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  • 2,780,400 kmē
  • 34°00'S
  • 64°00'W
  • 2,736,690 kmē
  • 43,710 kmē
  • 9,861 km
  • 4,989 km
  • 15,500 kmē
  • 41,769,726
  • Buenos Aires
  • 9 July 1816
Venezuela Map
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Venezuela Map

Venezuela used to be a poor country, dependent on farming. But today it is the richest nation in South America. Its fortunes changed when huge reserves of oil were tapped at Lake Maracaibo. Using money from oil, the Venezuelan government launched a massive programme to build roads and improve health education and housing. However, poverty is still widespread. The modern cities are ringed by slums that continue to sprawl as thousands of poor people flock in from the countryside to find work. Meanwhile, vast areas of Venezuela remain unexplored. The remote southwest is densely cloaked in dripping rainforest, known only to the native Americans who hunt and fish there. Lives of these people are barely touched by the modern world. In the southeast there are great tables of sheer rock called tepuis that have never been climbed.

In the far north, tourists and foreigners are drawn to the white, sandy beaches of the Caribbean. In the centre, cattle-ranchers and farmers make a living on the Llanos Plains. To the west, coffee is grown in the high Merida valleys. Caracas, Venezuela's capital and largest city, has many high-rise department buildings. Spain colonized this area of South America in the 1500's, crushing the Native Americans. Today Venezuelans are of mixed race and their main language is Spanish. Venezuelans enjoy music and dancing. Popular dances include the exciting, rhythmic salsa and such fast, lively Carribbean dances as the merengue and guaracha. The national folk dance of Venezuela is the Joropo. This stamping dance is performed to the music of cuatros {four-stringed guitars), the harp and maracas (rattles made of gourds). Rock music is also popular among young Venezuelans.