Photo: Andrew Alvarez retrieved

Philip V elevated Caracas’s Seminar College of Santa Rosa to University in December 22, 1721, but it didn’t open its doors until August 11, 1725, with an inexplicable four-year delay. The Seminar College had been created by bishop Antonio González de Acuña (Dominican) in 1673, opening on September 30, 1673.

Philip V elevated Caracas’s Seminar College of Santa Rosa to University.

Since the bishopric of Diego de Baños y Sotomayor (1684-1706), there had been a push for the need to turn the seminar into a university, because the trip to Bogota, Santo Domingo or Mexico was too long and expensive, and caraqueños didn’t have the means to graduate in their own city, even having a seminar, which only needed to be decreed as a university. This request was emphatically and consistently made by the seminar’s rector, the ordinary mayors and bishop Escalona y Calatayud until, the king finally agreed, creating the Royal University of Caracas by Royal Decree, on December 22, 1721, as we’ve said.

The first eleven rectors were appointed by the bishop and were presbyters. Later, with the Royal Decree of 1784, the rector was elected by the Cloister and the first elected candidate was doctor José Domingo Blanco, in 1785. Simón Bolívar, President of the Republic of Colombia, sanctioned the Statutes of the Central University of Venezuela on July 24, 1827, after a modification request from the University Cloister, whose members had been unsuccessfully demanding the statutory reform since 1819. The Libertador studied the request and agreed with it, decreeing the change on January 22, 1827. With a clear path, the Cloister elected Dr. José María Vargas,  after doctor José Cecilio Ávila vehemently refused to be re-elected. Vargas obtained 21 out of the Cloister’s 35 votes.

The modern university Vargas had in mind was inspired on his Scottish and English experience. This would be the republican university that would scrap the requisite of “purity of blood,” effective up to that point, and would establish a democratic requirement: “Correctly read and write the elemental principles of Spanish grammar and arithmetics.”

From the independence generation, important civilians that were regrettably overshadowed by the conflict, graduated with university diplomas.

The university was made up of four schools: Philosophy, Theology, Jurisprudence and Medicine. Naturally, Vargas would focus most of his efforts on the latter, and he’s rightly considered the founder of modern medical studies in Venezuela. Dr. Vargas fulfilled his three-year term (1827-1829) at the head of the university and refused to be a candidate for re-election. He did nominate his candidacy as deputy of the Constituent Assembly of Valencia and was elected for the province of Caracas in 1830.

From the independence generation, important civilians that were regrettably overshadowed by the conflict, graduated with university diplomas. Among them, Juan Germán Roscio and Miguel José Sanz, while Cristóbal Mendoza studied in the University of Santo Domingo. A few of the Venezuelan soldiers who fought in the war had an university education, among them Antonio José de Sucre, who studied Engineering and was clearly an outstanding figure.

Neither Miranda, nor Bolívar, nor Páez went to the university. Simón Rodríguez was self-taught. There were few graduates from the University of Caracas who had a substantial participation in the independence, save for Roscio, who wrote the Declaration of July 5, 1811, and the first National Constitution that same year. He’d be the scholar with the most important constitutional, legal, philosophical and theological work, besides Andrés Bello, of course, but Bello’s work is almost entirely Chilean.

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14 COMMENTS

    • Just heard from North Maracaibo(the richer part), they just had power restored after it got shut off 11pm Thursday. No word yet from south Maracaibo. If it’s true that only 300 MW of the normal 2300 MW are able to reach Maracaibo, the rolling blackouts are gonna suck.

        • South Maracaibo friend just reminded me that due to lack of cash and presence of hyperinflation, purchases need to be made with card…but card readers aren’t working due to lack of power & cellphone signal…says it’s a shitshow at the moment.

    • From the interwebs: “Los Marabinos esperamos como Zombies. Más de 40 horas sin luz. Maracaibo incomunicada. Puente Sobre el Lago cerrado, prohibido vuelos privados. Carne, pollo, verduras, leche, se descomponen. No hay manera de refrigerarlo. La plantas eléctricas no están diseñadas para tal eventualidad, no hay punto de venta que funcione, no hay internet, las plataformas de la telefonía colapsó. Las pocas panaderías y supermercados que están abiertas están colapsadas, la gente trata de atravesar el lago en peñeros, estos hacen su agosto, 10 millones por persona. El pueblo Marabino como Zombies. Gobierno no resuelve. El Zulia se hunde como el Titanic, la música suena, quedamos a la deriva. Mota Domínguez y al gobierno les produce un orgasmo al castigar al Zulia. Que más coño tiene que pasarnos para despertar de esta pesadilla. No hay comida, no hay medicinas, no hay agua, no hay transporte, no hay internet, no hay efectivo. No hay un banco que funcione, no hay gobierno, no hay liderazgo político, no hay conciencia de país. La excusa, es que el pueblo está distraído en sus problemas. Viven esperando a un Mesías, a los Marines, sigan esperando, sigamos como Zombies.”

