On August 1, 1498, Christopher Columbus lands along the coast of Venezuela. 522 years have passed and over the past century, above all, this country has become the landing place for many Italian emigrants, in search of a better life.
Venezuela discovered by Colombo
Columbus has always had a great dream: to demonstrate that he could circumnavigate the Ocean and arrive from the west to the Indies. In his travels, however, he comes across unknown lands, which then become the populous and rich continent that we know today: America. On his third journey in the summer of 1498, exploring the Gulf of Paria, he enters the Orinoco delta. Today recognized as the east coast of Venezuela. It was the dawn of August 1st.
An enchanting scenery opened before him, and he marveled that the water was sweet. He was not aware of the discovery he had made. He had discovered South America. Initially he did not land, thinking that they were islands in the ocean, then after days of exploration he found himself in front of the Indians. And above all the Amazon rainforest, with its lush greenery and a very varied fauna. To this wonder he attributed the name of “earthly Paradise”, according to what were the dictates of the dominant Church.
Venezuela: a land rich in raw materials
To impose the name we know today; Venezuela, however, was subsequently Amerigo Vespucci in 1499. The name derives from the similarity of the Indian villages, built on stilts, with Venice. Venezuela, in fact, etymologically, means little Venice. It is considered one of the South American countries with the greatest biodiversity and, already in Colombo’s times rich in raw materials. The Indians, for example, knew the oil they used to waterproof boats. After some time, this rich and welcoming country has become one of the destinations of European and Italian emigrants.
Today there is talk of about a million Europeans out of a population that has almost 30 million inhabitants. A considerable number also considering the morphology of the territory. Initially they were attracted by the rich production of oil, which began in 1875 and by the supply chain that has been created over time. Founding member of OPEC, Venezuela is still one of the countries exporting crude oil to the United States.
Italians looking for a better life
Between 1876 and 1976 there were about 26 million Italians who emigrated to South America. The major exodus to Venezuela occurred in the second post-war period with over 90 percent of expatriate compatriots. A very large number were the emigrants from the southern regions. A substantial manufacturing industry developed in the country, in which Italian workers made an important contribution, but construction also played an appreciable role.
Italian companies built most of the buildings in Caracas in the 1950s. Many Italians therefore had the opportunity to build a new life. Italians also made their contribution in the rural field. All this, demonstrating the great willpower and resourcefulness of our fellow countrymen, even in difficult situations. In every place where they are expatriates they have always left a positive trace of their passage. Their work in Venezuela is a tangible example.