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Simón Bolívar

Simón Bolívar

Oil painting by Ricardo Acevedo Bernal

In office
August 6, 1813 â July 7, 1814
Preceded by Cristóbal Mendoza
In office
February 15, 1819 â December 17, 1819
Succeeded by José Antonio P¡ez

In office
December 17, 1819 â May 4, 1830
Vice President Francisco de Paula Santander
Succeeded by Domingo Caycedo

In office
August 12, 1825 â December 29, 1825
Succeeded by Antonio José de Sucre

In office
February 17, 1824 â January 28, 1827
Preceded by José Bernardo de Tagle, Marquis of Torre-Tagle
Succeeded by Andrés de Santa Cruz

Born July 24, 1783(1783-07-24)
Caracas, Venezuela
Died December 17, 1830 (aged 47)
Santa Marta, Colombia
Spouse(s) María Teresa Rodríguez del Toro y Alaysa
Religion Roman Catholic

Simón José Antonio de la Santísima Trinidad Bolívar y Palacios, commonly known as Simón Bolívar (Spanish pronunciation: [siˈmon boˈliîar]; July 24, 1783 â December 17, 1830) was a Venezuelan military and political leader. Together with José de San Martín, he played a key role in Latin America's successful struggle for independence from the Spanish Empire.

Following the triumph over the Spanish Monarchy, Bolívar participated in the foundation of the first union of independent nations in Latin America, which was named Gran Colombia, and of which he was president from 1819 to 1830.

Simón Bolívar is regarded in Latin America as a hero, visionary, revolutionary, and liberator. During his short life, he led Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela to independence, and helped lay the foundations for democratic ideology in much of Hispanic America. For this reason he is often referred to as the "George Washington of South America".[1][2]


[edit] Bolivar family

The surname Bolívar derives from the Bolívar aristocrats who came from a small village in the Basque Country, Spain, called La Puebla de Bolívar.[3] His father was a descendant of King Fernando III of Castile and Count Amedeo IV of Savoy, and came from the male line of the de Ardanza family.[4][5]

The Bolívars settled in Venezuela in the sixteenth century. His first South American Bolivar ancestor was Simón de Bolívar (or Simon de Bolibar; the spelling was not standardized until the nineteenth century), who lived and worked with the governor of the Santo Domingo from 1550 to 1570. When the governor of Santo Domingo was reassigned to Venezuela in 1589, Simón de Bolívar came with him. As an early settler in Caracas Province, he became prominent in the local society, and he and his descendants were granted estates, encomiendas, and positions in the Caracas cabildo.

The social position of the family is illustrated by the fact that when the Caracas Cathedral was built in 1594, the Bolívar family had one of the first dedicated side chapels. The majority of the wealth of Simón de Bolívar's descendants came from the estates. The most important of these estates was a sugar plantation in San Mateo, which came with an encomienda that provided the labor needed to run the estate.[6] In later centuries, slave and free black labor would have replaced most of the encomienda labor.

Another portion of Bolivar wealth came from the silver, gold, and more importantly, copper mines in Venezuela. In 1632, small gold deposits first were mined in Venezuela, leading to further discoveries of much more extensive copper deposits. From his mother's side, the Palacios family, Bolívar inherited the copper mines at Cocorote. Slaves provided the majority of the labor in these mines.

Toward the end of the seventeenth century, copper exploitation became so prominent in Venezuela that it became known as Cobre Caracas ("Caracas copper"). Many of the mines became the property of the Bolívar family. Bolívar's grandfather, Juan de Bolívar y Martínez de Villegas, paid 22,000 ducats to the monastery at Santa Maria de Montserrat in 1728 for a title of nobility that had been granted by the king, Philip V of Spain, for its maintenance. The crown never issued the patent of nobility, and so the purchase became the subject of lawsuits that were still going on during Bolívar's lifetime, when independence from Spain made the point moot. (If successful, Bolívar's older brother, Juan Vicente, would have become the Marqués de San Luis and Vizconde de Cocorote.) Bolívar was able to use his family's immense wealth to finance his revolutionary efforts.

