist architect Carlos Raúl Villanueva and now a UNESCO monument, was built. New working- and middle-class residential districts sprouted in the valley, extending the urban area towards the east and southeast. Joining El Silencio, also designed by Villanueva, were several workers' housing districts, 23 de Enero and Simon Rodriguez. Middle class developments include Bello Monte, Los Palos Grandes, Chuao, and El Cafetal. On 17 October 2004, one of the Parque Central towers caught fire. The dramatic change in the economic structure of the country, which went from being primarily agricultural to dependent on oil production, stimulated the fast development of Caracas, and made it a magnet for people in rural communities who migrated to the capital city in an unplanned fashion searching for greater economic opportunities. This migration created the rancho (slum) belt of the valley of Caracas.
The flag of Caracas consists of a burgundy red field with the version of the Coat of Arms of the City (effective since the 1980s). The red field symbolises the blood spilt by Caraquenian people in favour of independence and the highest ideals of the Venezuelan Nation. Later, in the year 1994, presumably as a result of the change of municipal authorities, it was decided to increase the size of the Caracas coat of arms and move it to the centre of the field. This version of the flag is still in use today.
The coat of arms of the City of Caracas was adopted by the Libertador Municipality to identify itself. Later, the Metropolitan Mayor Office assumed the lion, the scallop and Saint James' Cross for the same purpose.
The anthem of the city is the Marcha a Caracas, written by the composer Tiero Pezzuti de Matteis with the lyrics by José Enrique Sarabia. The lyrics are said to be inspired by the heroism of the Caracas people, and the memory of the City of Red Roofs. Incidentally, the National Anthem of Venezuela (Gloria al Bravo Pueblo) recites: "...Y si el despotismo levanta la voz, seguid el ejemplo que Caracas dio." ("...and if despotism raises its voice, follow the example that Caracas gave."), reflecting the fact that, in addition to generously giving many heroic fighters to wage the War of Independence, the junta set up in Caracas (19 April 1810) served as inspiration for other regions to do the same, as did its declaration of independence a year later.
Caracas has five municipalities: Baruta, El Hatillo, Chacao, Libertador and Sucre. The constitution of Venezuela specifies that municipal governments be divided into executive and legislative branches. The executive government of the municipality is governed by the mayor, while the legislative government is managed by the Municipal council. In 8 March 2000, the year after a new constitution was introduced in Venezuela, it was decreed in Gaceta Official N° 36,906 that the Metropolitan District of Caracas would be created, and that some of the powers of these municipalities would be delegated to the Alcaldía Mayor, physically located in the large Libertador municipality, in the center of the city.
In 2009, Congress stripped the mayor of control of Libertador and replaced him with an official hand-picked by the president.