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City of "La Guaira"

Date of Submission: 03/06/1999
Criteria: (ii)(iii)(iv)(v)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Instituto del patrimonio Cultural
Coordinates: Located in the Vargas municipality of the Federal District, 20 km from Caracas.
Ref.: 1306

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La Guaira was established as Venezuela 's main port in 1589. It was originally created as a protection for the capital and an important harbour. Because of these activities, a road was built between Caracas and it's port known as "El Camino de los Espanoles". This road would become of a strategic and economic value throughout the years. There is no real foundation of the city, but the settings of warehouses and cellars on the bankside of the river would finally lead to the construction of residential areas. La Guaira has been the capital's main port since before 1580. It was where merchant ships arrived bringing goods to Caracas. Its urban structure was slowly defined throughout the XVII century. It obtains its fortified aspect in defence of pirates and privateers at the end of the XVIII century. The topography where La Guaira is situated (a thin piece of land between the mountains and the sea) was the less indicated to apply the usual colonial urban layout. This doesn't mean that the city's structure was accidental. The city centre of La Guaira is historically and morphologically related with the port activities. The urban pattern is dense and homogeneous, where low-rise and traditional buildings are organised around “patios" or internal gardens. Along with the city planning, urban guidelines defined two parallel roads east west, which repeat the urban criterion seen since the creation of mercantile cities in Europe in the Middle Ages. The design is based on an urban centre situated around the main streets (longitudinally) and other secondary streets for transversal communication. The most important public and religious buildings conditioned the location of the urban squares. La Guaira’s urban tissue has been conserved until today. The 1812 earthquake affected the city and some of the houses were rebuilt in an architectural typology similar to the colonial. It has also lost many of its representative monuments throughout it's historical evolution. Many of the fortresses disappeared during the harbour's communication expansion. What's left of the city's urban structure is separate from any possible future development. The examples of the XIX century colonial civil architecture cannot be analysed separately in La Guaira. The city itself is its architecture. If the buildings are observed separately, it is difficult to find architectural values, but they are essential to complete the whole perception. The house's distributive and formal typology is practically the same, although the dimensions determine a hierarchy between the bigger ones in the lower part of the city and the smaller ones in the upper part. Some of these were conceived as residential on both floors and others as commercial on the lower floors and residential on the higher ones. Although it is in Puerto Cabello where the most interesting examples are found, there are still some of them here. There is a compound of important buildings and spaces of heritage value in La Guaira, some of them are: La Guaira’s San Pedro Apostle cathedral (National Heritage) El Carmen hermitage (National Heritage) Guipuzcoana Company bailding (National Heritage) House of the painter Emilio Boggio (National Heritage) Fort of El Vigia (National Heritage) Castle of San Carlos (National Heritage) Fort of San Agustin (National Heritage) Fort Mapunte (National Heritage) The fortresses on the Camino de los Españoles (National Heritage): Fort El Salto (National Heritage) Castle of San Joaqufn de la Cumbre (National Heritage) Castle Blanco (National Heritage) Castle Negro (National Heritage) The Tower of the castle Negro (National Heritage) Fort of La Cuchilla (National Heritage) The Boulton home. The La Guaira walls. Fort El Colorado. Fort Gavilan. Fort Palomo.