Select Page

One of the most interesting things about the South American nation of Venezuela is how it got its name. It’s named after the famous canal city of Venice in Italy.

The Florentine explorer Amerigo Vespucci sailed to South America in 1499. One of the first things he saw was a native village built on stilts within a lake. He used the word “Venezia” to describe the village. Venezuela means “like Venice.” It’s interesting to note that America is derived from the first name of Amerigo Vespucci.

Most of the current news about Venezuela has been about the severe political turmoil there and the subsequent suffering of millions of people who are struggling with poverty and the dangers of civil unrest. Venezuela today is considered a failed state as it struggles to find a way forward.

That’s unfortunate because the people are warm, friendly, well-educated and welcoming to foreigners. Literacy is near 100% — although just 11% of the population get a college education. This is also a land of stunning natural beauty. It is home to one of the largest national parks in the world, Canaima National Park. This is where you will find Angel Falls, the highest uninterrupted waterfall in the world.

Venezuela also has tremendous economic potential because of its natural resources, especially oil. It may surprise you to know that Venezuela is ranked No. 1 in the world for proven oil reserves. It easily out-distances second-place Saudi Arabia. The oil industry remains underdeveloped, however. Currently, the largest export products produced by Venezuela are steel, aluminum, cement, and agricultural products.

A primary attribute Venezuela has in common with the United States is a love of baseball. While most South American and Latin American nations favor soccer, Venezuelans are like Americans in that they prefer baseball. Pros from Venezuelan baseball leagues are often drafted to play for American major league teams.

Venezuelans enjoy incredibly interesting and delicious foods. The most popular food is the “arepa.” This is best described as a cross between a pancake and a tortilla. It is often noted that the local citizens can “eat arepas all day long” because they can be changed up and varied in so many ways with different meats and ingredients.