Hugo Chavez wants to rename Angel Falls

Standing at a height of 3212 feet, Angel Falls is the tallest waterfall in the world. Located in southern Venezuela’s Canaima National Park, the falls are a UNESCO World Heritage site and are named for Jimmie Angel, an American pilot who first spotted them from the air back in 1933. He would later bring photos to the world of that astounding sight, making the falls famous across the globe. Now, however, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is looking to rename the falls, restoring their indigenous name.

Amongst the local Pemon people, Angel Falls is known as Kerepakupai-Meru, which means “waterfall of the deepest place” in their tribal language. On his weekly television show, Chavez, who has a contentious relationship with the United States, asked his countrymen how they felt about the falls being named after the American aviator, and then proposed the change after fumbling with the pronunciation a few times. The Venezuelan President went on to say that the landmark, which is one of his country’s biggest tourist attractions, had been seen by many indigenous people before Angel ever arrived on the scene. He concluded his declaration by saying “No-one should refer to Angel Falls any more.”The falls are fed by the Kerep River, which plunges over the side of the Auyan-tepui. The drop is so massive, that strong mountain winds actually atomize the water before it reaches the ground, turning into a fine mist. That mist does reform at the bottom however and continues the flow of the Kerep, which eventually empties into the Churun River further down stream.

Despite the fact that the falls are a major draw for tourists, there are few resources available to make it an easy place to visit. Going to the falls requires a flight to Canaima camp, where visitors can board small wooden boats during the rainy season, and approach the falls from below. Those that make the trip, are treated to quite the natural wonder.

The current name for that natural wonder is now open to debate.