A little bit of History

In 1498, Christopher Columbus disembarked at the Peninsula de Paria in mainland Venezuela, and the Spaniards saw how the natives of the region adorned themselves with pearls. A year later, pearl- producing oyster banks were discovered in what is known today as Nueva Esparta State, and at the end of 1500 the first Spanish city in South America was founded on Cubagua Island: Nueva Cadiz.

Today, Cubagua is uninhabited. There is only one small rural town and some fishermen's hovels. The stones from the ruins of the city are sometimes used by fishermen to decorate their houses.

Cubagua Island VenezuelaCubagua Island

In the past, the natives had to dive in order to search for pearls. The abuse and greed of the Spaniards killed off the entire native population of the area. In 1528, pearl was also discovered on Coche Island and so, as the production of pearl was decreasing on Cubagua, its inhabitants moved to Cumana and Margarita.

In December 1541, a seaquake completely destroyed the city of Nueva Cadiz and it has remained uninhabited since 1548.

Santa Rosa fortressYou can see the archeological remains of the city in the Museo Nueva Cadiz near Plaza de la Asuncion, and the Museo Marino in Macanao has an entire room dedicated to the production of pearls, and to Cubagua Island.

There are two different stories about the origin of the name of Margarita Island. The first one claims that the name comes from the Greek word for pearl, while the second says that the island was named after Princess Margaret of Austria.

Margarita, just like any other Caribbean Island, has been the target of many attacks by pirates throughout its history. It was stormed by pirates fourteen times in total, hence the existence of several fortresses around the island. Nowadays, you can visit several of these fortresses: Fortin de La Galera in Juand Griego, Castillo de Santa Rosa in La Asuncion, and Castillo de San Carlos Borromeo in Pampatar.

La AsuncionNueva Esparta played a crucial role during the Venezuelan War of Independence against the Spanish crown, and the state was named in honor of their heroism, which was compared to that of the brave warriors and soldiers of Esparta (Sparta) in Ancient Greece. In 1815, Juan Bautista Arismendi commanded a revolt against the Spaniards. In retaliation they captured his wife, Luisa Caceres de Arismendi, aged 16, and she was imprisoned in several fortresses around the island. She gave birth to a child who died through being in captivity. Subsequently, Luis Caceres de Arismendi was sent to Spain. Years later, she returned to Venezuela, and died an old woman.

After the War of Independence, Margarita continued as a quiet and peaceful fishing island until it was declared a duty-free port in the 1970s.

Taken from: Bauman and Young; Guia de Venezuela, Armitano Editores 1986 Caracas Venezuela