Arauca: A Colombian Department with History and Diversity

Arauca: A Colombian Department with History and Diversity

Arauca is one of the 32 departments that make up the Republic of Colombia. Its capital is the homonymous Arauca, located in the eastern part of the country, in the Orinoquia region. It borders Venezuela to the north and east, Vichada and Casanare to the south, and Boyacá to the west.

The name Arauca comes from either one of the indigenous ethnic groups that inhabited these regions, the Arawak or Arahuacos, or from the name of a plains bird called “Arauco”.

Before the Spanish conquest, Arauca was inhabited by various indigenous peoples, such as araucas, yaruros, chinatos, betoyes, giraras, tunebos, airicos, macaguanes, eles, lipas, guahíbos, achaguas, cuibas, chiricoas, lucalías, piapocos, maipures and cuilotos. In 1536, the conquerors Nicolás de Federman and Jorge de Espira arrived in Araucanian lands, crossing the eastern mountain range. In 1659, Jesuit missions advanced into the jungle in lands of the guahíbo, tunebo, airico and chiricoa tribes, where they founded new settlements. In the 18th century, the Jesuits were expelled and replaced by the Augustinian Recollects, who founded five catechetical centers: Soledad del Cravo, San Javier de Cuiloto, San José del Ele, San Joaquín de Lipa and San Fernando de Arauca.

The Comunero movement of 1781 was concentrated in Tame, which became a subversive group against Spanish rule with Fray Ignacio Mariño in 1812. Arauca was founded on December 4th of 1780 by Juan Isidro Daboín on the site of an indigenous hamlet called Guahibo. It was later declared a Republic under a revolutionary government on July 16th of 1816.

Arauca became a special police district in 1911 and a national province in 1955 . It was also known as the oil capital of Colombia since 1986 , when oil exploration began in its territory. In 1991, it became a department with its current political-administrative division.

Arauca has a total area of 23,818 km2 and a population of 308,301 inhabitants according to the 2023 census . It has a tropical savanna climate with an average temperature of 27°C and a rainfall of about 2,000 mm per year. It has a rich biodiversity of flora and fauna, as well as natural parks such as El Cocuy and Chingaza.

Arauca’s economy is based on agriculture (rice, corn, cassava), livestock (cattle), fishing (catfish), mining (oil), trade and tourism (cultural and ecological). It also has a diverse ethnic composition that includes indigenous peoples (guahíbo, tunebo), Afro-Colombians and mestizos.

Arauca is a department with a history of resistance and diversity that offers many attractions for visitors who want to discover its culture and nature.

Some of the main attractions of Arauca are:

  • The Arauca River: It is the natural border between Colombia and Venezuela, and it offers a scenic view of the plains and the mountains. It is also a place for fishing, boating and birdwatching.
  • The José Antonio Páez Bridge: It is the longest bridge in Colombia, with a length of 1.4 km. It connects the cities of Arauca and El Amparo in Venezuela. It was inaugurated in 1967 and it is a symbol of integration and cooperation between the two countries.
  • The Monument to Independence: It is located in front of the Arauca City Hall and it commemorates the declaration of the Republic of Arauca in 1816. It consists of a statue of a woman holding a torch and a flag, surrounded by four columns that represent the four provinces that formed the republic: Casanare, Boyacá, Santander and Arauca.
  • The Cultural House: It is a space for artistic and cultural expression, where visitors can enjoy exhibitions, concerts, workshops and festivals. It also houses a library, a museum and an auditorium.
  • The Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe: It is the main religious building in Arauca, built in 1965. It has a modern architecture with a circular shape and a dome. It has stained glass windows that depict scenes from the life of Jesus and Mary.

Arauca is a department that invites you to explore its history, culture and nature. Come and visit Arauca, you will not regret it!

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