Sighted by Columbus August 15, 1498, on his third expedition to the Americas, to the island of Margarita was awarded by the name of La Asunción, by matching the sighting with the religious festivity of the
eponymous Virgin, and was subsequently named “La Margarita” allegedly by the large amount of pearls that could be found there, though other hypotheses say that he was named so in honor to the Infanta Margarita of Austria related
to the Spanish Royal family. However, the term Warao with which designated it the Aboriginal inhabitants of Venezuela was Paraguachoa, translated sometimes as “abundance of fish” or “people of the sea”. With the passing of
the years, this island would become the biggest pearl extraction of the American continent.
It was first inhabitants to the aborigines of the ethnic Waikerí (related to the Warao, Arawaks and Caribs Cumanagotos). This tribe was made up of fishermen marine and brave matadors, of slender body and cinnamon skin in general, and although peaceful, they defended their island with bravery and passion for his great physical strength. They sailed in a kind of boats called pirogues, and had as essential approaches subsistence fishing, holding Pearl and shell of sea for the manufacture of handicrafts, exchange of goods (barter), and on a smaller scale also developed agriculture on fertile valleys of Margarita.
During the Spanish rule the island suffered continuous attacks by pirates, this was a fundamental point of access to the Venezuelan Eastern territory, due to which its inhabitants took determined to build fortifications for their protection. That is why today it can be found in Margarita a large number of
this type of construction, among which we can mention the pillboxes of Juan Griego, La Asunción, Santa Ana and Pampatar, whose walls evoke the seditious time of the battles for the independence of Venezuela. Margarita
Island played a historic role in the process of the Venezuelan emancipation, commanded by Simón Bolívar between 1810 and 1821. The indigenous peoples of this insular region actively participated in the independence historical facts, helping to consolidate the new Republic. Among the illustrious sons of these lands are several heroes of liberating feats such as Juan Bautista Arismendi, Santiago Mariño, Manuel Maneiro, Francisco Esteban Gómez. The most important among several races that were fought in the region took place July 31, 1.817, and was the battle of Matasiete, in which, despite having a small army of only 400 fighters Margarita formed by armed soldiers and also by men and women of all ages equipped with home-made weapons and high patriotic spirit and desire for freedom, was the defeat of highly trained 3,400 soldiers under the command of the Spanish General Pablo Morillo, marking a major victory for the country’s independence from Margarita Island. Some historians point out that the name of the State of Nueva Esparta, composed of the islands of Margarita, Coche and Cubagua, comes from this contest, since it recalls the battle of Thermopylae of the brave Spartan soldiers against the Persian army in the ancient Greece.
Meanwhile, Cubagua island had at the same time a remarkable historical role, since it settled at the beginning of the 16th century European camp that was chasing the Pearl exploitation, which further ahead renamed Villa de Santiago and finally in 1521, melts in place the city’s Nueva Cadiz of Cubagua, as the first Spanish settlement in South America, capital, political and economic importance to the region. This first-born Venezuelan city had a town hall and houses and stone streets well organized. Since there were exported to Europe pearls that Aboriginal Waikerí drew the oyster beds. In 1541 Cubagua was hit by a hurricane, severe earthquakes and tsunami that damaged their buildings.
Immediately afterwards, corsairs of French origin inflamed what still was raised there in 1543. The survivors moved to Margarita and Coche. Almost 50 years of subsistence remained secret under sand and sea until 1952, date in which archaeological expeditions exhumed part of this one once prosperous city.Among the milestones of the recent history of the State New Sparta it is necessary to stand out the year 1974, in which there was decreed by the national government the special Regime of Free Port on the islands of Margarita and Coche (considered duty-free zone for decree from 1967), in order to promote the commercial exchange and the industrial, tourist and socio-economic development of the region.