Bolívar, El Libertador.
Born July 24, 1783
Died December 17, 1830
Santa Marta, Colombia
José Antonio de la Santísima Trinidad Bolívar Palacios
y Blanco (born July 24, 1783 in Caracas, Venezuela; died December 17,
1830 in Santa Marta, Colombia) was a South American revolutionary leader.
Credited with leading
the fight for independence in what are now the countries of Venezuela,
Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Panama and Bolivia, he is revered as a hero
in these countries and throughout much of the rest of Latin America.
He was born in Caracas,
Venezuela. In 1802, he married María Teresa Rodríguez
del Toro y Alaysa who died of yellow fever less than a year later, and
he never remarried.
Bolivar is known
as "El Libertador", The Liberator.
aristocratic bloodline derives from Puebla de Bolíbar (also Bolívar
or Bolívar, today part of the municipality of Ziortza-Bolibar),
a small village in the Basque county of Biscay (Spain), and is the origin
of their surname. A portion of their wealth by the 1600s came from the
Aroa River gold and copper mines in Venezuela.
By the 1500s, vague
information about existence of gold was rumored around the rivers Yaracuy,
Santa Cruz, and Aroa. In 1605, more precise locations of ores became
known, particularly in a small valley lateral to the Aroa River next
to La Quebrada de Las Minas.
In 1632, gold was
first mined, leading to further discoveries of extensive copper deposits.
Towards the later 1600s, copper was exploited with the name "Cobre
Caracas". These mines became property of Simón Bolívar's
Later in his revolutionary
life, Bolivar used part of the mineral income to finance the South American
revolutionary wars. Some people claim that their family grew to prominence
before gaining great wealth. For example, the Cathedral of Caracas,
founded in 1575, has a side chapel dedicated to Simón Bolívar's
In this context,
Simón Bolívar was born in Caracas, in modern-day Venezuela,
into an aristocratic family, and educated by different tutors after
his parents died. Among his tutors was Simón Rodríguez,
whose ideas and educational style heavily influenced the young man.
Following the death
of his parents, he went to Spain in 1799 to complete his education.
There he married María Teresa Rodríguez del Toro y Alaysa
in 1802, but on a brief return visit to Venezuela in 1803, she succumbed
to yellow fever. Bolívar returned to Europe in 1804 and for a
time was part of Napoleon's retinue.
Statue of Simón
Bolívar in Belgrave Square, LondonBolívar returned to
Venezuela in 1807 and, when Napoleon made Joseph Bonaparte King of Spain
and its colonies in 1808, he participated in the resistance juntas in
South America. The Caracas junta declared its independence in 1810,
and Bolívar was sent to England on a diplomatic mission.
to Venezuela in 1811. But in July 1812, junta leader Francisco de Miranda
surrendered, and Bolívar had to flee to Cartagena de Indias.
In this period, Bolívar wrote his Manifiesto de Cartagena.
In 1813, after acquiring
a military command in New Granada under the direction of the Congress
of Tunja, he led the invasion of Venezuela on May 14. This was the beginning
of the famous Campaña Admirable, the Admirable Campaign. He entered
Mérida on May 23, where he was proclaimed as El Libertador (the
liberator from the Spanish army), following the occupation of Trujillo
on June 9. Six days later, on June 15, dictated his famous Decree of
War to the Death (Decreto de Guerra a Muerte). Caracas was retaken on
August 6, 1813, and Bolívar was ratified as "El Libertador",
thus proclaiming the Venezuelan Second Republic. Due to the rebellion
of José Tomás Boves in 1814 and the fall of the republic,
he returned to New Granada, where he then commanded a Colombian nationalist
force and entered Bogotá in 1814, recapturing the city from the
dissenting republican forces of Cundinamarca. He intended to march into
Cartagena and enlist the aid of local forces in order to capture Royalist
Santa Marta. However, after a number of political and military disputes
with the government of Cartagena, Bolívar fled in 1815 to Jamaica,
where he requested the Haitian leader Alexandre Pétion for aid.
