Margarita Island is the largest island in the Venezuelan state of Nueva Esparta, situated off the northeastern coast of the country, in the Caribbean Sea. The capital city of Nueva Esparta, La Asunción, is located on the island. Primary industries are tourism, fishing and construction.
Christopher Columbus became the first European to arrive on Margarita Island in 1498. The local natives were the Guaiqueries people. The coast of the island was abundant in pearls,which represented almost a third of all New World tribute to the Spanish Crown. Margarita Island was fortified against the increasing threat of pirate attacks, and some fortifications remain today. In 1561, the island was seized by Lope de Aguirre, a notoriously violent and rebellious conquistador. Around 1675 the island was captured again, this time by Red Legs Greaves, a pirate known for his humanity and morality. He captured a fleet of Spanish ships off port, before turning the guns on the forts which he stormed and claimed a large booty of pearls and gold.
The island gained independence from the Spanish in 1814 after the collapse of the First Republic of Venezuela. It became the first permanently free territory in Venezuela. In the same year, Luisa Cáceres de Arismendi was detained for over three years in a dungeon of the Fortress of Santa Rosa on the island in an attempt to put pressure on her husband Juan Bautista Arismendi, who was fighting for independence. Simón Bolívar was confirmed as Commander in Chief of the Venezuelan Republic on the island in 1816. From there he started a nine-year campaign to free Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia from the Spanish Crown.
Located in the Caribbean Sea between latitudes 10°52'N and 11°11'N and longitudes 63°48'W and 64°23'W, the island, along with the islands of Coche and Cubagua, comprises the state of Nueva Esparta. The island is split into two peninsulas joined by an 18 kilometres (11 mi) long isthmus and covers an area of 1,020 km². It is 78 kilometres (48 mi) long and measures roughly 20 kilometres (12 mi) at its widest. The climate is sunny and dry with average temperatures ranging from 24 to 37°C.
Most of the island's 420,000 residents live in the more developed eastern part of the island, which includes the large cities of Porlamar and Pampatar along with the state capital of La Asunción. The island can be reached by direct flights from Caracas, scheduled or chartered flights from a number of North American and European cities or ferries from Puerto La Cruz, Cumaná, and La Guaira.
The Macanao peninsula to the west has a central mountain range in the east-west direction. The highest altitude is 760 metres (2,493 ft) at Pico de Macanao. Several smaller ranges derive from this axis following a north-south orientation with deep valleys between them. The most notable of these valleys is San Francisco in the north-central part of the peninsula. The Paraguachoa peninsula to the East is formed by a mountain range in the north-south direction from Porlamar to Cabo Negro. The highest peaks are San Juan or Cerro Grande at 920 metres (3,018 ft) and El Copey 890 metres (2,920 ft). The peninsulas are connected by the La Restinga isthmus, on which the La Restinga lagoon is located. There are also two breast shaped hills known as Tetas de Maria Guevara on the isthmus.