Maracaibo, second largest city in Venezuela, is a major seaport situated on the western bank of the channel between Lake Maracaibo, the largest, oldest lake in South America, and the Gulf of Venezuela. Maracaibo is the capital of the state of Zulia. Its population grew from less than 50,000 in 1915 to over an estimated 1.4 million in 2007. Settled first by Ambrosio Alfinger, it was officially founded in 1571 under the leadership of Alonso Pacheco Maldonando. The city has long served as a major port for western Venezuela and eastern Colombia, especially for the export of mountain-grown coffee. In 1667 the Dutch attacked Maracaibo, and in 1669 Henry Morgan captured it. During the twentieth century the city has flourished due to the discovery of oil in the region. Indeed, the largest oil fields in the country are found in the Lake Maracaibo basin, and they figure significantly in Venezuela's status as the world's fifth largest oil exporter. Throughout its history, Maracaibo has served as the center of numerous separatist movements. Its population includes descendants of German immigrants, who comprise a significant part of the city's merchants.
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Winthrop R. Wright