5th July

Algerian Independence Day (see 19th June)

Day of the Apostles St Cyril and St Methodist (invented the Glagolitic and Cyrillic alphabets for translating the Bible into Slav languages)

Venezuela Independence Day: Venezuela is named after Venice, as the stilted houses reminded Amerigo Vespucci of Venice. ‘-uela’ is used in Spanish to mean ‘little’, so it means Little Venice. There may have been 1 million people living in Venezuela before the Spanish arrived, using a mix of slash-and-burn agriculture and settlement. When Christopher Columbus sailed past in 1498, he thought he must have literally found Paradise, because of the lovely temperature and amount of fresh water flowing out to sea; Venezuela is now sometimes called ‘Land of Grace’. Spain moved in from 1522. Venezuelans tried to resist but failed until Francisco de Miranda, a Venezuelan-American who had fought in America’s War of Independence and the French Revolution, declared independence on 5 July 1811.

Thus began the Venezuelan War of Independence against the Spanish, but an earthquake the next year devastated Caracas, and also not all Venezuelans were on board: some were royalists and the lower classes whose export of cocoa would be stronger if the Spanish customers stayed as allies.

In 1821 Simon Bolivar, along with José Antonio Páez and Antonio José de Sucre, won the Battle of Carabobo; this completed Venezuela’s independence and Bolivar went on to lead other countries to independence and founded Gran Colombia, of which he made Venezuela a part.

Páez led a rebellion against this and became properly-independent Venezuela’s first president. Perhaps a third of all people died in these wars, now only 800,000.

In 1859 they had another civil war, the Federal War, in which hundreds of thousands died again. In 1899 Cipriano Castro (no relation to Fidel) marched an army and took over Venezuela. He refused to pay Venezuela’s foreign debts and caused a crisis with Britain, Germany and Italy.

In 1908, while causing another kerfuffle with the Netherlands, he nipped out for medical treatment in Germany and Juan Vicente Gómez pinched his seat.

They found loads of oil in Lake Maracaibo during WWI which transformed the economy and by 1935 Venezuelans were the richest in Latin America.

In 1941 political parties were legalised and they very nearly had a democracy until 1948 when there was another military junta, led by Marcos Pérez Jiménez. He led for 10 years then they tried democracy again.

It went well, but in 1983 oil prices dropped and Venezuela suffered. Rioting killed hundreds. Hugo Chavez led a failed coup, and in 1998 he was actually elected President.

Venezuela was crazy, doing things like a 2-month national strike so no one could get oil or power. Chavez died in 2013 and is still kind of regarded as a saint.

Now Nicolas Maduro is President, and there are a lot of demonstrations against high crime and inflation. Salto Angel is the tallest waterfall in the world.


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