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Zulia (state)

For other uses, see Zulia (disambiguation).
Zulia State
Estado Zulia

Coat of arms
Anthem: Zulia State Anthem

Coordinates: 9°50′N 72°15′W / 9.84°N 72.25°W / 9.84; -72.25Coordinates: 9°50′N 72°15′W / 9.84°N 72.25°W / 9.84; -72.25

Country  Venezuela
Created 1864
Capital Maracaibo
 • Governor Francisco Arias Cárdenas (2012–present)
 • Total 63,100 km2 (24,400 sq mi)
Area rank 5th
  6.92% of Venezuela
Population (2011)
 • Total 3,704,404
 • Rank 1st
 • Density 59/km2 (150/sq mi)
  13.25% of Venezuela
Time zone UTC-04:30
ISO 3166 code VE-V
Emblematic tree Coconut (Cocos nucifera)

Zulia (Spanish: Estado Zulia, IPA: [esˈtaðo ˈsulja]) is one of the 23 states of Venezuela. The state capital is Maracaibo. As of June 30, 2010, it had an estimated population of 3,821,068, the largest population among Venezuela's states. It is also one of the few (if not the only) states in Venezuela where voseo is widely used.

Zulia State is located in the northwest of Venezuela, around Maracaibo Lake. This lake is the largest body of water of its kind in Latin America and its basin covers one of the largest oil and gas reserves in the Western Hemisphere.

Zulia is economically important to the country due to its oil and mineral exploitation, but it is also one of the major agricultural areas of Venezuela, highlighting the region's contribution in areas such as livestock, bananas, fruits, meat and milk, among others.


Lake Maracaibo, the largest lake in South America, lies within Zulia. The Lake Maracaibo Basin covers the largest oil and gas reserves in the Western Hemisphere. A long and mostly uninhabited border separates Venezuela from Colombia to the north and west, from the Guajira Peninsula to the Perijá Mountains. Venezuela's Andean states of Táchira, Mérida and Trujillo border Zulia State at the southern end of Lake Maracaibo and finally the states of Lara and Falcón complete the boundaries of Zulia.

The name Venezuela comes from the lake. When Spanish conquistadors sailed into the area, they found the indigenous peoples living in communities of huts supported by stilts along the shores of the lake. They were reminded of Venice, and named the place "Little Venice" or Venezuela.[1] The lake has a number of islands, some of which are populated.

Near the mouth of the Catatumbo River, where it empties into Lake Maracaibo, is the famous Catatumbo lightning (Relámpago del Catatumbo)[2] which is represented on the state's flag and coat of arms by lightning bolts.


There are several competing theories about the origin of the state's name. One is that Guaimaral, son of the cacique Mara, was on pilgrimage in the Pamplona region, where he fell in love with the beautiful Zulia, but she was killed in a battle against the conquerors. Gaimaral sadly returned to his father's domains, naming rivers, towns and regions for his lost love. Although there is little historical proof, this is the most popular theory.

Alternatively, it had been said that the state was named after the Zulia River, known in Colombia as Batatas, which leads into the Catatumbo River. Another story says that both names, river and state, came from the princess Zulia, daughter of a famous cacique Cinera. He was an important leader of a tribal federation located in what is now Colombia's Norte de Santander Department, and the princess Zulia was well known for her physical and moral qualities, formidable temper, and bravery.


Zulia was first seen by Europeans in 1499 during an expedition commanded by Alonso de Ojeda. During the Spanish colonial period, its lands were part of the Venezuela Province until 1676, when its lands were added to the Province of Mérida del Espiritu Santo de la Grita,[3] becoming the province Espiritu Santo de Maracaibo, or Maracaibo Province.[4] In 1789, this province covered the territory of the current Venezuelan states of Zulia, Apure, Barinas, Táchira, Mérida and Trujillo. In 1810, Mérida and Trujillo separated. The Zulia Province declared independence from Spain on January 28, 1821. During the Gran Colombia period in 1824, it received the name of "Zulia Department", honoring the Zulia River. With the dissolution of Gran Colombia in 1830, it was named Maracaibo Province, and was one of the 11 provinces of Venezuela during this period.

Venezuela's federal constitution, April 22, 1864, changed the denomination of "province" to "state", creating the State of Maracaibo on the same territory as the province. At the end of the same year, the state's legislation determined to change the name to the Sovereign State of Zulia but this lasted only a few months.[5] In 1874, its name again became Zulia State. Federal government orders in 1881 created the combined Falcón Zulia state. Its autonomous state status continued until April 1, 1890, when congress legislated the separation of the Falcon-Zulia State. It suffered further territorial changes towards the end of the 19th century, until the current delimitation in 1899 was finally drawn. Since that time the name has remained Estado Zulia.


In the northern sector a semi-arid climate prevails, with an irregular pluviometric regime. The annual medial precipitation registered in Maracaibo city is between 358 and 666 mm (14.1 and 26.2 in), with a median temperature of 28 °C (82 °F). The precipitation rates increase in the western and eastern regions of Lake Maracaibo, forming a tropical rain forest savanna climate, with annual average temperatures from 27°C to 28°C, and rainfall exceeding 1,000 mm (39 in) registered in Mene Grande. In the southern lake region, increased rainfall conforms to a tropical rain forest climate with an annual average precipitation of 2,556 mm, and surpassing 3,500 mm per year in the heights of Serrania de Perija.[6]

Municipalities and municipal seats

Zulia is divided into 21 municipalities (municipios):

Municipality Area in
2011 Census
1. Almirante Padilla 151 11,929 El Toro
2. Baralt 2,211 89,847 San Timoteo
3. Cabimas 655 263,056 Cabimas
4. Catatumbo 5,225 40,702 Encontrados
5. Colón 3,368 128,729 San Carlos del Zulia
6. Francisco Javier Pulgar 800 33,942 Pueblo Nuevo El Chivo
7. Guajira 2,370 65,545 Sinamaica
8. Jesús Enrique Lossada 3,533 118,756 La Concepción
9. Jesús María Semprún 6,003 30,484 Casigua el Cubo
10. La Cañada de Urdaneta 2,073 82,210 Concepción
11. Lagunillas 1,024 203,435 Ciudad Ojeda
12. Machiques de Perijá 9,493 122,734 Machiques
13. Mara 3,588 207,221 San Rafael del Moján
14. Maracaibo 419 1,459,448 Maracaibo
15. Miranda 2,255 97,463 Los Puertos de Altagracia
16. Rosario de Perijá 3,914 85,006 La Villa del Rosario
17. San Francisco 185 446,757 San Francisco
18. Santa Rita 578 59,866 Santa Rita
19. Simón Bolívar 219 43,831 Tía Juana
20. Sucre 874 60,819 Bobures
21. Valmore Rodríguez 1,292 52,624 Bachaquero


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