Simón Bolívar Biography
Simón José Antonio de la Santísima Trinidad Bolívar Ponte y Palacios Blanco, known as Simón Bolívar.
He was a man of action who gained the independence of the colonies of Spanish America while dedicating his ideal of political unity to all of South America.
From his native Venezuela, he extended the liberating struggle to Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. It was precisely in Peru that Bolívar solidified his legend as the leader of independent America.
Beginnings of Simón Bolívar
Simón Bolívar was born in Caracas on July 24, 1783. His parents, faithful to the Spanish crown, belonged to the Venezuelan aristocracy, owners of cocoa plantations and copper mines, exploited by slaves.
His parents died when he was still a child (his father, Don Juan Vicente Bolívar in 1786. And his mother, Maria de la Concepción Palacios in 1792). Leaving him a big fortune.
Under the care of his uncles, Bolívar took classes from Simón Rodríguez, a young intellectual influenced by the thinkers of the Enlightenment, who taught him liberal values.
In 1797 he joined a militia battalion as a cadet.
The trip to Spain
1799 Simón Bolívar travelled to Spain as part of his training. In Madrid, he met María Teresa del Toro, with whom he married in 1802, and from whom he became widowed shortly after returning to Venezuela.
In 1804 he returned to Europe, a trip that took him to Madrid, Paris, and Rome. The French capital, he met the famous German geographer and naturalist Alexander Von Humboldt, who spoke to him about the great possibilities of economic development in America.
The full Bonapartist splendor, for the first time, he saw himself as Napoleon, guiding his compatriots towards independence. His stay ended in Rome, where he said his famous oath on the Holy Mount.
Back in Venezuela, he made a stopover in the United States where he observed the presidential system resulting from free elections and the federal organization of states, a model he would take for his American project.
Napoleon’s invasion of Spain marked a critical point in the relationship between the crown and its colonies in America, leaving a perception of a power vacuum.
Bolívar traveled to London and convinced Francisco de Miranda, the forerunner, to govern the first republic.
But, suddenly interrupted by the conflicting interests of its promoters, the new government failed and the realists regained power. Bolívar left and joined the British army at will to fight Napoleon.
“I swear before you, by the god of my ancestors and the honor of my country, that I will not give rest to my body or my spirit until I have broken the chains of Spain.” Simon Bolivar
It is possible that throughout history, none of the men of glory had to face so many obstacles to reach it.
Most of these men built empires by subduing the peoples; Bolivar destroyed an empire by liberating peoples and building nations.
After the defeat, Bolívar joined again with the support of the New Granada, began the campaign called Admirable, started in May 1813, then took Merida where he was first recognized as the Liberator, and ended on August 7 of the same year with his great entry into Caracas.
When Bolívar arrived in Trujillo and showed the horrors and cruelties committed by the royalist troops, he proclaimed War to the Death on June 15, 1813.
At the same time, realistic, semi-independent bosses multiply and imitate depredations and cruelties.
José Tomás Boves, one of the chiefs, was defeated by Bolívar on May 28, 1814, in Carabobo, but he defeated his compatriot Campo Elías, and shortly after he defeated Bolívar at La Puerta.
After the second Republican attempt failed, Bolívar took refuge in Cartagena de Indias.
From there he travels to Jamaica, and then to Haiti; with the help of President Pétion, he planned two new expeditions.
The first one failed. The second left just nine months after the previous one to Venezuela in December 1816.
Distrustful of past failures, Bolívar changed his attitude and was more conciliatory. He left the previous cruel war system.
He allied himself with the patriot Paez, the new leader of the Llaneros. Thanks to the arrival of veteran officers from the Napoleonic wars, it allowed him to build a disciplined and practical army.
Accused of being a dictator by his opponents, Bolivar convened a parliament on February 5, 1819, in Angostura, now Bolivar (Venezuela).
Of all Bolivar’s campaigns, none shows the courage and tenacious will to fight that animated the spirit of the Liberator as the one that took him from the plains to the Andean moors to liberate the New Granada.
