After the establishment of an independent colony in the early 1800s, Caracas continued to grow through the 19th century at a modest rate as new settlers moved in from Europe, and traders discovered that the cocoa it produced was some of the finest around the Caribbean.
It was only in 1914 with the revelation of the presence of oil around the Maracaibo region and the surge in the international demand for oil that Caracas gained tremendous importance on a global scale. The economy shifted from a primarily agrarian one to one based on oil production and import. With all the money from importing oil, Caracas started to develop rapidly, attracting a large influx of rural immigrants every year. As a result, the city expanded considerably along its linear east-west axis.
As the economy boomed, Caracas became an international transit hub that connected Europe to South America. During the 1950s, Caracas started to undergo modernization parallel to other cities of the developing world. Corporate companies were set up, and new kinds of architecture began to emerge. Urban housing schemes for middle income workers were initiated, elite colonies were set up at advantageous localities, and the ever increasing number of rural settlers was forced to put up their own shantytowns in random locations all over the city. This was, however, looked into, and a regulated slum belt, the “rancho”, and other low income settlements, known as “barrios”, were restricted to the southwest and the west of the city, as most of the elite development occurred to the east.
The presence of oil also meant that locally manufactured gasoline was available at very cheap prices. This led to a rapid increase in the number of road vehicles and the development of supporting commuter infrastructure. Today, Caracas has a wide road network, but the large number of vehicles still renders it unsuitable for quick and efficient traveling.
Caracas today is one of the cities that pride their selves as contributors to the rich cultural history of Latin America. You can see remains of ancient architecture in the backdrop of new urban centers, a dense mix of ethnicities and languages, and a variety of intellectual, educational, and artistic expressions throughout the city.