  1. Interesting article! The National Electric Co-op called it the result of sabotage. Probably drone attack or iguana attack would be my guess…

  2. The article that Pilkunnussija posted the link to is what I was referring to as an interesting article. I am a history fan but I found the article on the opening of the University of Caracas to be a rather half-hearted effort. If one wants to learn more on the history of the University you will find even the Wikipedia page to be more informative.

  3. The author is in Venezuela a highly reputed historian , people with an interest in Venezuelan history have great regard for his work , somewhat removed of course from the day to day hassle of the tragedy that is Venezuelan politics , The university has never seen worse days , its dependent on govt funding and the govt has followed a policy of starving it of the funds it needs to continue operating even at the most elemental level , it has become the custom for retired professors to continue giving classes without compensation just to keep classes open ( close relative does so) , it also has a special meaning for many Venezuelan families , on one side of mine there has been a UCV graduate in every generation starting in 1805 when one direct ancestors studied there to become a lawyer ….., the govt has made it impossible for there to be internal elections in the University because every time there is one they get wopped and its embarrasing for them not to be able to command any significant following in a place which represents so much of our countrys intellectual tradition ….

    • Bill, as you know, that the “university system is broke” was the subject of a much commented recent CCS article. I don’t know this author’s politics, but Aporrea has many retired and some still active university professors regularly post articles whining about the economic war or Maduro and how the country doesn’t produce anything and how the solution is “real socialism” and how they don’t get paid, and cant afford food or medicine or to fix their car or to buy shoes, and how they miss Chavez and how they are Chavistas, and so forth. How can you be a “Marxist” or “Socialist” university professor in the year 1998, let alone in 2018, and not be fully aware of what an abject and cruel failure socialism/communism has turned out, and how in inevitably turns into a repressive dictatorship. Of course the university is broke. They broke it. Assholes.

  4. Hi Bill, I was not criticizing the author himself or questioning his reputation. And I am sure that he probably received little or no compensation for the article. It just seemed that the article was pretty bare bones to me. Just my opinion.

    As far as the University itself, yes I am sure that it has been reduced to a shell of its former standing among universities in LA. I would imagine this is true of most,if not all, institutions of higher learning in Venezuela. Just one more sad part of Venezuela’s current situation.

  5. Pese a los mil defectos de la UCV, entre los que se hallaban los comunistas a lo Fuentemayor, que apoyaron al milico Chávez, los aportes que esta institución ha dado son innegables, ante todo en áreas como la medicina y diversas ingenierías.

    Don Rafael menciona el hecho de que pocos universitarios fueran figuras descollantes en la guerra civil que llamamos independencia (civil como son muchas guerras de independencia en toda América). Yo creo que es un tema de investigación para los historiadores actuales ver hasta qué punto los universitarios de aquel entonces tomaron la posición independentista y cuántos terminaron en el exilio…qué posiciones tuvieron luego, etc

    Apenas tenemos un par de relatos como los de Domingo Díaz, un sujeto reaccionario pero aun así revelador de muchas verdades doloras a todos. Los universitarios de entonces eran un puñado de hombres – ninguna mujer- pero no creo que todos hayan muerto en aquel mítico evento de 1814.

  6. For many years there was a divide in most public universities between the part that taught studies based on the natural sciences and the humanities where marxist influence was very strong in some if not in all of the humanities …. however that Marxist influence has waned a lot in the last two decades or so…….and currently the university is seen by the government as harbouring not allies but enemies which is the reason why its starved it of the funds it needs to operate and begun a policy of forming fake physicians outside its walls !!
    What is too easy to forget is what a poor and undeveloped country we have been well into the time in which Venezuelas oil income starting making a difference , University graduates have always been a tiny minority of Venezuelans with a limited influence in the halls of political power…!! But access to university studies has been a strong driver of change in our social and political make up after democracy got started , more and more people being given a chance of improving their lot by having access to a university education .
    What I discovered when meeting people who in their years as students had been ardent advocates of marxist views is that once they became professionals they ‘grew out’ of their youthful marxism and took to more balanced political views . Distinctly remember a physician of my acquiantance who still professed himself a man of the left until the govt started talking about regulating doctors fees at which time he became a rabid enemy of the regimes left wing policies…!!

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