Caracas. I. A N. State Of Venezuela, bordering on the Caribbean sea, Barcelona, Guayana, Apure, Barinas, and Carabobo; area, 25,461 sq. m., 4,527 of which are uncultivated; pop. about 300,000. The state may be said to be divided into two distinct zones. The first or northern, with a rocky coast dotted with excellent ports, rich and fertile valleys, cultivated uplands, barren and craggy hills, and lofty mountains, comprises the agricultural and commercial region of the republic. The second presents vast plains or steppes, extensive table lands, savannas, some low and others of considerable elevation, small woods, great palm groves, and immense forests. The mountain system called the Venezuela coast chain, considered as a continuation of the Cordillera of the Andes, traverses the state like a wall uninterruptedly from Puerto Cabello W.; and the interior chain in almost the same direction, but in two separate branches. The mean elevation of the coast chain is about 5,000 ft.; a few summits, such as the Sill a de Caracas, attain a height of over 8,000 ft. above the level of the sea. These ranges enclose many longitudinal valleys, remarkable among which is the delightful valley of Aragua, where sugar, indigo, cotton, and European wheat are largely produced.
The llanos of Caracas are grassy plains, and the abode of numerous herds of cattle and wild horses. Humboldt gives 3,070 ft. as the height of the plateau of Caracas. The state is watered by no fewer than 145 rivers, and an immense number of smaller streams. The largest rivers are the Guarico, Orituco (an affluent of the former), and Manapire, 372, 213, and 189 m. in length respectively, and navigable for 180, 150, and 12 m. The lake of Valencia, which belongs in part to this state, is 27 m. long from E. to W., and 12 m. wide; and there are besides the lagoons of Unare (separated from the sea by a sandy tongue of land, and the shores of which abound in excellent salt), Encantada, Taiguaiguai, Palmananita, and many smaller ones. Few of these lagoons become altogether dry in the summer. The climate, though extremely varied, is in general salubrious; notwithstanding the excessive heat in the plains, fevers are not common, except on somo parts of the coast subject to inundation, and in the dense forests, where ague is prevalent. About half the inhabitants are engaged in agriculture, and the rest in cattle raising, commerce, and arts.
Coffee, cacao, indigo, cotton, tobacco, sugar, maize, rice, wheat, plantains, and the greater number of the tropical fruits and. vegetables, with a few of the European, are produced. The state is divided into 16 cantons and 97 parishes. The chief port is La Guayra. II. An inland city, capital of the state and of the United States of Venezuela, in lat. 10° 30' 50" N., Ion. 67° 4' 45" W., 7 m. from its port, La Guayra, on the Caribbean sea, with which it is connected by railway; pop. about 00,000. The city stands at an elevation of 3,100 ft. above the sea. On one side a slope gradually descends toward the river Guaire, fordable in all seasons except immediately after heavy rains, when it swells suddenly and rushes rapidly along, but very soon subsides; toward the south i3 another descent to the river Arauco, here crossed by a handsome bridge. The Caroata, a sort of rivulet, separates the suburb San Juan from the city proper; and the water of the Catuche, which flows through the town, supplies the public fountains and private residences. The streets are straight and cross each other at right angles. The houses, some of which have several stories, are well and strongly built, and generally handsome. Among the wealthy there is a great tendency to luxurious display in their dwellings.
There are 10 churches, including the cathedral, an unsymmetrical edifice, which was injured by an earthquake in 1826. Six monasteries and nunneries have been converted into school houses, and the cloistral endowment suspended. Caracas has a university, founded in 1778: a seminary; three academies, ' military, painting, and music; several public and a number of private schools, a theatre, and patriotic, agricultural, and emigration societies. There are eight fine bridges. Of the eight public squares, the largest has an area of 3 1/2 acres, is well paved, and is surrounded by the principal public buildings and the general market. There are in the city several printing offices and newspapers, and a number of private societies and corporations. The climate, compared by Humboldt to a perpetual spring, is delightful and very salubrious. Caracas communicates by a railway with its port La Guayra, and is the centre of an important commerce with the interior and with foreign nations. (See Venezuela.) - Caracas was founded by Diego Losada in 1567, in the Valle de San Francisco, and was named Santiago de Leon de Caracas; but the last word, the name of the indigenous inhabitants of that region, who energetically strove to maintain their independence, has alone been preserved.
In 1766 the city and the beautiful valley which surrounds it were visited by smallpox, which carried off 8,000 of the inhabitants. In 1812, when the population was 50,000, an earthquake destroyed the city, burying 12,000 persons beneath the ruins. Political perturbation following that catastrophe reduced the population to about 35,000; but it afterward began to grow anew, and has since steadily advanced.