THE SPANISH LANGUAGE
is the second most spoken language in the world due to the number of speakers who claim it as their native tongue (after Mandarin Chinese). It is spoken as a first and second language amongst 450 and 500 million people. It is the third most spoken language as a first or second language after Mandarin Chinese and English combined, and is the mother tongue to 400 million people worldwide... Read more
VENEZUELA Country Profile
The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, is a country on the northern coast of South America. Comprising a continental mainland and numerous islands in the Caribbean Sea, Venezuela borders Guyana to the east, Brazil to the south, and Colombia to the west. Trinidad and Tobago, Curaçao, Bonaire, Aruba, and the Leeward Antilles lie just north of the Venezuelan coast.
A former Spanish colony, Venezuela is a federal republic. Historically, Venezuela has had territorial disputes with Guyana, largely concerning the Essequibo area, and with Colombia concerning the Gulf of Venezuela. Today, Venezuela is known widely for its petroleum industry, the environmental diversity of its territory, and its natural features. Christopher Columbus, upon seeing its eastern coast in 1498, referred to Venezuela as "Tierra de Gracia" ("Land of Grace"), which has become the country’s nickname.
Venezuela is among the most urbanized countries in Latin America; the vast majority of Venezuelans live in the cities of the north, especially in the largest metropolis, Caracas. Other major cities include Maracaibo, Barquisimeto, Valencia, Maracay, and Ciudad Guayana.
.: Total: 916,445 km² (33rd) 353,841 sq mi
.: Water (%): 0.3
.: From Spain: July 5, 1811
.: From Gran Colombia: November 21, 1831
.: Recognised: March 30, 1845
.: July 2005 estimate: 26,749,000 (43rd)
.: 2001 census: 23,054,210
.: Density: 29/km² (175th) 75/sq mi
The Republic of Venezuela is the sixth largest country in South America, but in variation, its landscape rivals that of the much larger countries like Brazil and Argentina. In fact, comparing its geography really does not do it justice: the country is simply unique. Anyone who has ever seen a tepuis rising above Venezuela's Gran Sabana can testify that there is nothing really like it, anywhere.
Venezuela lies at the northern extreme of South America, bordered by Colombia to the West, Brazil to the South, Guyana to the East, and the Caribbean Sea to the North. In all, the country is just over 900,000 square kilometers and divided into 23 states. Its borders seem to hold all of South America in miniature: there are fine stretches of the Andes, huge areas of Amazonian rain forests, fertile plains known as llanos, miles of Caribbean shoreline, and even a small desert. The nation also has a few geographical superlatives, including the world's highest waterfall and South America's biggest lake.
Venezuela is as much a Caribbean country as it is a South American one. Parts of its shoreline could easily be mistaken for that of some paradisiacal Caribbean island, and at night, the discos in Caracas come alive with rhythms from all over the Caribbean.
PEOPLE AND CULTURE VENEZUELA
Venezuela's heritage, art, and culture has been heavily influenced by the historical evolutions of its Latin American counterparts. These elements extend to its historic buildings, architecture, art, landscape, boundaries, and monuments. Venezuelan culture has been shaped by indigenous, Spanish, and African influences dating back as early as the colonial period. Before this period, indigenous culture was expressed in art (petroglyphs), crafts, architecture (shabonos), and social organization. The Spaniards assimilated the Aboriginal culture and over the years, the hybrid culture has diversified throughout the various regions.
Venezuelan art is gaining attention within and outside the country. First dominated by religious motives, in the late 19th century it changed to historical and heroic representations, led by Martín Tovar y Tovar. Modernism took over in the 20th century. Some remarkable Venezuelan artists include Arturo Michelena, Cristóbal Rojas, Armando Reverón, Manuel Cabré, Jesús-Rafael Soto, Carlos Cruz-Diez (who both contributed greatly to kinetic art) and Yucef Merhi.
Venezuelan literature began developing soon after the Spanish conquest, and it was dominated by Spanish culture and thinking. Following the rise of political literature during the Independence War, then came Romanticism, the first important genre in the region, whose great exponent was Juan Vicente González. Although mainly focused on narrative, poets also figure with great importance, Andrés Eloy Blanco being the most famous of them, and also Fermín Toro. Major writers and novelists are Rómulo Gallegos, Teresa de la Parra, Arturo Uslar Pietri, Adriano González León, Miguel Otero Silva and Mariano Picón Salas.
