The People

Currently estimated at 22 million and increasing at a rate of over 2.5% per year, Venezuela's population is the fastest growing in South America. Half the population is under the age of eighteen. The vast majority of Venezuelans lives in urban areas, and Caracas is home to about 20% of the population. Population density varies according to region. While cities of the central coastal region have a high concentration of people, areas such as Los Llanos, the Amazon and Guyana are inhabited by very few. Owing to the constant migration of people from country to city, this distribution seems likely to continue.

Venezuela has a mixed ancestry. About 67% of the population are of Mulatto-Mestizo descent, with the remainder made up of Whites (21%), Africans (10%), and Indians (2%). Nowadays, many immigrants also reside in the country, coming above all from Colombia. The most commonly practiced religion is Roman Catholicism, though Protestantism is growing in importance. Practising Muslims and Jews are relatively uncommon.

There are 31 indigenous Indian groups in Venezuela, including the Piaroa, Guajibo and Yanomami in the Amazon, the Guajiro, Yukpa and Bari in the northwest, the Warao in the Orinoco Delta and the Pemon on the Guyana border. While some, such as the Pemon are becoming more accessible to outsiders, others, such as the Yanomami, are secluded and remain detached from the outside world. The communities vary in size. The largest is the Guajiro, with some 50,000 members, followed by the Warao with 20,000 and the Pemon with 6,000. All have individual languages, most of which have evolved from three root tongues: Caribe, Araguaco and Chibcha. Some tribes speak independent languages, of which the better-known are those of the Warao and Yanomami tribes.

Nowadays, land developers and gold diggers from Brazil are becoming a serious threat to the existence of certain tribes, especially the Yanomami. Various organizations, for example CONIVE (The National Indian Council of Venezuela) act to preserve the land and culture of the Indian people.

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