In 1816, with Haitian
help (given because he promised to free slaves), Bolívar landed
in Venezuela and captured Angostura (now Ciudad Bolívar).
A victory at the
Battle of Boyacá in 1819 added New Granada to the territories
free from Spanish control, and in September 7, 1821 the Gran Colombia
(a federation covering much of modern Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, and
Ecuador) was created, with Bolívar as president and Francisco
de Paula Santander as vice president.
at the Carabobo in 1821 and Pichincha in 1822 consolidated his rule
over Venezuela and Ecuador respectively. After a meeting in Guayaquil
on July 26 and 27 1822 with Argentine General José de San Martín,
who had received the title of Protector of Peruvian Freedom in August
1821 after having partially liberated Peru from the Spanish, Bolívar
took over the task of fully liberating Peru. The Peruvian congress named
him dictator of Peru on February 10, 1824, which allowed Bolívar
to completely reorganize the political and military administration.
Bolívar, assisted by Antonio José de Sucre, decisively
defeated the Spanish cavalry on August 6 1824 at Junín. Sucre
destroyed the still numerically superior remnants of the Spanish forces
at Ayacucho on December 9.
On August 6, 1825,
at the Congress of Upper Peru, the Republic of Bolivia was created in
honour of Bolívar, who drafted a new constitution for the new
nation. This constitution reflected the influence of the French and
Scottish Enlightenment on Bolívar's political thought, as well
as that of classical Greek and Roman authors.
had great difficulties maintaining control of the vast Gran Colombia.
During 1826, internal divisions had sparked dissent throughout the nation
and regional uprisings erupted in Venezuela, thus the fragile South
American coalition appeared to be on the verge of collapse.
An amnesty was declared
and an arrangement was reached with the Venezuelan rebels, but political
dissent in New Granada grew as a consequence of this. In an attempt
to keep the federation together as a single entity, Bolívar called
for a constitutional convention at Ocaña during April 1828.
He had seen his
dream of eventually creating an American Revolution-style federation
between all the newly independent republics, with a government ideally
set-up solely to recognize and uphold individual rights, succumb to
the pressures of particular interests throughout the region, which rejected
that model and allegedly had little or no allegiance to classical liberal
For this reason,
and to prevent a break-up, Bolivar wanted to implement in Gran Colombia
a more centralist model of government, including some or all of the
elements of the Bolivian constitution he had written (which included
a lifetime presidency with the ability to select a successor, though
this was theoretically held in check by an intricate system of balances).
This move was considered
controversial and was one of the reasons why the deliberations met with
strong opposition. The convention almost ended up drafting a document
which would have implemented a radically federalist form of government
which would have greatly reduced the powers of the central administration.
Unhappy with what
would be the ensuing result, Bolívar's delegates left the convention.
After the failure of the convention due to grave political differences,
Bolívar proclaimed himself dictator on August 27, 1828 through
the "Organic Decree of Dictatorship".
He considered this
as a temporary measure, as a means to reestablish his authority and
save the republic, though it increased dissatisfaction and anger among
his political opponents. An assassination attempt in September 1828
Although he emerged
physically intact, this nevertheless greatly affected Bolívar.
Dissident feelings continued, and uprisings occurred in New Granada,
Venezuela and Ecuador during the next two years.
Memorial Monument, near Santa Marta, ColombiaBolívar finally
resigned his presidency on April 27, 1830, intending to leave the country
for exile in Europe, possibly in France. He had already sent several
crates (containing his belonging and his writings) ahead of him to Europe.
He died before setting
sail, after a painful battle with tuberculosis on December 17, 1830,
in "La Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino", in Santa Marta, Colombia.
