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.

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11 COMMENTS

  1. That mountain also has a leafy plant called pica-pica. And ants. And very narrow trails winding around pretty steep slopes that get very muddy and slippery when it rains. And you don’t want to get caught up there when the sun goes down, no, no. There’s a small bamboo forest on the hill the Humboldt sits atop that is really spooky in the daytime, and a horror show come alive in the d-a-r-k. There are a lot worse mountains and a lot worse jungles in the world, India has leeches and cobras and tigers, Brazil has worms and bushmasters and jaguars. Up in the Merida mountains it is really beautiful, ground water so clear you can’t see it, and so quiet you can clap two rocks together and hear five echoes off the valleys. Ten thousand years from now, who knows? We can wish for peace and beauty, can’t we? As T.S. Eliot said, “In the mountains, there you feel free.”

  2. Oh how I miss the majestic Avila. I hope to someday see her again but know that caracas probably won’t be a safe travel destination for the next couple of decades. Thank you for this wonderful piece.

  3. I went during MPJ, who built the Humboldt hotel. It was extremely funny for someone coming from Villa de Cura.

    The rest is history

    Poets are like pacifists. They think they’ll control a lion with verses

    Très jolie

  4. The painting angle might be deceiving. Prominently displayed is muddy and slippery (in the rainy season) “No te apures”… Definitely east of Parque del Este and La Carlota..closer to La Casona, towards La Urbina. Beautiful.

  5. El Avila is still a blessing for Caraquenos even though the increasing deteriorating personal safety situation has imposed serious restriction on some activities. Much of the original forest was converted into into coffee plantations, long since abandoned but in some spots there are still coffee plants such as above Unimet. Abandonment, poor farming practices, and brush fires converted forest and plantations into the savannas now dominated by Capim melao (Melinis minutiflora), a grass of African origin. There is a hint of the extinction of at least one butterfly species from the Caracas Valley. Theophile Raymond’s Mariposas de Venezuela (Corpoven in 1982) is based on a series of extraordinary paintings by a French amateur naturalist that arrived in Vzla in the early 19th century. There is one carefully crafted watercolor (amongst many) of a species of butterfly that has never been collected or at least does not presently exist in any public or private collection. Raymond’s collection is lost so this painting, within a plate with a series of Caracas Valley butterflies, could represent a recent extinction.

  6. Ummm…..they are going to build 6 mission buildings on this mountain….I know someone who lives in Mantalban…..and the residents are pissed…..the mission people are there and wont leave….police came to make the residents leave…….its old news really…..someone should do some research ……

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