The Araya Peninsula

The name 'Araya' comes from ARAI-A, which means in the language of the Waraos 'Above' or 'Over'. So, Araya could mean "the land which emerges from the waters."

It's capital, a city called by the same name, possesses a huge amount of salt (from the sea marshes around the place) which seasons the taste of the Venezuelans.

On the peninsula there is also a town called Manicuare -birthplace of the poet, Cruz María Salmerón Acosta: the man who got inspired by the blueness of the spring sky. He is the man who changed his life for one day of rain, because his people was dying of too much sun. He was the man who was a prisioner of anguish and pain, victim of an incureable sickness, which destroyed him early in his youth.

Araya fits into the political and territorial division of the State as Cruz María Salmerón Acosta municipality, with its capital the city of Araya.

By the end of the XVI-th century, the Dutch exploited these salt marshes around the place, and sold their product in the West Indies and in Europe. They took complete possession of these "salinas" and guarded the place, and its surroundings militarily to the extreme of blocking the way into the gulf of Cariaco.

In 1593, the Governor of Cumaná, Diego Suarez de Amaya, asks for help to the King of Spain so he can defend the Araya region from the Dutch who were by then eagerly stealing salt from the region and had the gulf under siege. In August of 1604 Spain signs a treaty of peace with England, which brought with it the determination to end, once and for all, the pireting of the salt, and the following year mobilizes part of The Spanish Armada towards Araya and it causes heavy defeat to the Dutch corsaires.

The the 15-th of January of 1622, in Madrid, the construction of a fortress on the peninsule was finally decreed, and Bautista Antonelli was ordered to undertake a study of the area for this purpose. On the 30 of November of 1622 the most important battle of the XVII-th Century of the New World was taking place. 43 Dutch ships attacked Araya with the objective to slow down the construction and take hold, once and for all, of the peninsule of Araya. They were finally defeated on the 13-th of January of 1623 by Governor Arroyo who takes the life of the Dutch commander.

Around the beginning of 1625 the first part of the fortress is completed, which was called Real Fuerza de Santiago de Arroyo de Araya (Santiago for the patron saint of Spain, Arroyo for the Governor's name, and Araya for the name of the place) Besides, it was the first and most important fortress of the Venezuelan porvinces. With the passing of years, the Spanish Crown became worried about the high cost of maintenance of the fortress. Around 1720 it had 246 persons and a yearly budget of 31.923 strong pesos; to which we have to add the serious structural damages which the 1684 earthquake caused. Later on the devastating hurricanes which inundated the "salinas"(salt marshes) in 1725 added to the already existing problems. All this made the Crown convinced of the uselessness of the fort, and decided its demolition, a task which the Governor José Diguja Villagómez carried out in 1762. The job was done with 45 quintals of gunpowder which cost 4.640 Pesos, four Reales and 17 Maravedies. In this way the Governor put an end to the 129 years old fortress: the sentinelle of the "Salinas".

On the other hand, the salt marshes kept on being exploited by private parties until 1872 when they were acquired by the Venezuelan State. These marshes have a characteristically purple color which changes constantly, since the sight depends on the angle of the sun and the depth of the water. In fact, in order to produce salt from there, the lagoon is flooded with salt water, and it slowly evaporates until the remaining salt can be recollected.

The economical activity of the Araya Peninsula maintains itself mainly from the recollection of salt from these lagoons, which generates an important number of jobs. Also from turism, fishing, and from cattle raising. Among its turistical attractions, we can mention the 200km beach areas, virgin inlets, and exotic places.