His remains were
moved from Santa Marta to Caracas in 1842, where a monument was set
up for his burial. The 'Quinta' near Santa Marta has been preserved
as a museum with numerous references to his life.
of Bolivar on Bolivar Square, Caracas.On his deathbed, Bolivar asked
his aide-de-camp, General Daniel Florencio O'Leary to burn the extensive
archive of his writings, letters, and speeches. O'Leary disobeyed the
order and his writings survived, providing historians with a vast wealth
of information about Bolivar's classical liberal philosophy and thought.
A great admirer
of the American Revolution (and a great critic of the French Revolution),
Bolívar described himself in his many letters as a classical
"liberal" and defender of the free market economic system.
Among the books he traveled with when he wrote the Bolivian Constitution
were Montesquieu's Spirit of the Laws and Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations.
many speeches and writings reveal him to be an adherent of limited government,
the separation of powers, freedom of religion, property rights, and
the rule of law.
has no direct descendants. His bloodline lives on through his sister
Juana Bolívar y Palacios who married Dionisio Palacios y Blanco
(Simón and Juana's maternal uncle) and had two children: Guillermo
Guillermo died when
fighting alongside his uncle in the battle of La Hogaza in 1817. Benigna
Palacios y Bolívar married Pedro Amestoy. Their great-grandchildren,
Pedro (94) and Eduardo (90) Mendoza-Goiticoa live in Caracas. They are
Simón Bolívar's closest living relatives. 
Antonio de la Santísima Trinidad Bolívar was born in Caracas
on July 24, 1783, to don Juan Vicente Bolívar y Ponte and doña
Maria de la Concepción Palacios y Blanco. An aristocrat by birth,
Simón Bolívar received an excellent education from his
tutors, especially Simón Rodríguez. Thanks to his tutors,
Bolívar became familiar with the works of the Enlightenment as
well as those of classical Greece and Rome.
By the age of nine,
however, Bolívar lost both his parents and was left in the care
of his uncle, don Carlos Palacios. At the age of fifteen, don Carlos
Palacios sent him to Spain to continue his education.
for Spain in 1799 with his friend, Esteban Escobar. En route, he stopped
in Mexico City where he met with the viceroy of New Spain who was was
alarmed with the young Bolívar argued with confidence on behalf
of Spanish American independence. Bolívar arrived in Madrid on
June of that same year and stayed with his uncle, Esteban Palacios.
In Spain, Bolívar
met Maria Teresa Rodríguez del Toro y Alaysa whom he married
soon afterwards in 1802. Shortly after returning to Venezuela, in 1803,
Maria Teresa died of yellow fever. Her death greatly affected Bolívar
and he vowed never to marry again. A vow which he kept for the rest
of his life.
After losing his
wife, Bolívar returned to Spain with his tutor and friend, Simón
Rodríguez, in 1804. While in Europe he witnessed the proclamation
of Napoleon Bonaparte as Emperor of France and later the coronation
of Napoleon as King of Italy in Milan. Bolívar lost respect for
Napoleon whom he considered to have betrayed the republican ideals.
But it was in while in Italy that Bolívar made his famous vow
atop Mount Aventin of Rome to never rest until America was free.
to Venezuela in 1807 after a brief visit to the United States. In 1808
Napoleon installed his brother, Joseph, as King of Spain. This launched
a great popular revolt in Spain known as the Peninsular War. In America,
as in Spain, regional juntas were formed to resist the new king. Unlike
the Spanish junts, however, the American juntas fought against the power
of the Spanish king, not only the person of Joseph Bonaparte.
That year, the Caracas
junta declared its independence from Spain and Bolívar was sent
to England along with Andrés Bello and Luis López Mendez
on a diplomatic mission. Bolívar returned to Venezuela on June
3, 1811, and delivered his discourse in favor of independence to the
Patriotic Society. On August 13 patriot forces under the command of
Francisco de Miranda won a victory in Valencia.
