At the age of 23, Simón Bolívar ( July 24 ,1783 – December 17, 1830) vowed to free South America from Imperial Spain . Bolívar was a criollo or creole (born in the New World to Spanish parents) . Pressure for independence came mainly from criollos who resented the social and political dominance of the peninsulares ( those born in Spain ) and had access to education and inspired by the French and American Revolutions . As a military leader, Bolívar led his racially mixed armies to defeat the Spanish in Venezuela in 1817, in the republic of Colombia in 1819 and Peru in 1824 and after twenty years of ceaseless activity and covering thousands of miles ended three centuries of despotic, exploitive Spanish rule. All three provinces elected him president . However, despite being reviled in the countries he liberated at the end of his life he has been transformed over time into the greatest figure in South American history.
He was not able to realize his political dream of a confederated Spanish America as envisioned in the Congress of Panama with a common military, a mutual defense treaties, and a supranational parliamentary assembly. However, the Spanish would not return, and South Americans were free to rule themselves . It seems strange that Bolivar, who was always alluding to the heterogeneous character of the peoples of the Spanish colonies, should have failed to see the great differences between the Venezuelans, the Granadians, the Ecuadorians, and the Peruvians, and the impracticability of a federation of all these countries and their growing nationalism . The only way he could have created a South American superstate would have been through a temporary authoritarian regime until the people were more politically mature, yet was not willing to go as far as Napoleon for such a goal .
The one man who possibly could of formed a Commonwealth of Spanish nations was the Spanish monarch Ferdinand VII of Spain (October 14, 1784 – September, 29 1833 whom Bolívar had met and played a game of badminton with) but these hopes were dashed when he dissolved the Cortes (Spanish congress) and arrogantly abrogated the constitution in 1814 . By this act destroyed the last hope of keeping South America in at least an economic union with an allegiance to a single sovereign .
Bolívar not only had to drive out the Spaniards with very insufficient means, but, when he had destroyed the old government, he was faced by the task of reconstructing an administration for peoples whose past had fitted them for nothing but despotic rule. He was perpetually reforming or reconstructing the administration, but nothing stable ever came of it. All who might have been able to help him had necessarily disappeared with the rule which they represented. The Spaniards alone were acquainted with the machinery of their government, such as it was, and, from the very nature of the case, it was impossible for them to serve on under the revolutionary government.
No misfortune, however great, seemed to daunt Bolivar in his early days. It is hardly possible to conceive any situation more desperate than his position after his defeat at La Puerta in 1814 or the earthquake of 1812 which shattered the infant First Republic and the epic march through the Andes in 1819 to Bogota . Yet he never for a moment lost hope, or the confidence of eventual success. It was only after he left Peru that despair of his countrymen, and of the future of South America, settled on his spirit like a gloomy cloud. He saw all his visions of a great confederacy melting away ; his back was hardly turned when both Peruvians and Bolivians rejected his favourite Bolivian constitution, which they had accepted when he was still amongst them to enforce his wishes.
In the drafting of constitutions Bolivar displayed a curious energy, and, all things considered, it is wonderful that he, devoid as he was of legal education, should have been able to turn out two such productions as the Constitutions of Cucuta and of Bolivia, which were apparently entirely his own handiwork. The latter was a somewhat strange piece of patchwork, made up from the British Constitution, tempered by that of the United States, and with an admixture of ancient Greek and Roman ideas. The whole thing, with its Presidency for life and its hereditary Senate, certainly smacked more of a constitutional monarchy than of a republic.
As an adult his stature he was small ; he was said to be about 5 feet 6 inches, though some accounts represent him as still smaller. He had a narrow chest and a spare body, with slender limbs, and hands and feet so small as to be the envy of many women. His complexion was sallow, the skin somewhat rough. His high forehead was curiously seamed, even in his youth, by wrinkles. His hair was very black, with thick eyebrows, surmounting very black and piercing eyes.
He was hospitable and fond of entertaining, though himself very simple in his food, so much so that he would often dine alone and only join a banquet towards the end, when, as a proposer of toasts, he was unsurpassed. He drank with the greatest moderation, and did not smoke at all, which was particularly remarkable in a country where almost everybody else lived with a cigar between his lips. Few men ever had greater opportunities of enriching themselves ; still fewer more honestly refused to take advantage of their opportunities. He was from a prosperous family, yet he yet lost it all following his dream of independence and only had a pension when he died . Simón Bolívar had no direct descendants, the Bolívar line lives on through his sister Juana Maria .
Trailer for The Liberator, coming out in 2014 starring Edgar Ramirez
Simon Bolívar (1969) starring Maximilian Schell as Bolívar .
The Revolutionary Simon Bolívar : Host Elaine Reyes speaks to Marie Arana of the Library of Congress, and author
of the book "Bolivar: American Liberator," about the historical importance of Simon Bolivar: Latin America's most revered revolutionary.
Timeline of Simon Bolivar
Bolivar: American Liberator
Thrilling, authoritative and revelatory, here at last is a biography of Bolivar, the maker of South America, that catches the sheer extraordinary unique adventure and titanic scale of his life with accessible narrative and scholarly judgment.
Bolívar Museum in Caracas
Simon Bolivar: A Life
John Lynch draws on extensive research on the man and his era to tell Bolívar's story, to understand his life in the context of his own society and times, and to explore his remarkable and enduring legacy
Adventuring Through Spanish Colonies
Between 1810 and 1825, seven thousand British, Scottish, and Irish mercenaries traveled to Gran Colombia to fight against Spanish colonial rule under the rebel forces of Simon Bolivar. Their motives were mixed. Some traveled for money, others for honor. Adventuring Through Spanish Colonies explores the lives of these men
Listen to free audiobooks on Simon Bolivar
Bolivar and the Conquest of New Granada
Paez, the Llanero Chief
from Historical Tales, Vol III: Spanish American, by Charles Morris
Simon Bolivar wikipedia
Simon Bolivar the Liberator (1951)
Memoirs of Simon Bolivar (1829)
Venezuela's Chavez exhumes hero Simon Bolivar's bones
Other Spanish American and Mexican history links:
The War Of the Triple Alliance ( also known as the Paraguayan War ) from 1864 - 1870 is little known outside South America, despite being the bloodiest war in South American history
War of the Pacific
1879-1883 Chile vs Peru and Bolivia
Spanish American War
The pirate Jean Laffite sailed under letters of marque from Gran Colombia
Simon Bolivar coins