In the ""Portraits of the Nations"" series, a fine, comprehensive overview of a leading Latin American country. As with other titles in the series, the general reader's lack of knowledge as to the details of Spanish colonial rule or the unique terrain of Venezuela is wisely taken into account. Geography, cultural life, and pre- and post-independence history are all presented clearly and intelligently. SimÃ³n BolÃvar's role in the formation of independent Venezuela is given its due, but the Great Liberator doesn't overshadow the country's important, if unstable, subsequent history. Boxed ""mini facts"" and brief discussions highlight elements of the main text: especially useful, intriguing topics include the African influence on Venezuelan culture, the importance of the chocolate tree in the country's colonial economy, the use of double surnames, and key political figures of the 20th century. Annotated bibliography; index and b&w maps and photos not seen.