On July 24, 1812,
Miranda surrendered after several military setbacks and Bolívar
soon had to flee to Cartagena. From there, Bolívar wrote his
famous Cartagena Manifesto in which he argued that New Granda should
help liberate Venezuela because their cause was the same and Venezuela's
freedom would secure that of New Granada. Bolívar received assistance
from New Granada and in 1813 he invaded Venezuela. He entered Merida
on May 23 and was proclaimed "Libertador" by the people. On
June 8 Bolívar proclaimed the "war to the death" in
favor of liberty. Bolívar captured Caracas on August 6 and two
days later proclaimed the second Venezuelan republic.
After several battles,
Bolívar had to flee once more and in 1815 he took refuge in Jamaica
from where he wrote his Jamaica Letter. That same year, Bolívar
traveled to Haiti and petitioned its president, Alexander
Sabes Petión, to help the Spanish American cause. In 1817, with
Haitian help, Bolívar returned to the continent to continue fighting.
The Battle of Boyaca
of August 7, 1819 resulted in a great victory for Bolívar and
the army of the revolution. That year, Bolívar created the Angostura
Congress which founded Gran Colombia (a federation of present-day Venezueal,
Colombia, Panama, and Ecuador) which named Bolívar president.
Royalist opposition was eliminated during the following years. After
the victory of Antonio José de Sucre over the Spanish forces
at the Battle of Pichincha on May 23, 1822, all of northern South America
was liberated. With that great victory, Bolívar prepared to march
with his army across the Andes and liberate Peru.
On July 26, 1822,
Bolívar met with José de San Martín at Guayaquil
to discuss the strategy for the liberation of Peru. No one knows what
took place in the secret meeting between the two South American heroes,
but San Martín returned to Argentina while Bolívar prepared
to fight against last Spanish bastion in South America.
In 1823 Bolívar
took command of the invasion of Peru and in September arrived in Lima
with Sucre to plan the attack. On August 6, 1824, Bolívar and
Sucre jointly defeated the Spanish army in the Battle of Junín.
On December 9 Sucre destroyed the last remnant of the Spanish army in
the Battle of Ayacucho, eliminating Spain's presence in South America.
On August 6, 1825,
Sucre called the Congress of Upper Peru which created the Republic of
Bolivia in honor of Bolívar. The Bolivian Constitution of 1826,
while never enacted, was personally written by Bolívar. Also
in 1826, Bolívar called the Congress of Panama, the first hemispheric
But by 1827, due
to personal rivalries among the generals of the revolution, civil wars
exploded which destroyed the South American unity for which Bolívar
had fought. Surrounded by factional fighting and suffering from tuberculosis,
El Libertador Simón Bolívar died on December 17, 1830.
In 1783, Simon Bolivar,
the great liberator of South America, was born in Caracas. For more
than 200 years, this city had been one of the great centres of Spanish
imperial power in South America. Ever since de Losada had founded it
in 1567, Caracas had grown in size, power and influence.
The Bolivars were
one of the great families of Caracas. In their veins ran the blood of
Africa, of the Iberian peninsula, and of the natives of the Andes. They
owned large estates of sugar cane which were worked by slave labour,
as well as silver mines that produced tremendous wealth. Simon's grandfather
had been granted a colonial title of nobility by the Spanish court.
his fifteenth birthday, Simon Bolivar's maternal grandfather, Feliciano
Palacios, took him in his care and arranged for him to have the best
possible education in Venezuela and in Spain. Amongst his tutors were
Simon Rodriguez and Andres Bello. Simon distinguished himself during
the years of his education in Spain with his academic accomplishments.
There, at the age of 18, he fell in love with Teresa del Toro, who was
a year younger. The families insisted on a year's delay of marriage.
At the end of the year, Bolivar married Teresa and took his wife back
to one of the family's plantations in the valley of Aragua, near Caracas.
Not long after, Teresa died of a malignant fever, and the heartbroken
Simon swore never to remarry. He kept his oath, however, he always enjoyed
the company of women and admitted that the inspiration he gained from
them was a necessity to him.
