Mérida, Mérida

Santiago de los Caballeros de Mérida
Flag of Santiago de los Caballeros de Mérida
Official seal of Santiago de los Caballeros de Mérida
Ciudad de los Caballeros
(City of Gentlemen)
Non potest civitas abscondi
supra montem posita
(A city on a hill cannot be hidden
Matthew 5:14
Sur de Mérida (Venezuela).JPG
Plaza Bolívar de la Ciudad de Mérida.jpg
Teleferico Arribando Estacion barinitas.JPG
Transición urbana. Mérida..jpg
Santiago de los Caballeros de Mérida is located in Venezuela
Santiago de los Caballeros de Mérida
Santiago de los Caballeros de Mérida
Coordinates: 8°36′N 71°9′W / 8°36′N 71°9′W / 8.600; -71.150UTC−4:30 (not observed)
Postal code
Area code(s)274

Mérida, officially known as Santiago de los Caballeros de Mérida, is the capital of the municipality of Libertador and the state of Mérida, and is one of the main cities of the Venezuelan Andes. It was founded in 1558 by Captain Juan Rodríguez Suárez, forming part of Nueva Granada, but later became part of the Captaincy General of Venezuela and played an active role in the War of Independence.

The capital city's population is 204,879 inhabitants, and the metropolitan area, that includes the municipality of Libertador, reaches 345,489 people (Census 2001). The city accounts for 28% of the total population of Mérida State, which has more than 750,000 inhabitants (Census 2001). It is home to the University of Los Andes and the Archdiocese of Mérida. It also has the highest and longest cable car in the world. It is the largest student and tourist center of western Venezuela. The mass transit system (Trolebús Mérida) is available as a means of tourist transport.

This city sits on a plateau nestled in the valley of the Chama River, which runs from end to end. The town of Mérida is located at an altitude of 1,600 metres (5,200 feet). As background on the horizon rises the country's highest summit: the Pico Bolívar with an altitude of 4,981 metres (16,342 feet).


The city of Mérida in 1899.

Mérida was founded by Juan Rodríguez Suárez on October 9, 1558 in one of the Pamplonian mining expeditions he led. The first settlement of Mérida was not the current one but 30 kilometres (19 miles) to the south, in Xamú, where today stands Lagunillas. Nevertheless, in November 1559, Juan de Maldonado moved the settlement to nearby El Punto (presently the Zumba area), because of constant confrontations with the native neighbours.[1]

Rodríguez Suárez's foundation had not been authorized by the New Granadian Authorities, so in 1560 they sent Juan de Maldonado to arrest Juan Rodríguez and regularize the new city. On June 24 Maldonado moved Mérida to its present location on the plateau and rechristened it as Santiago de los Caballeros. The city then came to be governed by the corregimiento of Tunja until 1607, when it became itself a corregimiento of the Audiencia of Santa Fe.[1]

In 1622, Mérida became the capital of the Governorate of Mérida, whose chief official established his residence there. The city and territory were part of New Granada until 1777, when it was integrated into the Captaincy of Venezuela.

The city was elevated to the status of an episcopal see in 1785. This led to the creation of a seminary, which in 1811 became the University of the Andes.


Mérida, the highland and student town of Venezuela
The Mérida cable car is the highest and largest cable car in the world

The city was named after the founder Juan Rodríguez Suárez, who called so in honor of his hometown of Mérida in Extremadura, Spain.

However, Juan de Maldonado renamed it as San Juan de las Nieves. In 1559 the name changed again, opting this time for Santiago de los Caballeros. Gradually, it was adopting the name of Santiago de los Caballeros de Mérida, combining the variants that had been appointed to the city until then.

The word Mérida comes from the Latin "emérita", from Emeritus, one who has merit, which also references to veteran Roman soldiers who were discharged from the army after completion of their mandatory service commitment. Another feature common to both the Spanish and the Venezuelan Méridas is that in both cities, there is a tributary of the main river with the name Albarregas.