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Home to quick-talking reggaeton-loving Maracuchos, disliked and mocked all over Venezuela for their abrupt manner and rude humour. Maracaibo is Venezuela’s second city, and the only major population that retains an anti-Chavez majority. By coincidence, the enormous lake Maracaibo is floating on most of the country’s oil reserves – it seems that Chavez’s pledge to redistribute oil wealth hasn’t gone down too well with the Maracuchos, who have enjoyed petroleum prosperity for decades now. However, the dream of an Independent Republic of Zulia is a long-standing delusion of Maracuchos who see themselves as separate from the rest of the country.

Visit Maracaibo and sail across the polluted lake, past the rusting hulks of old oil tankers and extraction machinery, over to one of the few remaining island villages where indigenous communities still reside.