Venezuelan painting from the beginning of the 20th century representing Diego de Losada, conqueror of the region.
Caracas is the name of the tribe that inhabited the Valley of the Caracas, one of the coastal valleys contiguous to the current city to the north, a place name still in force. This tribe was known by the Spaniards settled on the pearl island of Cubaguadue to their slave expeditions to that coast between 1528 and 1540, which is why it became a common word among the Spaniards of the eastern part of the country as a reference toponym for the entire area and with this, the name was generalized to the lands of the Caracas area.
Many were the attempts, and also the failures, of this process. But it was not until the year 1567, when an expedition from El Tocuyo arrived in the valley, preceded by Captain Diego de Losada, that he succeeded in founding a town with the name of Santiago de León de Caracas.
However, there are several theories about the source that led to the name of Santiago de León de Caracas. The most widespread is that the city bears the name
- Santiago in honor of Santiago Matamoros (Saint Jacob, the murderer of Arabs), for the traditional apostle of the Spanish reconquest, who was the military saint of the Kingdom of Spain;
- León, in honor of the surname of the governor of the province at the time, Ponce de León; and
- Caracas, by the aborigines who populated the province at the time of its foundation.
As can be seen, if the surname León were taken as a case to explain the name of the city, it could be argued that Ponce and not León should have been the chosen surname, an argument that some authors allege to disqualify this hypothesis, since there is as an example the city of Ponce, named and founded by a Ponce de León in Puerto Rico.
Another thesis, the one that has become more relevant, follows the theory that Santiago de León comes from the aforementioned origins but that the name of Caracas was taken from a flower that the Indians called “caraca”, which was abundant in the valley where today there is the city. This flower, actually an herb, also called locally as «pyre», is the well-known Amaranth, which has a high nutritional value due to its high protein content. In fact, the name Caracas is taken by the resident captain from the name of the Province of Caracas, and this in turn comes from the name of an ethnic group on its coast. The Pimentel Relationship (from 1578) offers an explanation to the name of Caracas as the gentilicio given to that tribe, and reports that it effectively alludes to that plant since the ethnic group is as abundant as the pyre or Amaranth with whom other aboriginal ethnic groups compare it, giving them for it the name of Caracas.
A third hypothesis alleges that the name of Santiago was decided by Diego de Losada, the founder of the city, after the Spanish victory in the battle of Maracapana in memory of the day the Caracas Indians of the coast “gave peace” (or surrendered) in July 1567 before the representative of the king, Diego de Losada, since apparently said formal act of surrender of these Caracas was deliberately done on July 25, 1567, the day of Santiago.
According to thereligionfaqs, the name “León” is also due to the day the city was founded, the day of San León, according to this novel thesis, which is liturgically celebrated on March 1. Although clearly it is seen as much as the flag, as the shield of the city reminds of the flag and the shield of the Kingdom of León respectively.
- Coat of arms: The coat of arms was formally awarded in 1591 and presents the lion as an emblematic figure of Caracas, based on the “royal cedula” (decree of the king) of Felipe II, who granted it at the request of the Attorney General, in the following terms: “On a silver field a brown-colored lion, standing, holding in its arms a gold scallop with the Red Cross of Santiago, and a five-pointed gold crown for stamping.” Through a “royal decree” (decree of the king) granted by Carlos III the 13 of March of 1766, the Coat of Arms of Caracas, it would take a border with a Latin inscription on formalizes Virgin Mary as a noble gesture to the shield of the city, with the words: Hail Mary Most Holy, sinless conceived in the first instant of her natural being. The original request (“Hail Mary Most Holy of conceived sinless light”) sparked a controversy about whether or not it should be placed on the border of the banner, which concluded with the decision of the King, who deleted the word Light, incorporating “in the first instant of his natural being ».
- Flag: presents the shield centered on a rectangular blood-red flag, which commemorates the blood of the people of Caracas spilled in the independence periods.
- Hymn: Called March to Caracas, it was composed by Tiero Pezzuti de Matteis, with lyrics by José Enrique Chelique Sarabia, in accordance with the agreement approved by the Municipal Chamber on March 28, 1984, where the score and lyrics are added as an integral part of this ordinance. The lyrics of the song to the city are inspired by the example of Caracas, having taken the first step towards Venezuelan emancipation.
- Other symbols: The lion is the official animal of the city that is also represented in the coat of arms. An unofficial symbol of the city is Parque El Ávila, known colloquially as El Ávila or Cerro El Ávila, a mountain range that borders the north of the capital, separating it from the Caribbean Sea, an immense natural lung and a must for all Caracas residents, since it is visible from practically every point in the city. The most emblematic typical dish of Caracas is the black roast.