Simon Bolivar

Biography of Simon Bolivar

Simon Bolivar Biography

Simon José Antonio de la Santísima Trinidad Bolívar Ponte y Palacios Blanco, known as Simón Bolívar, El Libertador, was a Venezuelan military and politician, founder of the republics of Gran Colombia and Bolivia. He was a man of action who achieved independence from the colonies of Spain in America while dedicating his ideal of political unity to all of South America.

From Venezuela, he started extending the liberating sake to Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. It was precisely in Peru that Bolívar solidified his legend as the leader of independent America.

Simon Bolivar was born in Caracas, Venezuela on July 24, 1783. His parents Don Juan Vicente Bolívar in 1786, and his mother, María de la Concepción Palacios in 1792 who were faithful to the crown of Spain, belonging to the Venezuelan aristocracy, owners of cocoa plantations and copper mines, died when he was still a child.

Under the care of his uncles, Bolívar received the classes of Simón Rodríguez, a young intellectual very much influenced by the thinkers of the Enlightenment, who taught him liberal values.

In 1797, he entered as a cadet in a militia battalion and two years later, in 1799, Simón Bolívar traveled to Spain as part of his training. In Madrid, he met Maria Teresa del Toro, with whom he married in 1802, and from which he widowed shortly after returning to Venezuela.

In 1804, he returned to Europe, a trip that took him to Madrid, Paris, and Rome. In the French capital, he met the famous German geographer and naturalist Alexander Von Humboldt, who told him about the great possibilities of economic development in America. In full Bonapartist splendor, for the first time, he visualized himself as Napoleon, guiding his compatriots towards independence. His European trip ended in Rome, where he said his famous oath on the Monte Sacro.

Back in Venezuela, he made a stopover in the United States where he observed the presidential system as a result of free elections and the federal organization of states, a model he would take for his American project.

The invasion of Napoleon to Spain marked a critical point in the relationship between the crown and its colonies in America, leaving a perception of lacking power. Bolivar traveled to London and convinced Francisco de Miranda, the precursor, to govern the first republic. However, abruptly interrupted by the opposing interests of its promoters, the new government failed and the realists regained power. Bolivar left and joined at will in the British army to fight against Napoleon.

“I swear before you, for the god of my ancestors and the honor of my country, that I will not rest my body or my spirit until I have broken the chains of Spain.” Simón Bolívar

It is possible that throughout history none of the men of glory had to face so many obstacles to achieve it; most of these men built empires suppressing the people. However, Bolivar destroyed an empire by freeing peoples and building nations. After the defeat, Bolivar was incorporated again with the support of New Granada, starts the campaign called Admirable, started in May 1813, then takes Mérida where he was recognized for the first time as El Libertador, and finished on August 7th of the same year with his grand entrance in Caracas.

When Bolivar arrived at Trujillo and evidenced the horrors and cruelties committed by the royalist troops, he proclaims the decree of War of Death on June 15, 1813. At the same time, the semi-independent real leaders multiply and imitate depredations and cruelties. José Tomás Boves, one of the leaders, is defeated by Bolívar on May 28, 1814, in Carabobo, but he defeats his compatriot Campo Elías, and soon after, he would defeat Bolívar in La Puerta. After the second republican attempt failed, Bolívar took refuge again in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. From there he would travel to Jamaica, and then to Haiti and then with the help of President Pétion, he planned two new expeditions. The first failed and the second came out only 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 cruel old war system. He allied himself with the patriot Paez, the new leader of the llaneros. Thanks to the arrival of veteran officers of the Napoleonic wars, Bolivar started to build a disciplined and practical army.

Accused of a dictator by his opponents, Bolívar called on February 5, 1819, a parliament in Angostura, city currently known as Bolívar (Venezuela). In that historic meeting, he proposed the creation of the Gran Colombia, a grouping of states conformed by the territories of the now Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela.

From all Bolivar’s campaigns, none demonstrates the courage and tenacious will to fight that animated the spirit of the Libertador as the one that took him from the plains to the Andean highlands to liberate New Granada. Bolivar will take them to the victory of the Battle of Boyacá on August 7, 1819. Out of the three thousand men of the royalist army, only fifty survived. More than a thousand soldiers, several officers and General Barreiro himself were imprisoned.

Boyaca’s battle

After announcing his plan for political and territorial unity, Bolivar began a campaign to liberate the rest of Venezuela, Ecuador and La Nueva Granada. Finally, after many battles against the royalists, on May 6, 1821, all of Venezuela came under his control.