Bolívar led them to victory at the Battle of Boyacá on August 7, 1819. Of the 3,000 men in the Royal Army, only 50 survived.
More than a thousand soldiers, several officers and General Barreiro himself were taken, prisoner.
After announcing his plan for political and territorial unity, Bolívar begins a campaign to liberate the rest of Venezuela, Ecuador and La Nueva Granada.
Finally, after many fights against the realists, on May 6, 1821, all of Venezuela came under his control.
The Liberator’s success was so conclusive that an assembly of delegates from New Granada and Venezuela appointed him president.
However, Bolivar refused and ceded power to his subordinates and continued his mission by marching to Ecuador. General Antonio José de Sucre, his lieutenant, liberated Quito and stifled the resistance.
From July 25 to 28, 1822, he met with the protector of Peru, Saint Martin. They talk about ending the war since the realists owned a large part of Peruvian territory.
The opposing ideas of these two heroes cross. San Martín not only accepts and recognizes the military superiority of the Gran Colombian forces of Sucre and Bolivar but also knows of the adhesion and great enthusiasm that Bolivar arouses in the towns.
San Martin gives Bolivar the glory of liberating Peru, announces to the Peruvian people the Colombian aid and asks them all to pay”Tribute of recognition to the immortal Simón Bolívar”.
On August 7, 1824, Bolívar and Sucre defeated the Spanish Realist army in Junín. Later Sucre expelled the realists from upper Peru (now Bolivia) in Ayacucho. Peru is liberated.
The Great Dream
Simon Bolivar’s dream of a united South America faded before his eyes. The forces opposed to the union were very powerful.
Defamatory campaigns were started against Bolívar and he was even the target of an attack in the palace of San Carlos, accompanied by his lover Manuela Sáenz, who saved his life.
In 1829 the intrigues made Peru go against Colombia, but the victory of Tarqui won by Sucre, replaces the situation. He stifles the insurrection in Guayaquil and returns to Colombia ill.
In fact, apart from Bolívar, almost nobody wanted to maintain Greater Colombia. Páez insisted on separating Venezuela from Nueva Granada, an example followed by General Flores in Ecuador.
On April 27, 1830, Bolívar, discouraged and ill, resigned his command. He hoped that his resignation and disappearance would calm the discord, and began his journey to Cartagena with the intention of going to Europe.
In Cartagena, he receives news that afflicts his last days: The murder of Sucre, his great friend, and collaborator.
He continues his journey to Santa Marta, but his advanced and severe tuberculosis and economic problems force him to accept the help of his Spanish friend, Joaquín Mier, gave him.
To the last call of his friends to return to power, Bolívar replies: “The source of legitimacy is the free suffrage of the people, not the echo of a mutiny or the expression of some friends.
But soon after, the government of Bogotá had the cruelty to tell him the decree of the Congress of Valencia by which he was banished. On December 17, 1830, at the age of 47, Simon Bolivar died.
“Nothing has changed and yet we have moved the world.” Simon Bolivar
Last proclamation by Simón Bolívar
“Colombians! You have witnessed my efforts to set forth freedom where tyranny once reigned.
I have worked with disinterest, abandoning my fortune and even my tranquility. I separated myself from command when I was persuaded that you distrusted my detachment.
My enemies abused your credulity and trampled upon what is a most sacred month, the reputation of my love of freedom. I have been the victim of my persecutors, who have led me to the gates of the tomb. I forgive them.
As I disappear from your midst, my affection tells me that I must make the manifestation of my last desires.
I aspire to no other glory than the consolidation of Colombia: everyone must work for the invaluable good of the union. The people obeying the current government to free themselves from anarchy.
the ministers of the sanctuary addressing their prayers to heaven; and the military using their swords in defense of social guarantees.
Colombians: My last vows are for the happiness of my country. If my death contributes to the cessation of the matches and to the consolidation of the union, I will go down peacefully to the tomb.
Hacienda de San Pedro, in Santa Marta, December 10, 1830.”
A great book I recommend is this.
- Simón Bolívar
- Oxford University Press
- Edición Kindle
- Edition no. 1 (05/15/2003)