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Venezuela (Latin America)

www.beatenglish.com 挑战英语 2010-02-12  来源:网络 []


The Republic of Venezuela is the sixth largest country in South America, but in variation its landscape rivals that of the much larger countries like Brazil and Argentina. In fact, comparing its geography really doesn't do it justice: the country is simply unique. Anyone who has ever seen a tepuis rising above Venezuela's Gran Sabana can testify that there's nothing really like it, anywhere.

Venezuela lies at the northern extreme of South America, bordered by Colombia to the West, Brazil to the South, Guyana to the East, and the Caribbean Sea to the North. In all, the country is just over 900,000 square kilometers and divided into 23 states. Its borders seem to hold all of South America in miniature: there are fine stretches of the Andes, huge areas of Amazonian rain forests, fertile plains known as llanos, miles of Caribbean shoreline, and even a small desert. The nation also has a few geographical superlatives, including the world's highest waterfall and South America's biggest lake.

Venezuela is as much a Caribbean country as it is a South American one. Parts of its shoreline could easily be mistaken for that of some paradisiacal Caribbean island, and at night the discos in Caracas come alive with rhythms from all over the Caribbean. If you looked under the earth, you might easily mistake Venezuela for an oil-rich Arabian country. The oil reserves are so vast, in fact, that from time to time engineers and surveyors drill in the wrong place by mistake, miles away from where they think they should be, only to end up finding oil anyway.

Because of its proximity to the Equator, Venezuela experiences few climatic variations. There are really only two seasons: dry and wet. The dry season lasts from December to April, the wet one from May to November. The average temperature is about 27C, but cooler temperatures prevail at higher elevations, especially in the Andes, where jackets are needed.

In ancient times, Venezuela was paradise for the Indians who lived on its beaches, in its tropical forests, and on the gentle grassland of the llanos. There were three main groups: the Carib, Arawak, and the Chibcha. They lived in small groups and all of them practiced some degree of farming; the land, however, was bountiful enough so that this was not always a necessity. They could easily hunt, fish for, and gather their food. The most advanced of the three were the Chibcha who lived on the eastern slopes of the Andes. Though they never developed large cities, their agricultural skill were formidable: they terraced parts of the Andes and built sophisticated irrigation channels to water their crops.

Christopher Columbus was the first European to visit Venezuela. He came in 1498 during his third voyage to the New World, and landed on the Peninsula de Paria. Following the coast, he explored the Rio Orinoco Delta and concluded that he had found much more than another Caribbean island. More explorers came a year later, and it was Alonso de Ojeda who gave the country its name. Arriving at Lake Maracaibo, he admired the stilted houses that the Indians had build above the lake and called the place Venezuela - "Little Venice." A year after that the Spanish established their first settlement, Nueva Cadiz, which was later destroyed by a tsunami. Early colonization in Venezuela was much less rampant than it was in other parts of South America, and the colony was ruled with a loose hand from Bogota. It was much less important to the Spanish than the mineral-producing colonies of Western South America, but Venezuela would later surprise the world when massive oil reserves would be discovered.

Venezuela may have been a quiet outpost on the edge of the Spanish Empire, but it gave birth to the man who would one day turn that empire on its head: Simon Bolivar. With the help of British mercenaries, Bolivar and his followers campaigned against the Spanish tirelessly, marching across the Andes and liberating Colombia in 1819, Venezuela in 1821, and Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia in 1825. Much of his army was composed of native Venezuelans. Independence did not prove easy for the new nation. Civil strife, wars, and dictatorships raged in the country well into the next century. Though some dictators sought real reform, most milked their positions for personal gain. Border disputes with the British colony of Guyana erupted in the 1840s, and although they never boiled over into full-fledged warfare, Venezuela still disputes the border to this day.

In the early 1900s, the conflict-ridden nation finally began to get on its economic feet with the discovery of oil, and by the 20s Venezuela was beginning to reap the benefits. Unfortunately, most of the wealth remained with the ruling class, and the plague of dictators continued until 1947 when Romulo Betancourt led a popular revolt and rewrote the constitution. The first president-elect in Venezuela's history took office the same year, the novelist Romulo Gallegos. Unfortunately, he was ousted by another dictator and the country did not experience a non-violent presidential succession until 1963. For the next 25 years, things went comparatively well. An oil boom in the mid-1970s saw enormous wealth pour into the country, though, as always, the vast lower class benefited little. Oil prices dropped in the late 80s and once again the country was thrown into crisis. Riots swept through Caracas and were violently repressed, and two coup attempts took place in 1992. Right now, the nation's stability and future are uncertain.挑战英语 http://www..beatenglish.com/

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