Venice is the Italian city that gave its name to a South American country: Venezuela. The country’s name actually means “Little Venice.” It was named by Spanish explorer Alonso de Ojeda in 1499. He thought that some of the country’s small houses constructed on stilts above Lake Maracaibo were reminiscent of Venice, a city built on 118 small islands connected by canals and bridges and with its structures on stilts. The first Spanish settlement in Venezuela was established a year after its naming, but it was destroyed in a tsunami. Venezuela did not officially become independent from the Spanish until 1819.
More about Venezuela:
- Venezuela is home to the world’s highest waterfall, Angel Falls, which has a height of 3,212 feet (979 m).
- There are over 21,000 species of plants, 350 mammal species, and 1,400 bird species in Venezuela, making it one of the most biodiverse places on Earth due to the country’s expansive rain forests.
- The largest rodent in the world, the capybara, is native to Venezuela—the rodent can grow up to 2 feet (60 centimeters) tall.