Edgar Sanabria and El Ávila National Park

Edgar Sanabria is the President you never heard of. But his three month stint as care-taker in 1958 and 1959 did leave us one lasting legacy: National Park Status for El Ávila, the mountain flanking Caracas.

Image: Manuel Cabré

El Ávila National Park, our iconic mountain, has that name because, when founder of Caracas Diego de Losada distributed the lands in 1567, he granted the area surrounding the mountain to one of the members of the group that came with him from Barquisimeto to found the city.

It was Gabriel de Ávila and his family surely came from Ávila, the beautiful Spanish walled city. The mountain’s name has changed since, retaking the native name Waraira-Repano, but caraqueños keep calling it El Ávila. Two meanings are recorded by the words Waraira-Repano: “Land of tapirs” and “Great Range”; in any case, the name must’ve come from the Toromaymas, who were the inhabitants of the valley of Caracas at the time of the arrival of Francisco Fajardo, Juan Rodríguez Suárez and, lastly, Diego de Losada.

Edgar Sanabria was President of the Republic between November 14, 1958, and February 13, 1959. Wolfgang Larrazábal was a presidential candidate in the elections of December 7, 1958, which Rómulo Betancourt won. Sanabria was the Secretary of the Government Junta chaired by Larrazábal, so he was no stranger to the governmental matters of the time. In those three months in government, Sanabria increased the percentage that concessionaires had to pay the State for oil activity; he also decreed the universities’ autonomy and created El Ávila National Park.

On December 12, 1958, through Decree 473, Sanabria decided that the area that El Ávila comprises, with 81,900 hectares, would be designated as a National Park, so any sort of building within its boundaries was expressly forbidden. The mountain’s flora and fauna are peculiar, but among its many plants, none of them is as prevalent as the Molasses Grass (Melinis minuflora.) Among its birds, the Chachalaca is typical of the park, but in recent years, parrots and guacamayas have proliferated. You only need to be close to the mountain between 5:00 and 6:00 p.m. to see the flocks of parrots return to the park’s trees to sleep: a true show for caraqueños.

Our mountain is a true icon of the city, it has earned the respect and adoration of many, and its designation as a National Park helps us preserve it as the natural treasure it is.