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Cubagua, the smallest (10 sq. mi.) of the three Venezuelan islands that comprise the state of Nueva Esparta (New Sparta). Though deserted today, Cubagua enjoyed a brief, prosperous heyday in the early sixteenth century due to the pearl-rich oyster beds near its shores. The island group was discovered by Columbus during his third voyage and later visited by Alonso de Ojeda, who gathered numerous pearls near the islands of Margarita and Cubagua. In 1500 Ojeda founded a small colony on the island, the first Spanish settlement in Venezuelan territory. The oyster beds were not systematically exploited until 1519, when the Audiencia de Santo Domingo decided to use Indian slaves to dive for pearls. Cubagua grew rapidly. In 1526 it was incorporated as the Villa of Santiago and in 1528 became known as the city of Nueva Cádiz, which had a population of 1,000. Intensive exploitation quickly exhausted the oyster beds and, by the late 1830s, new and richer beds were being discovered elsewhere. By 1539, the island was abandoned and in 1541 it was destroyed by either a hurricane or a tidal wave.

See alsoColumbus, Christopherxml .


Cervigón, Fernando. Cubagua, 500 años. Caracas: Fundación Museo del Mar, 1997.

Gabaldón Márquez, Joaquín, ed. Descubrimiento y conquista de Venezuela: Textos históricos y documentos fundamentales (1962).

Gómez, Iván. Cubagua: Un llamado a la conciencia nacional. Carúpano, Venezuela: Abre Brecha, 1991.

López Bohórquez, Alí Enrique. Margarita y Cubagua en el paraíso de Colón. Mérida, Colombia: Rectorado de la Universidad de los Andes, 1997.

Otte, Enrique. Las perlas del Caribe: Nueva Cádiz de Cubagua (1977).

                                        InÉs Quintero