Early Life of Simon Bolivar




1940s comic book on Simon Bolívar

Simón Bolívar was born in the city of Caracas on the twenty-fourth day of July, 1783; he was the fourth child of Colonel Don Juan Vicente Bolívar, and his mother, Dona Maria de la Concepcion Palacios y Blanco of a wealthy Creole family.  There were two daughters, María Antonia (1777-1842) and Juana Maria (1779-1847) and the elder brother Juan Vicente . Brother Juan Vicente died in a shipwreck in 1811 returning from a mission to the United States to buy arms. Simón Bolívar had no direct descendants, the Bolívar line lived on through  Juana Maria, who had two children : Guillermo and Benigna . Guillermo was killed in the Battle of La Hogaza in 1817 while serving with his uncle . Descendants of Benigna still live in Caracas . The family of Bolívar was amongst the earlier of the emigrants from Spain since Simon de Bolívar settled on the island of Santo Domingo in the 1550s . Bolívars' ancestors hailed from the Basque provinces in Spain .  Well connected with the Governor of the island, De Bolívar joined him when he was transferred to Caracas . The family had a house in Caracas, cacao plantations, gold and copper mines, cattle ranchesand other property .  A sugar cane estate with a encomiendia in San Mateo that was the foundation of the family fortune and was in the family for hundreds of years . The family was one of the most prosperous in Venezuela . Bolivar would lose all this to follow his dream . Many of these properties were sold when the royalists regained power in 1816 . What property that remained in his closing years, such as the family copper mines Aroa were tied up in law courts and  aunccessible . Later , the remaining property was seized by the Paez government in Caracas . Bolivar  had used his family fortune supporting the revolution . Many imagined the Liberator had amassed a fortune, but by the time he died he was relying on a pension of 30,000 pesos  .

Simón's father Don Juan Vicente Bolivar

 His father spent five years in the court in Madrid . His father died when Simon was still very young, and his mother took excellent care of his education. His teacher, afterwards his intimate friend, was Don Simon Rodroguez, a man of strange ideas and habits, but constant in his affection and devotion to his illustrious pupil. Bolivar's family belonged to the Spanish nobility, and in Venezuela was counted in the group called Mantuano, or noble. They owned great tracts of land and lived in comfort, associating with the best people, among whom they were considered leaders.

Simón Bolívar birthplace Casa Natal de Boliva

The early youth of Simon Bolivar was more or less like that of the other boys of his city and station, except that he gave evidence of a certain precocity and nervousness of action and speech which distinguished him as an enthusiastic and somewhat idealistic boy. Misfortune taught him its bitter lessons when he was still young. At fifteen years of age he lost his mother. Then his uncle and guardian, don Carlos Palacios, sent him to Madrid to complete his education.

Leaves for Spain, travels in Europe, marriage

The boat on which he made the trip left La Guaira on January 17, 1799, and stopped at Vera Cruz. This enabled young Simon Bolivar to go to Mexico City and other towns of New Spain. In the capital of the colony he was treated in a manner becoming his social standing, and met the highest officials of the government. The viceroy had several conversations with him, and admired his wit; but it finally alarmed him when the boy came to talk on political questions and, with an assurance superior to his age, defended the freedom of the American colonies.

Leaving Vera Cruz, the San Ildefonso touched at Havana, and finally made the port of Santona, on the shores of the Bay of Biscay, in May I 799. From Santona Bolivar went to Madrid, where he lived with another maternal uncle, Esteban Palacio, until the latter left the capital. Amongst Palacio's friends was Manuel Mallo, a native of Popayan in New Granada, who had lived for a time at Caracas, and was now sharing with Manuel Godoy the illicit affections of Charles IV's disreputable wife, María Luisa. Bolivar was taken up as a compatriot by Mallo, and witnessed some of the Queen's unworthy doings.

 There is a curious story told by Bolivar himself of his having been invited to play tennis with the Prince of Asturias, whom he beat. The Prince was vexed and would have stopped playing, but his mother made him go on. This Prince was afterwards Ferdinand VII. A more worthy friend than Mallo was the cultivated Marquis de Ustariz, who, amongst other things, used to discuss with the young man the idea of a separation of Spanish America from the mother country.

Ferdinand VII of Spain  

(October 14, 1784 –  September, 29 1833)




At the house of Ustariz, Bolivar met and fell in love with a mere child, Maria Teresa Rodriguez de Toro, niece of the Marquis de Toro of Caracas, who reciprocated his affection. Her father, Don Bernardo de Toro, was willing to agree to the marriage, but, in view of the youth of the parties (Bolivar was but eighteen, and the girl fifteen), insisted on some delay.

Bolivar now got into trouble owing to his friend Mallo. The young man was arrested and searched, under the pretext of breach of a sumptuary regulation ; but it is surmised that the real object was to ascertain if he had letters indicating Mallo's infidelity to the jealous Queen. Bolivar consequently followed Don Bernardo and his daughter to Bilbao, and, when they returned to Madrid, betook him- self to Paris, where he arrived early in 1802. In the French capital he soon became an admirer of the Republic, which he imagined to be the only good form of government. For Bonaparte he expressed the warmest admiration, which disappeared when, in later years, he found Bonaparte the Consul transformed into Napoleon the Emperor.