[edit] Early life

Birthplace of Simón Bolívar in Caracas, Venezuela

Simón Bolívar was born in Caracas, Captaincy General of Venezuela (now the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela), on July 24, 1783 and he was baptized as Simón José Antonio de la Santísima Trinidad Bolívar y Palacios. His mother was Doña María de la Concepción Palacios y Blanco and his father was Coronel Don Juan Vicente Bolívar y Ponte.

He had two older sisters and a brother: María Antonia, Juana, and Juan Vicente. Another sister, María del Carmen, died at birth.[7]

The circumstances of Bolívar's parents forced them to entrust the baby Simón Bolívar to the care of Doña Ines Manceba de Miyares and the family's slave la negra Hipolita. A couple of years later Bolívar returned to the love and care of his parents, but this traumatic experience would have a severe effect on Bolívar's life. By his third birthday, his father Juan Vicente died.[7]

Bolívar's father died when Bolívar was two and a half years old. Bolívar's mother, Maria Juanita Cabeza Grande, died when he was approaching nine years old. He then was placed in the custody of a severe instructor, Miguel José Sanz, but this relationship did not work out and he was sent back to his home. In an effort to give Bolívar the best education possible, he received private lessons from the renowned professors Andrés Bello, Guillermo Pelgrón, Jose Antonion Negrete, Fernando Vides, Father Andújar, and the most influential of all, Don Simón Rodríguez, formerly known as Simón Carreño. Don Simón Rodriguez was later to become Bolívar's friend and mentor, and he instilled in the young man the ideas of liberty, enlightenment, and freedom.[8]

In the meantime, all the love, affection, and attention given to Bolívar was from his nanny, Hipólita. Hipólita gave the young Bolívar all the affection he needed and indulged him in all his wishes and desires.[citation needed] His instructor Don Simón understood the young Bolívar's personality and inclinations, and tried from the very beginning to be an empathetic friend. They took long walks through the countryside and climbed mountains. Don Simón taught Bolívar how to swim and ride horses, and, in the process, taught him about liberty, human rights, politics, history, and sociology.[8]

[edit] Military career

At the age of fourteen, Bolívar's private instructor and mentor Don Simón Rodríguez had to abandon the country, as he was accused of being involved in a conspiracy against the Spanish government in Caracas. Thus, Bolívar entered the military academy of the Milicias de Veraguas, which his father had directed as colonel years earlier. Through these years of military training, he developed his fervent passion for armaments and military strategy, which he later would employ on the battlefields of the wars of independence.[8]

A few years later, while in Paris, Bolívar witnessed the coronation of Napoleon in Notre Dame, and this majestic event left a profound impression upon him. From that moment he wished to emulate similar triumphant glory for the people of his native land.[8]

[edit] El Libertador

Bolívar returned to Venezuela in 1807. It was during this period that he wrote his Cartagena Manifesto. It blames the sad state of affairs his native country was in at the time on an excess of political liberties in the republican system. In it Bolívar asserts that the republican system is unfit for the emerging states, because "our fellow countrymen still ... lack the political virtues that characterize the true Republican".

In 1813 he was given a military command in Tunja, New Granada (today Colombia), under the direction of the Congress of United Provinces of New Granada, which had formed out of the juntas established in 1810.