The great architect of the Venezuelan modern era was Carlos Raúl Villanueva, who designed the Universidad Central de Venezuela, (a World Heritage Site) and its Aula Magna.
Indigenous musical styles are sort of a crucible of Venezuelan cultural inheritances, most exemplified by groups like Un Solo Pueblo and Serenata Guayanesa. The national musical instrument is the cuatro. The typical or representative musical styles are mainly from the llanos area and its surroundings, such as Alma Llanera (by Pedro Elías Gutiérrez and Rafael Bolivar Coronado). The Gaita (music style) is also a popular style, played generally during Christmas, typical of the Zulian region. The national dance is the joropo.
Venezuela is also known for their world famous baseball players, such as Luis Aparicio, who is in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York (USA). Although baseball is tremendously popular (it's the national pastime), football (soccer) is also gaining popularity, due to the increasing performance of the Venezuela national football team.
GEOGRAPHY AND ENVIRONMENT VENEZUELA
Venezuela is the world's 33rd-largest country. It is comparable in size to Namibia, and is about half the size of the American state of Alaska. Mainland Venezuela rests on the South American Plate. With 2,800 km of coastline, Venezuela is home to a wide variety of landscapes. The extreme northeastern extensions of the Andes reach into Venezuela's northwest and continue along the northern Caribbean coast.
The llanos, extensive plains that stretch from the Colombian border in the far west to the delta of the Orinoco River in the east, dominate the country´s centre. To the south, the dissected Guiana Highlands is home to the northern edge of Amazonia and Angel Falls, the world's highest waterfall. Unfortunately, the depletion of theVenezuelan forests is quite high a rate of 200,000 ha per annum by logging and shifting cultivation.
Venezuela can be divided into nine geographical areas, some corresponding to the natural regions, one being the Andes Range. The Lake Maracaibo region comprises the lowlands near the Gulf of Venezuela. The Coro System, a mountainous block in the northwest, is home to several sierras and valleys. The Central Range runs parallel to the coast and includes the hills surrounding Caracas; the Eastern Range, separated from the Central Range by the Gulf of Cariaco, covers all of Sucre and northern Monagas. The Llanos region makes up a third of the country's area above the Orinoco River. Under this region is the South Orinoco Region (the Guianas, above described). Nueva Esparta and the Federal Dependencies form the Insular Region. The last geographical region is the Deltaic System, which forms a pantanous triangle, covering Delta Amacuro.
WEATHER AND CLIMATE VENEZUELA
The best time to visit Venezuela is December-May, when the weather is at its driest. December and January are especially cool and pleasant. April-September is very warm, and it is usually rainy from May-December. In Merida, the weather is best from October-June. The Orinoco River area can be more humid and a bit warmer, and the mountain areas will generally be at least 10 degrees F/5 C cooler (and much colder at high elevations). No matter when you go, be sure to take a sweater - the evenings are cool most of the year.
Venezuela's currency is the bolívar. Bills come in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000 and 20,000; coins are of 10, 20, 50, 100 and 500 bolívares. Getting change can be difficult, especially in smaller towns, so try to break your 20,000 bills when you get a chance.
Bank hours are 8.30am to 3.30pm Monday to Friday, although many offer 24-hour access to ATM machines, which can be problematic, depending upon your card type. Most banks advertise that they are on the cirrus and maestro systems, but still may not accept your card. The two most reliable are CorpBanca and Banco Mercantil, both found in most sizeable towns.
Cashing travellers' cheques can be more difficult, and cheques other than American Express are often not accepted. CorpBanca does not charge commission, but its queues are often unbearable and some branches have bizarre requirements such as for fingerprints. Usually it is best to go to exchange houses, most of which accept travellers' cheques but at varying rates and commission levels – always ask before exchanging. Italcambio, found in most urban centres, is reliable and does not charge a commission for exchanging American Express travellers' cheques.