The city was founded three times. First in 1529 by the German Ambrosio Alfinger, who named it Maracaibo or Villa de Maracaibo. The lack of activity in the zone made Nicolas deFederman evacuate the village in 1535 and move its population to Cabo de la Vela nearby Coro. A second attempt by Captain Alonso Pacheco turned into failure. The third and definite foundation of thecity, occurs in 1574 when Captain Pedro Maldonado, under Governor Diego de Mazariego', command establishes the village with the name of Nueva Zamora de Maracaibo to honour Mazariego's place of birth,Zamora in Spain. Since its definite foundation the town began to develop as a whole. It is based on the western side of Lake Maracaibo which is the dominant feature of the oil-rich Maracaibo Basin.Favoured by prevailing winds and a protected harbour, the city is located on the shores of the lake where the narrows, which eventually lead to the Gulf of Venezuela, first become pronounced.
The nameMaracaibo comes from the brave Cacique (Indian Chief) Mara a young native who valiantly resisted the Germans and died fighting them. It is said that when Mara fell, the Indians shouted "Mara cayo !!",thus originating the city name. Other historians say that the first name of this land in Indian language was "Maara-iwo" meaning "Place where serpents abound".
For about 390 years, Maracaibo remainedisolated and separated from the rest of the country. Transportation was only possible across the lake by ferry or other marine transport.
Cars, buses, and lorries, with their constant flow ofmanufactured goods and agricultural product, depended on the ferry system between the city and the eastern shore with their roads to connect to the country's motorway system. Maracaibo and the Lake Maracaiboregion's economy was more linked to Colombia than to eastern Venezuela due to the natural route available through Lake Maracaibo then leading to the sea.
This isolation was both a challenge and an...