From New Granada, Bolívar began an invasion of Venezuela on May 14. This was the beginning of the famous Admirable Campaign. He entered Mérida on May 23, where he was proclaimed as El Libertador.[9] That event was followed by the occupation of Trujillo on June 9. Six days later, on June 15, he dictated his famous Decree of War to the Death. Caracas was retaken on August 6, 1813 and Bolívar was ratified as "El Libertador", thus proclaiming the restoration of the Venezuelan republic. Due to the rebellion of José Tom¡s Boves in 1814 and the fall of the republic, he returned to New Granada, where he then commanded a force for the United Provinces and entered Bogot¡ 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. In 1815, after a number of political and military disputes with the government of Cartagena, however, Bolívar fled to Jamaica, where he was denied support and an attempt was made on his life, after which he fled to Haiti, where he was granted sanctuary and protection. He befriended Alexandre Pétion, the leader of the newly independent country, and petitioned him for aid.[9]

Bolívar and Francisco de Paula Santander during the Congress of Cúcuta, October 1821

In 1817, with Haitian soldiers and vital material support (on the condition that he abolish slavery), Bolívar landed in Venezuela and captured Angostura (now Ciudad Bolívar). At that time, Venezuela remained a captaincy of Spain, however, and Bolívar decided that he would first fight for the independence of New Granada (which was a vice royalty), intending later to consolidate the independence of Venezuela and other less politically important Spanish territories.

The campaign for the independence of New Granada was consolidated with the victory at the Battle of Boyac¡ in 1819. From this newly consolidated base of power, Bolívar launched outright independence campaigns in Venezuela and Ecuador, and these campaigns were concluded with the victories at the Battle of Carabobo in 1821 and the Battle of Pichincha in 1822. On September 7, 1821 the Gran Colombia (a state covering much of modern Colombia, Panama, Venezuela, and Ecuador) was created, with Bolívar as president and Francisco de Paula Santander as vice president.

On July 26 and 27 of 1822, Bolívar held the Guayaquil conference with the Argentinian 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. Thereafter, 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 reorganize completely the political and military administration.

Battle of Junín, August 1824

Assisted by Antonio José de Sucre, Bolívar decisively defeated the Spanish cavalry at the Battle of Junín on August 6, 1824. 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. Bolívar is thus one of the few men to have a country named after him. The 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.[citation needed]

Battle of Carabobo, June 24, 1821

[edit] Proclamation of dictatorial power

Bolívar 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 new South American union revealed its fragility and appeared to be on the verge of collapse. To preserve the union, an amnesty was declared and an arrangement was reached with the Venezuelan rebels, but this increased the political dissent in neighboring New Granada. In an attempt to keep the nation together as a single entity, Bolívar called for a constitutional convention at Ocaña during April 1828.

Bolívar's dream had been to engender an American Revolution-style federation among all the newly independent republics, with a government set up solely to recognize and uphold the rights of the individual[citation needed]. This dream had succumbed to the pressures of particular interests throughout the region, which rejected that model and had little or no allegiance to liberal principles. For this reason, and to prevent a break-up, Bolívar sought to implement a more centralist model of government in Gran Colombia, 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 (although theoretically, this presidency was held in check by an intricate system of balances).

Manuela S¡enz, lover of Bolívar who rescued him from an assassination attempt and whose burial has been united with his recently

This move was considered controversial in New Granada and was one of the reasons the deliberations in favor of such a constitution met with strong opposition at the Convention of Ocaña, which met from April 9 to June 10, 1828. 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 a central administration. Unhappy with what would be the ensuing result, pro-Bolívar delegates withdrew from the convention, leaving it moribund.

After the failure of this congress to write a new constitution, Bolívar proclaimed himself dictator on August 27, 1828 through the Decree of Dictatorship. He considered this as a temporary measure, as a means to reestablish his authority and save the republic, although it increased dissatisfaction and anger among his political opponents. An assassination attempt on September 25, 1828 failed, thanks to the help of his lover, Manuela S¡enz. Bolivar afterward described Manuela as Libertadora del Libertador (the liberator of the liberator).

Although Bolívar emerged safely from the attempt, this nevertheless greatly affected him. Dissent continued, and uprisings occurred in New Granada, Venezuela, and Ecuador during the next two years.

[edit] Death

Bolívar's death by Venezuelan painter Antonio Herrera Toro
Simón Bolívar Memorial Monument, standing in Santa Marta (Colombia) at the Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino

Saying, "all who served the Revolution have plowed the sea", Bolívar finally resigned his presidency on April 27, 1830, intending to leave the country for exile in Europe, possibly in France. He already had sent several crates (containing his belongings and writings, which he had selected) ahead of him to Europe.[10], but he died before setting sail.

