Maracaibo märäkī´bō [key], city (1990 pop. 1,249,670), capital of Zulia state, NW Venezuela, at the outlet of Lake Maracaibo. It is Venezuela's second largest city, a commercial and industrial center, and the oil capital of South America. Besides oil, exports include lumber, processed textiles, and soap. Maracaibo was founded in 1571. In the 17th cent., it was sacked five times, notably by Sir Henry Morgan in 1669. Until the establishment of the oil industry after 1918, Maracaibo was extremely underdeveloped; but exploitation by foreign interests of the vast petroleum resources of the Maracaibo basin resulted in a rapid expansion and modernization of the city. The dredging of the lake also increased Maracaibo's importance as a shipping point for inland products. The c.5-mi-long (8-km) Gen. Rafael Urdaneta Bridge is south of the city. Maracaibo has a university.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: South American Political Geography