Single, young Bolivar
returned to Europe. He was the guest of the Marquis de Uztaiz, who gave
him access to one of the greatest private libraries of Spain, famous
for its collections on the physical sciences, history, philosophy and
politics. It was during this period at Cadiz that Simon met Francisco
Miranda was a remarkable
person. He was the type of intellectual that revolution turns into a
military leader, and he became the precursor of Venezuela's fight for
independence. Born in Caracas, Francisco's education was immense. He
had devoted many years to the study of politics. Simon Bolivar was greatly
influenced by the older man's grasp of culture and history, and of the
philosophy of the "rights of man". Bolivar became a member
of Lodge Lautro in Cadiz in 1803, together with two other great South
American patriots, José de San Martin, later the liberator of
Argentina, and Bernardo O'Higgins, later the national hero of Chile.
and statesman, national hero of Argentina, José de San Martin
was born in Yapeyu in 1778. Played a great part in winning independence
for his native land, Chile and Peru. Officer in the Spanish army (1789-1812),
but helped Buenos Aires in its struggle for independence (1812-1814).
Raised army in Argentina, and in January 1817 marched across the Andes
to Chile, where he and Bernardo O'Higgins defeated the Spanish at Chacabuco
and Maipo, thus winning independence for Chile. Subsequently, he won
independence for Peru and became this country's protector. He resigned
in 1822 after differences with Bolivar and died in exile in Boulogne
the Chilean revolutionary, born in Chillán in 1778, illegitimate
son of Ambrosio O'Higgins, the Irish-born viceroy of Chile and Peru.
Played a great part in the Chilean revolt of 1810-1817, and became known
as the 'Liberator of Chile'. In 1817-1823 he was the new republic's
first president, but was deposed after a revolution and retired to Peru,
where he died in 1842.
This was a time
when words like "liberty" and "equality" were powerful
concepts. The term "rights of man' can be understood only against
the background of a Europe dominated by autocratic monarchs, supported
by aristocracies that excluded vast majorities of the population. The
furnace of the French Revolution had branded those ideas upon the consciousness
of a generation. The revolution in France was followed by the era of
Napoleon Bonaparte, and there was a growing interest in science and
the roots of another revolution, the Industrial Revolution.
In Paris, Simon
Bolivar met the great German scientist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt,
who knew South America well. Bolivar told him his feelings of the dignity
of life in his homeland, and to this von Humboldt replied:
that your country is ripe for emancipation. But who will be the man
to undertake so vast an enterprise?"
to Rome in the company of his former tutor Simon Rodriguez. There, one
golden afternoon, they climbed to the top of the Aventin Hill, where
more than 2000 years before the ancient Romans had been accustomed to
reaffirm their right for freedom.
Simon Bolivar gazed
long at the monuments and the ruins of classical buildings spread before
him. Then, all of a sudden, he turned to Rodriguez and said:
"I swear before
you, I swear by the God of my fathers, by my forefathers themselves,
by my honour and my country, that I shall never allow my hands to be
idle or my soul to rest until I have broken the shackles which bind
us to Spain."
Thus, great decisions
are made, and this one was to be the turning point for South American
affairs. Sometimes, a person would move to the moment of decision so
gradually that at first, there is no sign of change or of the turn in
his or her life. But to others, it is a bolt from the blue, a moment
of revelation, such as happened to Paul on the Damascus Road.
Not long after his
stay in Rome, upon his return to Caracas, Bolivar met with a group known
as the Patriotic Society. They were in disorder and had no idea how
to go forward. Bolivar forced the issues, cried out to them:
are the sad effects of our ancient chains. Chains we no longer need
to wear. They say that we should prepare for great projects with calm
- are not 300 years of calm sufficient? Without fear, let us lay the
cornerstone of South American independence."
Events moved swiftly.
