Maracaibo is the capital of the state of Zulia, located in northwestern Venezuela. It was founded in 1529 as New Nuremberg (Hispanization of Neu Nürnberg, in German). It is the most important economic center of western Venezuela, due to the oil industry that develops on the shores of Lake Maracaibo, precisely in its north-western sector. Historically qualified as the first city of Venezuela, due to its strength and its economic development; also for being the first city in the country to pioneer the use of various types of public services such as electricity and for being geographically located adjacent to the shores of Lake Maracaibo, the place from which the name of the country (Venezuela) originates .
In the 2011 census, a population was estimated for the state of Zulia, according to the National Institute of Statistics, of 3,938,152 inhabitants and in its urban core, Maracaibo in a population of 2,026,486 inhabitants, which includes the municipalities of Maracaibo and San Francisco.5 However, the city extends over a vast plain that includes its entire metropolitan area with a population of 2,356,959 inhabitants. Maracaibo municipality has a total population of 1,551,539 people, according to the 2011 census, which represents 52.6 percent of Zulia’s population and makes it the second most populous city in Venezuela after Caracas.
In economic terms it is also the second most important city in the country, with a nominal GDP in its suburban area of 91.937 million US dollars; as a result, a nominal per capita of US$12,393 and a Purchasing Power Parity (PPP per capita) of $PPP21,460.6 Its geographic location and economic importance, due to the discovery of oil in the state, particularly on the east coast of Lake Maracaibo and on the Paraguaná peninsula, led it to become the most important economic center of western Venezuela.
The origin of the name Maracaibo is controversial. Despite the fact that these facts are duly documented in historical records,78 the details are scarce and ambiguous, and have generated different interpretations, to such an extent that the same historical source is cited in a contradictory way in more recent texts.9
Some historians limit themselves to mentioning that, at the time the city was first founded, the German conquistador Ambrosio Alfinger chose the name of Maracaibo or Maracaybo in homage to an “indigenous chief” or cacique from the area at the mouth of the lake.10 11 Other sources attribute great leadership and emblematic importance to this character in the region, although the data on the extent of his domains are ambiguous.12
An alternative version of the etymology maintains that the name of the city originated when the cacique Mara died in battle, a young and brave leader who from one of the islands of the lake (Isla de Providencia) offered resistance to the European troops of Ambrosio Alfinger. . According to this story, after finishing off Mara, the Spaniards shouted “Mara fell”, a phrase with which they referred to the place where the aforementioned cacique would have been defeated.13 14 Several historians claim that this story is a myth, that the The name of Cacique Mara or Indio Mara does not appear in any historical record, and that none of these events is documented in original and reliable sources.11 Most likely, the stories about Mara, Maracaibo or Maracaybo correspond to the same historical person, of which there are few documented details and much speculation.
Despite the contradictions, the myth of Cacique Mara has been widely disseminated in popular media, to the point of having become official as an emblem of indigenous resistance in the region. This character is evoked in various spiritist rites (associated with the cult of María Lionza and the heavenly courts), but allegorical monuments have also been erected such as a statue and a square in the city, commemorative events are dedicated to him, such as the Day of Resistance Indigenous (October 12, formerly Columbus Day), and his name is used in various awards and decorations. Even one of the municipalities of the Zulia state bears his name (Mara municipality).
The few references that exist on the meaning of the word Maracaibo associate it with a place denomination, instead of the name of an indigenous person. In fact, there are references to the existence of an indigenous ranchería near the place where Alfinger would settle, and it is even possible that he usurped this land for the foundation of the town of Maracaibo.10 Despite the fact that there are no linguistic studies of the original settlers, several authors have ventured interpretations of the possible meaning of the word Maracaibo in indigenous languages (probably deriving them from the languages currently used in the area, or by historical references). Some suggested interpretations are Maara-iwo, which would mean “place where snakes abound”, or Maare kaye, which would mean “place facing the sea”,13 Tiger claw or rivers of parrots have also been mentioned.11 ( these are the most popular interpretations).