On December 17 of 1830, at the age of forty-seven, Simón Bolívar died after a painful battle with tuberculosis[11] in the Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino in Santa Marta, Gran Colombia (now Colombia). On his deathbed, Bolívar asked his aide-de-camp, General Daniel F. O'Leary to burn the remaining, 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 Bolívar's liberal philosophy and thought, as well as details of his personal life, such as his longstanding love affair with Manuela S¡enz. Shortly before her own death in 1856, S¡enz augmented this collection by giving O'Leary her own letters from Bolívar.[10]

His remains were buried in the cathedral of Santa Marta. Twelve years later, in 1842, at the request of President José Antonio P¡ez, they were moved from Santa Marta to Caracas, where a monument was set up for his interment in the National Pantheon of Venezuela. The 'Quinta' near Santa Marta has been preserved as a museum with numerous references to his life.[12] In 2010, symbolic remains of Bolivar's lover, Manuela S¡enz, were interred by his side during a national ceremony reuniting them and honoring her role in the liberations.[13]

On January 2008, President of Venezuela Hugo Ch¡vez set up a commission[14] to investigate theories indicating that Bolívar could have been the victim of an assassination. In April 2010, infectious diseases specialist Paul Auwaerter studied existing records of Bolivar's symptoms and concluded that he may have suffered from chronic arsenic poisoning, but considered that both acute poisoning and murder were unlikely.[15][16] In July 2010, Bolívar's body was ordered to be exhumed to advance the investigations.[17]

[edit] Private life

In 1799, following the early deaths of his father Juan Vicente (died 1786) and his mother Concepción (died 1792), he traveled to Mexico, France, and Spain, at age sixteen, to complete his education. While in Madrid during 1802, he married María Teresa Rodríguez del Toro y Alaiza, who was his only wife. She was related to the family of the Marqués del Toro of Caracas.[8] Eight months after returning to Venezuela with her, she died from yellow fever. Bolívar returned to Europe in 1804, where he lived in Napoleonic France for a while and undertook the Grand Tour.[18] During this time in Europe, it was rumored that he met Alexander von Humboldt in Paris. Humboldt wrote in 1804 of having met a young man in Paris and Humboldt had noticed how the young man loved liberty and made for some lively conversation, but he left Humboldt unimpressed.

[edit] Relatives

Bolívar had no descendants. His closest living relatives descend from his sisters and brother. One of his sisters died in infancy. His sister, Juana Bolívar y Palacios, married their maternal uncle, Dionisio Palacios y Blanco, and had two children, Guillermo and Benigna. Guillermo Palacios died fighting alongside his uncle Simón in the battle of La Hogaza on December 2, 1817. Benigna had two marriages, the first one to Pedro Breceño Méndez and the second to Pedro Amestoy.[19] Their great-grandchildren, Bolívar's closest living relatives, Pedro, and Eduardo Mendoza Goiticoa lived in Caracas, as of 2000.

His eldest sister, María Antonia, married Pablo Clemente Francia and had four children: Josefa, Anacleto, Valentina, and Pablo. María Antonia became Bolívar's agent to deal with his properties while he served as president of Gran Colombia and she was an executrix of his will. She retired to Bolívar's estate in Macarao, which she inherited from him.[20]

His older brother, Juan Vicente, who died in 1811 on a diplomatic mission to the United States, had three children born out of wedlock whom he recognized: Juan, Fernando Simón, and Felicia Bolívar Tinoco. Bolívar provided for the children and their mother after his brother's death. Bolívar was especially close to Fernando and in 1822 sent him to study in the United States, where he attended the University of Virginia. In his long life, Fernando had minor participation in some of the major political events of Venezuelan history and also traveled and lived extensively throughout Europe. He had three children, Benjamín Bolívar Gauthier, Santiago Hern¡ndez Bolívar, and Claudio Bolívar Taraja. Fernando died in 1898 at the age of eight-eight.[21]

