1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Maracaibo (city)

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MARACAIBO (sometimes Maracaybo), a city and seaport of Venezuela and capital of the state of Zulia (formerly Maracaibo), on the west shore of the broad channel or neck which connects Lake Maracaibo with the Gulf of Venezuela, or Maracaibo, about 25 m. from the mouth of the channel opening into the latter. Pop. (1889), 34,284; (1905), 49,817; there is a considerable German element in the vicinity. The best residential suburb, Haticos, extends along the lake shore toward the south. The city is provided with tramways, telephone service and electric lighting, but the water supply and drainage are inferior. The most important buildings are the executive’s residence, the legislative chambers, the municipal hall, the Baralt theatre, the prison, the market, a hospital and six churches. The city also has a school of arts, a public library, and a public garden. In colonial times Maracaibo had a famous Jesuits’ college (now gone) and was one of the educational centres of Spanish America; the city now has a national college and a nautical school. The industries include shipbuilding, and the manufacture of saddlery and other leather products, bricks and tile, rum, beer, chocolate and coco-nut oil. Maracaibo is chiefly known, however, as one of the principal commercial centres and shipping ports on the northern coast of South America. The bar at the entrance to Maracaibo channel does not admit vessels drawing more than 12 ft., but there is a depth of 30 ft. inside and near the city. Steam communication is maintained on the Catatumbo and Zulia rivers to Villamizar, and on the Escalante to Santa Cruz. The principal exports from Maracaibo are coffee, hides and skins, cabinet and dye-woods, cocoa, and mangrove bark, to which may be added dividivi, sugar, copaiba, gamela and hemp straw for paper-making, and fruits. In 1906, 26% of the coffee exports was of Colombian origin.

Maracaibo was founded in 1571 by Alonso Pacheco, who gave it the name Nueva Zamora. Up to 1668 the entrepôt for the inland settlements was a station named Gibraltar at the head of the lake, but the destruction of that station by pirates in that year transferred this valuable trade to Maracaibo. The city did not figure actively in the War of Independence until 1821 (Jan. 28), when the province declared its independence and sought an alliance with Colombia. This brought to an end the armistice between Bolívar and Morillo, and thenceforward the city experienced all the changing fortunes of war until its final capture by the revolutionists in 1823.