Studying Spanish in Venezuela

Venezuela, located in Northern South America, bordering the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, between Colombia and Guyana, is a country with a consistent average daily temperature of about 78º F.

Due to its consistent temperature, tourists can perform all the outdoor activities they wish year round. Venezuela’s has over 40 national parks, which provide a great range of trails, from well-signposted strolls to jungle paths that require the use of a machete as well as the expertise of a local who is familiar with the area.

Parque Nacional El Ávila, which becomes visible over Caracas, is probably a good place to start; For more challenging and less developed trails, check out Guatopo, Terepaima and San Esteban. For those interested in mountaineering, rock climbing, hill trecking, hang gliding, and paragliding, the Sierra Nevada de Mérida is the best region in the country.

There are beautiful beaches to relax and enjoy the weather as well as many water activities such as snorkeling along the Caribbean coast, diving in Tucacas, and checking out the cave systems of Cueva del Guácharo.

Unlike its temperature, Venezuela has a less than consistent political history. This is an amazing country to learn about in terms of political, economic, and social development. Venezuela was one of three countries that emerged from the collapse of Gran Colombia in 1830 (the others being Colombia and Ecuador). For most of the first half of the 20th century, Venezuela was ruled by benevolent military strongmen, who promoted the oil industry and allowed for some social reforms. Democratically elected governments have taken place since 1959. However, there are now some political and economic concerns such as a divided nation between the supporters and non supporters of the current president, a divided military, conflicts along the Colombian border, over-dependence on the petroleum industry, which, with its price fluctuations, causes havoc on the economy, and irresponsible mining operations that are endangering the rain forest and indigenous peoples. These are serious issues that Venezuela is currently confronting. It is an interesting time to view and study the country as history is still in the process of being written and the culture is in the process of being molded and possibly modified.

Despite the dramatic changes and political events that take place in Venezuela, it is still quite the tourist attraction. The tourist season in Venezuela runs year-round. However it is during the dry season (from December to April/May ) when traveling is more pleasant… unless you wish to visit sights such as the famous Angel Falls which are definitely more impressive during the wet season. Angel Falls spills from the Auyantepui into the Devil’s canyon 979 Meters below. The local indigenous people call it Kerepakupai-merú. However, it was named Angel Falls after Jimmy Angel, an American pilot and gold-hunting adventurer, discovered it in 1937. The waters fall about 807 meters (2,648 feet) and reach the bottom of the valley as a misty spray that gathers into a small creek which eventually leads into the north-bound Churun River.

Venezuelans are infamous in South America for their easy-going nature and fun-loving spirit. Their national mythology dates back to the days when independent and rugged settlers tamed the lawlessness of the llanos, a heritage quite similar to that of the American West.

Most Venezuelans come from a mix of European, Indian, and African roots, Roman Catholicism is the most common religion. Due to this strong Roman Catholic background, most of the national celebrations are related to the Christian calendar. There are numerous saints’ days which spread over the calendar year and are celebrated in various cities and towns.

The country’s biggest, most exciting festival is Carnaval, which takes place on the Monday and Tuesday preceding Ash Wednesday. It is characterized by masquerades, parades, music, and dancing. Venezuela is also a great country to visit during any special holiday. Venezuelans take their holidays very seriously. They are very serious about traveling to visit friends and family over Christmas, Carnaval, and Semana Santa (Holy Week; the week prior to Easter Sunday). During these three major periods, tourists must plan ahead well in advance as hotels get booked solid. On the other hand, these periods are colorful and alive with a host of festivities and definitely worth the visit.

Visual arts and handicrafts are a popular art form in Venezuela. However, the country’s most distinctive cultural outlet is its music. Venezuelas music is a combination of European, African, as well as indigenous rhythms. Attending the theater is becoming an increasing popular activity among many of the locals along with Venezuelas active literary scene.

Whether to enjoy the weather, outdoor activities, or to study the ever-changing politics and culture of a dynamic population, Venezuela is a wonderful and interesting county to visit.

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