[edit] Political beliefs

He was an admirer of both the American Revolution and the French Revolution. He admired Thomas Jefferson and sent his nephew to the University of Virginia, which was founded and designed by Jefferson. Bolívar differed, however, in political philosophy from the leaders of the revolution in the United States on two important matters. First of all, he was staunchly anti-slavery, despite coming from an area of Spanish America that relied heavily on slave labour. Second, while he was an admirer of the United States, he did not believe that its governmental system could function in Latin America.[22]

By contrast, he referred to Spanish America as having been subject to the "triple yoke of ignorance, tyranny, and vice". If a republic could be established in such a land, in his mind, it would have to make some concessions in terms of liberty. This is shown when Bolívar blamed the fall of the first republic on his subordinates trying to imitate "some ethereal republic" and in the process, not paying attention to the gritty political reality of South America.[22]

Among the books accompanying him as he traveled were, Adam Smith's "The Wealth of Nations", Voltaire's "Letters", and when he wrote the Bolivian Constitution, Montesquieu's Spirit of the Laws.[23] His Bolivian constitution placed him within the camp of what would become Latin American conservatism in the later nineteenth century. The Bolivian Constitution had a lifelong presidency and a hereditary senate, essentially recreating the British unwritten constitution, as it existed at the time, without formally establishing a monarchy. It was his attempts to implement a similar constitution in Gran Colombia that led to his downfall and rejection by 1830.

Regarding his immigration policy for Colombia, he viewed the immigration of North-Americans and Europeans as necessary for improving the country's economy, arts, and sciences,[24] following the steps of the Latin-American criollo elites, who accepted without questions many of the evolutionist, social, and racial theories of their time.

[edit] Freemasonry

Similar to some others in the history of American Independence (George Washington, José de San Martín, and Francisco Miranda), Simón Bolívar was a Freemason. He was initiated in 1803 in the Masonic Lodge Lautaro which operated in Cadiz, Spain [25]. It was in this lodge that he first met some of his revolutionary peers, such as José de San Martín. In May 1806 he was conferred the rank of Master Mason in the "Scottish Mother of St. Alexander of Scotland" in Paris. During his time in London, he frequented "The Great American Reunion" lodge in London, founded by Francisco de Miranda. In April 1824, Simón Bolívar was given the 33rd degree of Inspector General Honorary.

[edit] Legacy

[edit] Political legacy

Simón Bolívar lends his name and image to the Venezuelan Bolívar coin

Bolívar's political legacy has been massive and he is a very important figure in South American political history. The 'Bolivarianism' of the last two decades, such as in the Venezuela of Hugo Ch¡vez, tries to evoke the memory of Bolivar, using a left-wing view of his writings and supposed ambitions as the basis for a political movement.[26][27]

After his defeat and early death, it took more than a decade to rehabilitate his lost image in South America. By the 1840s the memory of Bolívar proved useful for the construction of a sense of nationhood. In Venezuela, in particular, a type of 'cult' to Bolívar, first under the President José Antonio P¡ez and most dramatically under President Antonio Guzm¡n Blanco appeared. Because the image of Bolívar became central to the national identities of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia, his mantle is claimed by nearly all politicians from all parts of the political spectrum.[28] Bolivia and Venezuela (the Bolívarian Republic of Venezuela) are both named after Bolívar.