The success of the Libertador was so conclusive that an assembly of delegates from New Granada and Venezuela named him president. However, Bolívar refused and yielded power to his subordinates and continued his mission to march to Ecuador. General Antonio José de Sucre, his lieutenant, freed Quito and put down the resistance.

From July 25 to 28, 1822, he would meet with the protector of Peru, San Martin. They talk about ending the war since the royalists owned a large part of the Peruvian territory. The opposing ideas of these two heroes intersect. San Martín not only accepted and recognized the military superiority of the Gran Colombia forces of Sucre and Bolívar but also knew of the adhesion and great enthusiasm that Bolívar awakens in the towns. San Martin gave Bolivar the glory of liberating Peru, announced to the Peruvian people the Colombian aid and asked the people to “Tribute of recognition to the immortal Simón Bolívar”.

On August 7, 1824, Bolívar and Sucre beat the Spanish royalist army in Junín. Subsequently, Sucre expelled the royalists from Upper Peru (now Bolivia) in Ayacucho. Peru is liberated. Simón Bolívar’s dream of a united South America vanished before his eyes. The forces opposed to the union were very powerful. He began smear campaigns against Bolivar and was even the object of an attack in the palace of San Carlos, accompanied by his lover Manuela Saenz, who saved his life.

In 1829, the intrigues make Peru go against Colombia, but the victory of Tarqui won by Sucre, replaces the situation. He stifled the insurrection in Guayaquil and returned to Colombia. In reality, apart from Bolívar, almost nobody wanted to keep the Gran Colombia. Paez insisted on separating Venezuela from New Granada, an example that General Flores followed in Ecuador. On April 27, 1830, Bolivar, discouraged and ill, resigned his command. He had hoped that his resignation and disappearance would calm the discord, and he began his journey to Cartagena with the intention of going to Europe.

In Cartagena, Bolivar would receive news that afflicts his last days: The murder of Sucre, his great friend, and collaborator. He continued his trip to Santa Marta, but his advanced and serious tuberculosis and his economic problems force him to accept the help that his Spanish friend, Joaquín Mier gave him. At the last appeal of his friends to return to power, Bolivar replies: “The source of legitimacy is the free suffrage of the people, not the echo of a riot or the expression of some friends.” But shortly after, the government of Bogota had the cruelty of telling him the decree of the Congress of Valencia for which he was banished.

On December 17, 1830, at the age of 47, Simón Bolívar dies.

“Nothing has changed and yet we have moved the world.” Simón Bolívar



“Colombians! Today I cease to govern you. I have served you for twenty years as soldier and leader. During this long period we have taken back our country, liberated three republics, fomented many civil wars, and four times I have returned to the people their omnipotence, convening personally four constitutional congresses. These services were inspired by your virtues, your courage, and your patriotism; mine is the great privilege of having governed you.
The constitutional congress convened on this day is charged by Providence with the task of giving the nation the institutions she desires, following the course of circumstances and the nature of things.
Fearing that I may be regarded as an obstacle to establishing the Republic on the true base of its happiness, I personally have cast myself down from the supreme position of leadership to which your generosity had elevated me.

Colombians! I have been the victim of ignominious suspicions, with no possible way to defend the purity of my principles. The same persons who aspire to the supreme command have conspired to tear your hearts from me, attributing to me their own motives, making me seem to be the instigator of projects they themselves have conceived, representing me, finally, as aspiring to a crown which they themselves have offered on more than one occasion and which I have rejected with the indignation of the fiercest Republican. Never, never, I swear to you, has it crossed my mind to aspire to a kingship that my enemies have fabricated in order to ruin me in your regard.

Do not be deceived, Colombians! My only desire has been to contribute to your freedom and to be the preservation of your peace of mind. If for this I am held guilty, I deserve your censure more than any man. Do not listen, I beg you, to the vile slander and the tawdry envy stirring up discord on all sides. Will you allow yourself to be deceived by the false accusations of my detractors? Please don’t be foolish!

Colombians! Gather around the constitutional congress. It represents the wisdom of the nation, the legitimate hope of the people, and the final point of the reunion of the Patriots. Its sovereign decrees will determine our lives, the happiness of the Republic, and the glory of Colombia. If dire circumstances should cause you to abandon it, there will be no health for the country, and you will drown in the ocean of anarchy, leaving as your children’s legacy nothing but crime, blood, and death.

Fellow Countrymen! Hear my final plea as I end my political career; in the name of Colombia, I ask you, beg you, to remain united, lest you become the assassins of the country and your own executioners.”

San Pedro farm, in Santa Marta, on December 10, 1830.


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