TERRITORY: HUMAN GEOGRAPHY. THE POPULATION
At the time of the Spanish conquest, in the 16th century, according to directoryaah, Venezuela was sparsely populated by Amerindian groups of fairly recent immigration, the Arawaks and the Caribs., settled along the coast, peoples who never reached remarkable levels of civilization and did not even know how to give life to a state entity of a certain size and consistency. The indigenous element failed to offer a valid resistance to the mixing and penetration of Spanish culture; at the beginning of the 2000s the Amerindians are represented by a few ethnic tribes belonging to the Caribs and Arawaks, or to groups not easily classified in the Amazon area, segregated in the less penetrable forests; in addition to practicing itinerant agriculture, they dedicate themselves to hunting, fishing and gathering. Present in the states of Zulia (more than half), Amazonas, Bolívar, Delta Amacuro, the indigenous tribes have obtained in recent years an improvement in living conditions and greater recognition of rights, even if their demands often clash with the economic interests of the mining industry. In colonial times, moreover, African slaves were also introduced in Venezuela, but due to the scarce diffusion of the plantation economy in the country they remained few in number, ending up largely mixing with the population. The ethnic composition sees the mestizo element prevail (63.7%), followed by the white one (20%); less numerous are blacks (10%), Amerindians (reduced to 1.3% of the population) and other ethnic groups (5%). For centuries Venezuela was rather neglected by immigration currents because it did not offer the riches of other American countries; in 1811, the year of independence, the population amounted to approx. 800,000 residents and in 1880 it barely reached 2 million. The discovery of oil (1917) greatly accelerated immigration, raising the population to 3.4 million. in 1936 and over 5 million in 1950. Immigration was very strong in the years following the Second World War, largely fueled by Spaniards, Italians and Portuguese; the ab. there were 10.7 million at the census in the early 1970s (1971), when a new wave of migration brought exiles from Chile, Argentina and Uruguay to Venezuela, countries where the political situation had rapidly deteriorated, only to reach, in the 2001 census, the 23 million residents. The migratory flows have not stopped; the migratory balance sees a substantial balance between the escape of Venezuelans, especially directed towards the United States and Canada, and entry of individuals from other Andean states in economic and political difficulties. At the turn of the new millennium, in particular, Venezuela found itself facing the emergency of Colombian refugees: it is estimated that between 2002 and 2005 more than 300,000 arrived. Coming mainly from the Colombian regions of Meta, Guaviare and Vichada, the immigrants arrive in the states of Zulia, Táchira, Apure; some indigenous groups of Colombian nationality are based in the Amazonas region. The annual growth, of 1.5% in the period 2002-2007, is halved compared to the 1980s (3%); the birth rates (21.5 ‰) are also decreasing, while the mortality rates (5.1 ‰) are stable. The Venezuelan population is still young (over a third of the residents are under the age of 17); In recent years the government has favored policies aimed at protecting children and adolescents in response to still alarming data: the infant mortality rate is, in fact, still high and approx. one fifth of children under 5 suffer from some form of malnutrition. These indices are highest among indigenous and black populations. Another socio-health emergency is that relating to the spread of HIV, which affects 0.7% of the country’s adult population. one fifth of children under 5 suffer from some form of malnutrition. These indices are highest among indigenous and black populations. Another socio-health emergency is that relating to the spread of HIV, which affects 0.7% of the country’s adult population. one fifth of children under 5 suffer from some form of malnutrition. These indices are highest among indigenous and black populations. Another socio-health emergency is that relating to the spread of HIV, which affects 0.7% of the country’s adult population.
TERRITORY: HUMAN GEOGRAPHY. DENSITY AND URBANIZATION
Extremely unequal is the distribution of the population, for the most part gathered on the coastal hills, where the best climatic conditions are found. After the Second World War, the systematic fight against tropical diseases overcame swamps and yellow fever, allowing a certain settlement in areas such as the llanos and the Guaianense area, previously almost uninhabited. This somewhat mitigated the previous distributive imbalance: at the beginning of the 19th century. in fact, as much as 75% of the population was concentrated on just over 3% of the territorial surface. The major poles of attraction of internal migratory currents today are Caracas, the industrial regions of the West, the Andean foothills and to a lesser extent the llanos. On the highlands between Valencia, La Guaira and Los Teques the density is around 200-400 residents/km², far above the national average density (33 residents/km²) while the Federal District (Distrito Federal) is very crowded (4489 residents / km²). The tierras templadas of the Cordillera de Mérida are also well populated while the density drops to in the llanos and even to 4-6 residents / km² in the regions occupied by the Guaianese massif. Even the small state of Nueva Esparta has high population densities while the islands included in the Federal Dependencies have much lower densities. There is no shortage of small isolated nuclei, farms and agricultural villages, especially in the western mountainous areas, but the population has one of the highest rates of urbanization of the world. The phenomenon experienced a gigantic development after the discovery of oil, which transformed Venezuela into a rich country and dynamically projected towards growing well-being; the maximum expression of this trend is the capital, already a quiet and modest colonial city, which grows dramatically, tending visibly to vertical development with a forest of skyscrapers due to the limited space; Caracas is in fact located approx. 1000 m above sea level at the bottom of a valley between high wooded mountain ranges. From 55,000 residents a century ago the capital rose to 1.3 million residents. in 1960 and over 3 million after 2000 (in the metropolitan area); a series of large arteries and several highways also facilitate the connections both of the various districts of the city, and of the latter with Maiquetía, home to the airport, and with La Guaira, the port of Caracas. The other large city in rapid expansion is Maracaibo, also of colonial foundation, but which has become a large center thanks to the nearby oil fields: still in the mid-nineteenth century it had approx. 15,000 residents. The other cities, on the other hand, show more contained developments and essentially maintain the regional functions already carried out in colonial times, even if integrated and enlivened by new commercial and industrial activities. The major centers, all located in western Venezuela, to the W of Caracas, are Valencia, home to multiple industries, well connected with the active maritime outlet of Puerto Cabello, Barquisimeto, a lively commercial and communications hub north of the Cordillera de Mérida, and Maracay, a farmer’s market a short distance from Valencia, activated by the related processing industries. In eastern Venezuela there are the centers of Maturín and Ciudad Guayana, founded in 1961 at the confluence of the Caroní and the Orinoco, 500 km SE of Caracas, with the intention of making it the metropolis of Venezuelan heavy industry.