[edit] Monuments, institutions and place names

Simón Bolivar's statue in Washington, D.C., USA

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes

  1. ^,9171,752719,00.html
  2. ^
  3. ^ Museo Simon Bolibar, Cenarruza-Puebla de Bolívar, Spain.
  4. ^ ""Simón Bolívar" at GeneAll". 
  5. ^
  6. ^ Masur, Simon Bolívar (1969), 21-22.
  7. ^ a b Arismendi Posada, Ignacio; Gobernantes Colombianos, trans. Colombian Presidents; Interprint Editors Ltd.; Italgraf; Segunda Edición; Page 9; Bogot¡, Colombia; 1983
  8. ^ a b c d e Arismendi Posada, Ignacio; Gobernantes Colombianos, trans. Colombian Presidents; Interprint Editors Ltd.; Italgraf; Segunda Edición; Page 10; Bogot¡, Colombia; 1983
  9. ^ a b Bushnell, David. The Liberator, Simón Bolívar. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1970. Print.
  10. ^ a b Bolívar, Simón. Hope of the universe. Paris: UNESCO, 1983. Print.
  11. ^ Arismendi Posada, Ignacio; Gobernantes Colombianos, trans. Colombian Presidents; Interprint Editors Ltd.; Italgraf; Segunda Edición; Page 19; Bogot¡, Colombia; 1983
  12. ^ Simón Bolívar entry on Find a
  13. ^ Grant, Will (5 July 2010). "Venezuela honours Simon Bolivar's lover Manuela Saenz". BBC. Retrieved 17 July 2010. 
  14. ^ Ch¡vez, Assailed on Many Fronts, Is Riveted by 19th-Century Idol 23 February 2008. Juan Forero, The Washington Post. Retrieved 17 July 2010
  15. ^ "Doctors Reconsider Health and Death of 'El Libertador,' General Who Freed South America". Science Daily. April 29, 2010. Retrieved July 17, 2010. 
  16. ^ Simon Bolivar died of arsenic poisoning 7 May, 2010. Nick Allen, The Telegraph. Retrieved on 17 July 2010.
  17. ^ James, Ian (16 July 2010). "Venezuela opens Bolivar's tomb to examine remains". MSNBC. Retrieved 16 July 2010. 
  18. ^ John, Lynch. Simón Bolívar a life. New Haven: Yale UP, 2006. Print.
  19. ^ De-Sola Ricardo, Irma, "Bolívar Palacios, Juana" in Diccionario de Historia de Venezuela, Vol. 1. Caracas: Fundación Polar, 1999. ISBN 980-6397-37-1 also reproduced in Simón Bolí, Biografías Familiares de Simón Bolívar at Simón Bolívar, el hombre.
  20. ^ De-Sola Ricardo, Irma, "Bolívar Palacios, María Antonia" in Diccionario de Historia de Venezuela, Vol. 1. reproduced in Simón Bolí, Biografías Familiares de Simón Bolíbar.
  21. ^ Fuentes Carvallo, Rafael, "Bolívar, Fernando Simón" in Diccionario de Historia de Venezuela, Vol. 1. reproduced in Simón Bolí, Biografías Familiares de Simón Bolíbar.
  22. ^ a b Bushnell, David; Lester D. Langley (2008). Simón Bolívar: Essays on the Life and Legacy of the Liberator.. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 136. ISBN 9780742556195. 
  23. ^ Lynch, John, Simón Bolívar: A Life, 33. Yale University Press, 2006
  24. ^ Simón Bolívar cited in Carrera Dama, Germ¡n (1957): Sobre la colonomanía, in: Historia Mexicana no. 64, pp. 597-610, here p. 600-
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^ Lynch, Bolívar: A Life, 299-304. For a fuller discussion of the evolution of the cult of Bolívar, see Carrera Damas, El culto a Bolívar.
  29. ^

[edit] Bibliography about Bolívar

[edit] External links

Preceded by
Federation created
President of Colombia
December 17, 1819 â May 4, 1830
Succeeded by
Domingo Caycedo
Preceded by
Cristóbal Mendoza
President of Venezuela
August 6, 1813 â July 7, 1814
February 15, 1819 â December 17, 1819
Succeeded by
José Antonio P¡ez
Preceded by
José Bernardo de Tagle
President of Peru
February 1824 â January 1826
Succeeded by
Andres de Santa Cruz
Preceded by
Republic created
President of Bolivia
Succeeded by
Antonio José de Sucre

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