Present-day Venezuela was inhabited by hunter-gatherers from at least 3000 BC. The Arawaks and Carib lived mainly in the north and around the Orinoco river system. Christopher Columbus landed at Macuro with three Spanish ships on 5 Aug. 1498. A year later the area was explored by Alonso de Ojeda and Amerigo Vespucci. They named it Venezuela (Little Venice) after the indigenous villages built on stilts over water. Spanish settlements were established on the Caribbean coast from the early 16th century and ruled from Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic). Santiago de León de Caracas, founded in 1567, became the seat of the government of the province of Venezuela in 1578. Cocoa plantations developed slowly and much of the forested interior remained unexplored.
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