(kӘră'kӘs, kӘrä'–, Span. kärä'käs), city (1990 pop. 1,824,892), Federal Dist., N Venezuela, the capital and largest city of the country, near the Caribbean Sea. Its port is La Guaira. With an elevation of c.3,100 ft (945 m), Caracas has a pleasant climate, which contributed to making it rather than Valencia the economic and political center of Spanish colonization in Venezuela. Caracas is the commercial, industrial, and cultural hub of the nation. As a result of the oil boom of the 1950s the city expanded prodigiously. Enormous sums were spent on public works, notably the futuristic University City, school construction, slum clearance projects, a new aqueduct, and an impressive highway cloverleaf, known to Caracans as “the octopus.” The symbol of the new Caracas is the twin-towered complex housing government offices known as Centro Bolívar. The city has a noted contemporary art museum, and a colossal shopping center, the Helicoid, was built on a hill outside the city. Rapid population growth continues to exacerbate the city's housing problems and unemployment rate. In addition to oil refining, industries include textile milling, clothing manufactures, processed foods, tobacco products, publishing, glassworks, rubber goods, chemicals, and ceramics.
Caracas was founded in 1567 as Santiago de León de Caracas by Diego de Losada. The city was sacked by the English in 1595 and by the French in 1766. Two of South America's great revolutionary leaders, Francisco de Miranda (1750) and Simón Bolívar (1783), were born in the city. Independence from Spain was declared in Caracas in July, 1811. However, the city was almost completely destroyed by an earthquake on Mar. 26, 1812, negating the revolution led by Miranda. Bolívar captured the city in Aug., 1813, but abandoned it after a crushing defeat in June, 1814. Finally, after his victory at Carabobo, he made a triumphal entry in June, 1821.