In 1999, when Venezuela adopted its new constitution, it changed its official name to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in honor of its military genius, Simón Bolívar. Bolívar played a crucial role in the independence of Venezuela as well as Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. No wonder he is counted among the famous people of Latin America, and not just Venezuela. Speaking of the famous people from Venezuela, the list is considerably lengthy and has people from all walks of life gracing it.
Simón Bolívar (July 24, 1783 - December 17, 1830)
Simón Bolívar, also known as El Libertador, was a South American revolutionary, military leader, and politician. A larger-than-life figure in South America, Bolívar played an important role in liberating a large part of the continent from Spanish rule in the 19th century. It was Napoleon's Coronation that sparked the idea of revolution in young Bolívar's mind and eventually, he decided to join the Venezuelan revolution. After the initial failure in 1815, wherein his army was defeated and he was exiled to Jamaica, Bolívar came back strongly and orchestrated the end of Spanish rule in Latin America. Though he laid the foundation of Latin America, he just fell short of uniting all the countries in this region, primarily because of the prevailing political instability.
Hugo Chávez (July 28, 1954 - March 5, 2013)
That he was the President of Venezuela for 14 years speaks volumes about the popularity of Hugo Chávez. He founded the left-wing Fifth Republic Movement, which eventually merged with other political outfits to form the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (USPV). Other than his exceptional oratory skills, his reforms--as a part of the Bolivarian Revolution--played a crucial role in portraying him as a populist leader and the champion of the poor. Chávez was an ardent critic of the United States of America and neoliberalism and a firm advocate of Third World Solidarity. He was a staunch supporter of the Cuban socialist leader, Fidel Castro. Chávez was known as the modern-day Simón Bolívar in Venezuela, which is an interesting comparison in itself because like Bolívar, even he failed in his first attempted coup, when he tried to overthrow President Carlos Andrés Pérez in 1992.
Oscar D'León (July 11, 1943 - Present)
Oscar D'León, also known by his Spanish nickname El Sonero del Mundo (The Devil of Salsa), is a Venezuelan musician whose claim to fame was his salsa music. He was the founder of La Golden Star orchestra and a music group called Los Psicodélicos. In 1972, D'León formed La Dimension Latina along with musicians Jose Rodriguez, Cesar Monge, and Jose Antonio Rojas, which he eventually quit in 1976 to form La Salsa Mayor. Some of his famous works include Préstame Tu Piel, Deja Que Te Quiera, and Esperando Por Ella. Oscar D'León was the first Latino to have a contract with the BBC.
Rómulo Betancourt (February 22, 1908 - September 28, 1981)
In Latin America, where examples of governments coming to power by resorting to military force exist in plenty, a person vouching for democracy definitely deserves respect. Rómulo Betancourt was one such individual. He is often called The Father of Venezuelan Democracy or the Founding Father of modern democratic Venezuela. Betancourt didn't just vouch for democracy, but also went to the extent of reviewing diplomatic ties with those governments which came to power by resorting to military force. He served as the President of Venezuela for two terms: (i) From 1945 to 1948; and (ii) Again from 1959 to 1964. He was an international leader in the true sense of this term, and that made him popular outside Venezuela as well.
Luis Aparicio (April 29, 1934 - Present)
Luis Aparicio is a former professional baseball player, who played for teams like the Chicago White Sox, Baltimore Orioles, and Boston Red Sox. He made his Major League Baseball debut on April 17, 1956, playing for the Chicago White Sox, and went on to win the Rookie of the Year and The Sporting News Rookie of the Year. His 2583 games at shortstop was a record for that position until May 2008. In 1984, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, thus becoming the first South American to make it to the distinguished list. In 2006, a bronze statue honoring him was unveiled at the U.S. Cellular Field.
José Antonio Delgado Sucre (May 13, 1965 - July 22, 2006)
José Antonio Delgado Sucre was a renowned Venezuelan mountaineer who led the first Venezuelan expedition of Mt. Everest in 2001. He was the first person to summit five eight-thousanders--the Nanga Parbat, Everest, Gasherbrum II, Shishapangma, and Cho Oyu. He was the first Venezuelan to summit four of these five mountains; Mt. Everest being the only exception. Other than these mountaineering feats, Delgado also had the distinction of being the first person to paraglide from Pico Bolívar--the highest mountain in Venezuela. When he summited Aconcagua from the Puente del Inca in 34 hours, he became the fastest Venezuelan to do so. Delgado died in July 2006 when he was caught in a storm during the Nanga Parbat expedition of 2006.
Chico Carrasquel (January 23, 1928 - May 26, 2005)
Chico Carrasquel was a professional baseball player hailing from Venezuela who inspired a whole line of Venezuelan shortstops, including the likes of Luis Aparicio and Dave Concepción. He played for the Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Athletics, and the Baltimore Orioles. In 1951, he became the first Latin American in major league history to start in an All-Star Game. He went on to play three more All-Star games (1953, 1954, and 1955), and took his overall tally to an impressive four games. In 1991, the Puerto la Cruz baseball stadium was renamed as the Estadio Alfonso Chico Carrasquel in honor of this great baseball player.
Gustavo Cisneros (November 20, 1945 - Present)
Gustavo Cisneros is a Venezuelan media mogul who heads the Cisneros Group of Companies. He is considered the richest man in Venezuela, and also one of the richest in the world; the latter was acknowledged by the Forbes magazine in 2010. Cisneros owns Venevision International--the global television network which broadcasts Spanish content. A staunch advocate of the free market policy, Gustavo Cisneros is considered one of Latin America's bigwigs with good contacts around the world.
Carlos Raúl Villanueva (May 30, 1900 - August 16, 1975)
Venezuela owes much of its modernization to Carlos Raúl Villanueva--one of the most prominent architects of the 20th century, who played a crucial role in the modernization of several Venezuelan cities, including Caracas--the capital and largest city of the country. Villanueva is often considered the father of modern architecture in Venezuela and most influential architect in Latin America. Of his famous works, the University City of Caracas--the main Campus of the Central University of Venezuela--in particular stands out as it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2000.
Pedro León Zapata (February 27, 1929 - Present)
Pedro León Zapata is a cartoonist hailing from Venezuela who is famous for his cartoons and his spat with the former President, Hugo Chavez. Almost everyone in Venezuela is familiar with 'Zapatazos', Zapata's regular column in the popular Venezuelan newspaper, El Nacional. Zapata has been contributing for the newspaper for more than 50 years. He is also known as a playwright, actor, and musician. He has been honored with awards like the 'Premio Nacional de Periodismo' (1967) and the 'Premio Nacional de Artes Plásticas (1980). An ardent critic of Chavez's policies, Zapata never hesitated to take on politicos, which had even led to a public spat between him and Chavez in 2001.
These were some of the famous Venezuelans, who didn't just carve a niche for themselves, but also put Venezuela on the world map. It's difficult to say how Venezuela would have been had it not been for the likes of Bolívar, or Chavez for that matter, but one thing is for sure, it would have not been the same.