Bolivar, Andres Bello and others went to London in search of British
help. They also persuaded Francisco de Miranda to return and lead the
armies of Liberation. It was his second attempt to break the shackles
that bound the southern continent to Spain.
But the general,
who had once commanded an army on the Rhine, was now too old - he could
not adapt himself to guerrilla warfare bungled the campaign and accepted
terms from the Spanish. Bolivar arrested him. The rot,, however, had
The revolution was
smashed, the leaders arrested. Miranda was sent to Spain in chains.
Bolivar escaped to Curaçao and eventually to Haiti, where Toussaint
L'Ouverture offered asylum. All his property and estates in Venezuela
were confiscated. Notwithstanding, he kept his courage and his flaming
faith in the cause of liberation.
When Bolivar returned
to Venezuela, the tide was turned from the neighbouring island of Trinidad.
From there, a small band of men, remembered as the "Immortal 45",
crossed the Gulf of Paria under the command of a young man by the name
of Santiago Moreño. They took the coastal towns, drawing thousands
to their cause.
Cartagena manifesto demonstrated the importance for all American States
to work together for independence. The second phase of the revolution
was now underway. Final victory was yet a long way away, however.
Simon Bolivar kept
the course and held before him the lesson "Let no motive therefore
make you swerve from your duty, violate your vows or betray your trust."
are strong" is a concept as old as humanity. In the history of
nations, it manifests itself in the form of federations. Simon Bolivar
had a dram of a federation of South American states, with his home country,
Venezuela, being part of that. Partly liberator and elected president,
partly dictator, Bolivar succeeded in joining Venezuela, Colombia and
New Granada into a republic called Colombia. In 1822, Ecuador was joined,
and in 1824 Peru. Upper Peru was named Bolivia in his honour, however,
the inhabitants of that state were not at all satisfied with Bolivar's
constitution and drove out his troops. In 1828, also, the republicans
in Colombia rebelled against Bolivar's supreme power, and in 1829, Venezuela
split from the federation and elected José Antonio Páez
as president. A year later, Bolivar died, leaving behind a shattered
federation, but a dream of federation very much alive in the former
Spanish colonies of South America.
collapsed in the 1840s, when liberal ideas became stronger. From 1846
to 1858, control of the country was in the hands of José Tadeo
Monagas and his brother José Gregorio. They were not liberal,
and apart from the abolition of slavery in 1854, nothing much was achieved
for the people.
After the collapse
of the Monagas regime, chaos and turmoil struck Venezuela for twelve
years. Páez tried to once more restore order in the early 1860s,
but failed. The turmoil ended with Antonio Guzmán Blanco assuming
power in 1870 and assuming dictatorial rule until 1888.
A quantity of Venezuelan
families from both Caracas and the coastal towns came to Trinidad in
the period of the dictators. Others merely renewed older links with
the island. French creole families, such as the Ganteaumes and the Pantins,
and German creoles such as Wuppermann and Siegert, married into Caracanian
families, such as Machado and de Tova.
the other dictators, did not achieve any alleviation in the mass poverty
of Venezuela. He rebuilt Caracas, but the rural masses remained in their
hovels. After his regime ended, the country again fell into chaos, until
stability was regained at the terrible price of oppression and brutality.
Cipriano Castro ruled from 1899 to 1908, followed by Juan Vicente Gómez
from 1908 until 1935.
dreams of liberty and freedom proved illusory," writes Esmond Wright
(ed.) in "History of the World". Dr. Philip Sherlock adds
in a lecture on Radio Guardian, 1964:
been successful in the war because he had the support of the great conservative
families. They were hostile to Spain. But when Spain was defeated, all
the old vested interests began to assert their power and take charge.
It was the old landed estate, the latifundia, against any form of democratic
rule. Bolivar dreamed of a great federation of the South American continent,
that would be the counterpart of the United States. The nine years between
1821 and 1830 found Bolivar struggling to defeat the parochialism and
selfishness of the landed proprietors. The struggle brought frustration