Liberator of South Americaby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
Simon Bolivar’s achievements for South America are incredible at least. During the course of his lifetime he managed to liberate all of northern South America and earned himself the name of “El Liberator”. This great man was revered most of his life throughout the continent and though he lost some of this popularity at the end of his life, his fame has steadily grown since that time. Simon Bolivar helped to free South America and even today he is revered as El Liberator.
Simón José Antonio de la Santísima Trinidad Bolívar was born on July 24, 1783 in Caracas, Venezuela to affluent parents. He belonged to a family of Spaniards who had been born in the New World. His parents died when he was very young and he was educated by private tutors. (Kinsbruner) These included the great intellectuals Andrés Bello and Simón Rodríguez. In 1799 he left for Spain and it was there that he met his wife, Maria Teresa Rodríguez del Toro y Alaysa. (Conway)
Bolivar returned to Venezuela in 1803 and his wife died of yellow fever shortly thereafter. Bolivar never married again and for the next few years he lived the life of an affluent citizen. In 1804 he returned to Spain with Simon Rodriguez. While in Europe he traveled to France where he witnessed the crowning of Napoleon as emperor. He also traveled to Rome and it was here that he made his vow to free America. (“El Liberator”)
Meanwhile great changes were taking place in Europe. Napoleon invaded Spain and deposed the Spanish king. In his place he set up Joseph Bonaparte as king. The colonies in South America refused to recognize this new king and they set up what was known as a, “junta,” or, “governing council,” to rule the colonies. Not only did this junta refused to recognize the sovereignty of Joseph, but it also refused to take orders from the representatives of the real Spanish king. (Kinsbruner)
This junta gave Bolivar the rank of lieutenant colonel and he was part of the group that took Caracas from the Spanish and declared the First Republic of Venezuela on July 5, 1811. The people of the country were not united though and the republic only lasted one year due to counter-rebellion. Bolivar himself failed to defend Puerto Cabello and fled to Cartagena in New Granada which is present day Colombia. (Kinsbruner) It was here that he issued his Cartagena Manifesto in which he called upon Colombians to help the Venezuelans in their struggle for independence. He argued that the freedom of Venezuela would insure that of New Granada and therefore they should help their neighbors fight. (“El Liberator”)
This document had the desired effect and in 1813 Bolivar led a force back into Venezuela and retook Caracas. He set himself up as dictator but the country was still divided and he could not hold onto his power for long. A group of royalists from the plains known as llaneros or plainsmen and led by a man named José Tomás Boves defeated Bolivar after a series of battles and he was again forced to flee. (Kinsbruner)
This time he fled to Jamaica and it was here that he wrote his, “Jamaica letter,” in which he outlined his ideas about government. He then traveled to Haiti where he lobbied for support. He got it and he went back to South America to finish what he had started. (“El Liberator”) His first forays were not very successful but eventually he began to gain more popularity and support. (Conway) He was able to unite the different factions and he gained the support of the powerful plainsmen. He had retaken Venezuela by 1816 and by 1819 the movement really started to gain momentum. (Kinsbruner)
In February of 1819 a conference was called at the town of Angostura in Venezuela. It was here that Venezuela, New Granada, and Ecuador decided to join together and form the country of Gran Colombia. They chose Bolivar as president and though reluctant to take the position at first, he eventually agreed. Bolivar favored a government with a strong executive and pushed for this at the congress. He got some things that he wanted put into the constitution yet other things were not. But now that the work of uniting the three countries was done the next priority was to defeat the remaining factions within the country. Bolivar and his generals led an aggressive campaign against these parties and by 1822 the whole of Gran Colombia was liberated. (Kinsbruner)
Bolivar’s next goal was to free Peru. Before acting on this he met with the great Argentine liberator José de San Martín. San Martin had already liberated Argentina and Chile and had fought some battle in Peru. Bolivar and San Martin’s meeting was secret but as a result of it San Martin pulled out of Peru, resigned his presidency of Argentina and essentially left Peru for Bolivar to take. This he did, taking Lima in September of 1823, he was made dictator and followed this success with others until a victory at the Battle of Ayacucho on December 9, 1824 sealed complete victory for El Liberator. Upper Peru was named Bolivia in honor of Bolivar and he himself wrote its constitution. This constitution was never put into effect but it is nevertheless a good representation of the Liberators political views. (Kinsbruner)
After this success Bolivar tried to unite the Spanish nations of South America at the Congress of Panama but there were too many differences between the countries to allow this. Bolivar then returned to Colombia to resume his presidency, but much had changed. He had never really held power long enough to garner much support and on top of this the peoples of Ecuador, Venezuela, and Colombia had many ethnic differences that could not be solved by putting them together in one country. Bolivar tried to counter these problems by lobbying for more executive power and then declaring himself dictator but this could not save the country. (Kinsbruner)
There were many popular uprisings until 1829 when both Venezuela and Ecuador left the republic. Bolivar remained its president until 1830 when he departed for exile. (Kinsbruner) On the way, though, he succumbed to tuberculosis and died on December 17, 1830. (“El Liberator”) He was buried in Colombia because his native Venezuela would not allow him on their land. By the end of his life his popularity had fallen that much. (Kinsbruner)
Though his popularity did fall off at the end of his life it has been gained back today. Bolivar’s achievements have stood the test of time and in the end they outweigh his shortcomings. This is how it should be. He managed to liberate the whole of northern South America and for that he should be remembered.
Conway, Chris. “Simon Bolivar and the Latin American Wars of Independence.”
“El Liberator.” http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Acropolis/7609/eng/bio.html
Kinsbruner, Jay. “Bolivar, Simon.” Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 2003. 1993-2002.