In the spring of 1802, Bolivar returned to Madrid, where, at the end of May, he was married to Maria Teresa de Toro. The young couple spent their honey- moon on a vessel sailing from Corufia to La Guaira, the port of Caracas.

On Bolivar's side, at any rate, the marriage was one purely of affection ; for his will shows that his wife brought no dowry, and the husband was extremely wealthy as wealth went in Caracas. 1 The poor girl had little opportunity of proving her disinterestedness, for, a few months after she had reached her husband's estates in the Aragua Valley, she died, after five days of  yellow fever,leaving Simon Bolivar, at the age of 19, a childless widower.

He was in despair, vowed he would never marry again, a vow which he observed, and offered to make over his whole estate to his brother, reserving only sufficient to live upon. The brother refused, and Simon resolved on another prolonged visit to Europe. Bolivar himself said that his wife's death changed the whole course of his life. Had she lived, he would perhaps not have been satisfied to remain Alcalde of S. Mateo, but, unless she had died, he would not have revisited Europe, or gained the experience which he acquired there.

Bolívar returned to Europe in 1804 . Due to growing distrust of foreigners in Spain, Bolívar leaves for France, home of his revolutionary hero Napoleon . Returns to Europe, sees Napoleon crowned emperor on Dec 2, who he becomes to regard as a tyrant . Bolívar never returns to Spain . He learned to speak French and Italian fluently, and could understand English.

In Paris, Bolivar again met his old tutor Simon Rodriguez, who, fortunately, persuaded him to leave the capital and go for an extended walking tour with his old friend. The idea of traveling on foot, which was Rodriguez's, was well calculated to restore Bolivar's shattered health. The two trudged off in May 1805 to Italy, were in Milan at the time of Napoleon's coronation as King of Italy, witnessed his mimic reproduction of Marengo, and passed on to Venice, with which Bolivar was disappointed, after having heard so much of it as the place after which his native country was named. At Rome, Bolivar, in a moment of enthusiasm, inspired by the surrounding monuments, vowed to Rodriguez that he would liberate his country.

In 1805 Bolívar made a vow on Aventine Hill in Rome to dedicate his life to liberate his country.

" I will not rest in body and soul till I have broken the chains of Spain ."

Visits the United States, returns to Venezuela

From Italy, he came to the United States, where he visited Boston, New York, Philadelphia and other towns, sailing from Charleston for Venezuela. He arrived in Caracas at the end of 1806 and once more he retired to his Aragua estates.  When Bolivar reached Caracas in the end of I 806, Miranda's abortive attempt to raise the standard of revolt was already suppressed.

Miranda had fitted out a small expedition in New York, consisting of one armed corvette and two small transports, carrying a small force, and a good supply of arms and ammunition for the expected Venezuelan recruits. He arrived off Ocumare (between La Guaira and Puerto Cabello) on the 25th March 1806, believing the Spaniards to be ignorant of his enterprise. But they had received information from the Spanish ambassador in the United States. Attacked by a superior force, Miranda lost both his transports and sixty prisoners, himself escaping in the corvette to Trinidad. He was burnt in effigy by the Spaniards, a large reward was offered for his capture, and of the sixty prisoners, ten were hanged and the rest sent to the prisons of Cartagena and Puerto Rico. At Trinidad Miranda raised fresh forces, with which he sailed on the 24th July. Landing near Coro in the face of superior forces, he captured the port and citadel, which he held from the 4th to the 8th August. Finding no sympathy in the neighbourhood, and receiving a refusal of help from Sir Eyre Coote, Governor of Jamaica, and from the British admiral, he broke up the expedition and sailed for Trinidad, and thence to London.

In 1808 and 1809 came the news of decisive events in Spain, the action of Napoleon in compelling the abdication of Charles IV. and his son Ferdinand, the gift to Joseph Bonaparte of the Spanish throne, which his Imperial brother had wrested from its rightful occupants, the rising of the Spanish people against the French dominion, and the institution of the Central Junta of Aranjuez. Napoleon, having bestowed on his brother the crown of Spain, naturally desired to transfer with it Spain's transatlantic possessions ; but the destruction of his naval power at Trafalgar had rendered him powerless to employ force.

The French corvette Le Serpent safely reached La Guaira on the 15th July 1808, closely followed by the British frigate A casta — Captain Beaver. The last-named officer, as well as the captain of the French ship, landed, and Beaver followed the Frenchman to Caracas, where he was received almost with insult by the Captain-General, Juan de Casas, who had already been gained over by Napoleon's emissary. The populace, however, informed by Beaver of the true state of affairs, regarded matters very differently. They would have nothing to do with the French usurper, demonstrated vigorously their loyalty to Ferdinand VII., and compelled his public proclamation. The French, in considerable danger of being torn to pieces, were got away quietly to La Guaira, whence the Serpent sailed. She was followed by the Acasta^ and taken at sea. with great tyranny, and that Bolivar left Caracas in order to avoid banishment






 Grievances of the

Spanish colonies


The First Venezuela Republic