Saturday Jan 18th, 2020

Who was: Simón Bolívar?

Simon Bolivar He was a Venezuelan military and politician, founder of the republics of Gran Colombia and Bolivia. He was one of the most prominent figures of Spanish-American emancipation against the Spanish Empire. It contributed to inspire and concretize decisively the independence of the current Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Venezuela and Peru.

Simón José Antonio of the Holy Trinity Bolívar Palacios Ponte y Blanco was born on 24 de julio de 1783 in Caracas. His parents belonged to two important Caracas lineages. Everything seemed ready for Simon and his brothers to administer the large properties of the family, as had happened during the previous two centuries.

But soon misfortune loomed over him: when he was three years old his father died; At nine he died his mother, who never showed him too much affection. Simon was in the care of his grandfather, Feliciano Palacios.

But his rebellious character built an insurmountable barrier with disobedience. The lawsuit for whom he was to administer his fortune concluded with the forced transfer of Bolivar to the house of a teacher named Simon Rodriguez.

Fortunately, Simón Rodríguez, an expository, self-taught and who had been appointed teacher by the Caracas council in the school of first letters for children, turned out to be the most suitable teacher for the young Bolívar. Whether Rodriguez was already applying his own original pedagogical model, or because the child was forced into it, the relationship ended up paying off.

En 1799When his grandfather died, Bolivar was sent to study in Madrid. Upon arrival he had the education that every young man in his class should receive: foreign languages, dance, math, horse riding, history.

In Madrid he met a young woman, María Teresa Rodríguez del Toro, who fell madly in love. In 1802 he married her and returned to Venezuela willing to attend his estates; but, just eight months later, María Teresa died in Caracas of a violent fever, unable to withstand the climate of the tropics. This was, perhaps, the first of the events that guided his destiny in a very different way than he had planned.

Ravaged by grief, he returned to Spain, but, prey to painful memories, he soon settled in Paris, where he lived a dissipated existence and during which he made loose use of his fortune. However, the wasteful days of Bolivar in France were suddenly truncated when he learned that his old and beloved Caracas teacher was in Paris. He proposed to travel Italy to recover emotional stability, a trip that would lead to two episodes that changed the face of Bolivar's life again.

The first, in Milan, when he could see closely Napoleon Bonaparte, his admired hero, now king of Italy; and the second, perhaps slightly idealized in the story left by Rodriguez, known as the Oath of Mount Sacro, when Bolivar, kneeling on the Aventine of Rome, proclaimed: "I will not give rest to my arm or my sword until the day we have broken the chains of the Spanish domain that oppresses us".

From now on, his life took a definite course; the next twenty years were those that gave military and political brilliance, in line with the events that marked the process of independence of South America. In 1806Francisco de Miranda, the Forerunner, invaded fruitlessly Coro, near the Venezuelan coast; the adventure was unsuccessful, but filled Bolivar with hope, who then returned to America. It was then that Bolivar's public life began; from the Patriotic Society of Caracas, he distinguished himself by his ardent calls for independence, and immediately became integrated, with the rank of colonel, in the army under Francisco de Miranda's command to defend the republic from the Spanish reaction.

The First Republic, the "Motherland"It did not last more than two years: the Spanish army, better prepared than the Venezuelan, soon imposed its law. Bolivar himself made a very serious mistake by leaving at the mercy of the enemy the ammunition and weapons in the Plaza de Puerto Cabello, after which Miranda had no choice but to capitulate to avoid unnecessary bloodshed.

Miranda negotiated with the commander of the Spanish army, Domingo de Monteverde, the terms of the capitulation. The Precursor accepted the harsh conditions of surrender because he had no other way out, but his companions considered him a traitor. The admiration for the old general began to fade and the 31 de julio de 1812For reasons that are not yet clear, Miranda was handed over to the Spaniards.

Bolivar decided to continue after the independence dream. In August of 1812 He escaped to Curaçao and in October he moved to Cartagena de Indias. His intention was to liberate New Granada at the same time as Venezuela. He wrote then the first of his great political documents, the Cartagena Manifesto, in which he proposed the reconquest of Caracas as a fundamental step for the independence of the entire continent, which would shape a new state called Colombia.

Next, Bolívar starred in one of the most amazing military feats in history: "Admirable campaign", origin of the Second Venezuelan Republic. Split the May 14 1813; with rapid movements and risky actions (he and his army crossed the rugged peaks of the Venezuelan Andes on horseback) displayed his conditions as a military leader. Two months later he launched the proclamation of "War to death" in Trujillo, with the intention of taking a national turn to war. After several victorious battles (Cúcuta, Niquitao, Los Horcones), the patriotic army took Valencia, San Carlos and La Victoria, and in August 1813 triumphantly entered Caracas.

Bolívar was the captain general of the Armies of New Granada and Venezuela, and the Municipality granted him the title of Liberator and the position of captain general, equivalent to general in chief. The patriotic army, harassed everywhere by enemies of independence, was forced to emigrate to the east of the country with almost the entire population of Caracas. It was the end of the Second Republic.

Bolívar traveled to Bogotá and Cartagena. From there he left to Kingston, where he would write the famous Jamaica letter in which, according Use Pietri, “He described the most complete and dazzling panorama of the situation and the future of the continent”. He then embarked on Haiti where he met the Haitian President Pétion. Despite the defeat and misgivings of the other leaders, he insisted on remaining as supreme head of the army, and with the decisive support of some generals (José Antonio Páez in the Llanos, Manuel Piar in Guayana) managed to give new impetus to the fight. In this way, in 1817After landing on Margarita Island, he took Guyana. He founded the first newspaper, the Orinoco Mail, and summoned in 1819 a congress in the town of Angostura, where he delivered the most important of his political messages: Angostura's Speech.

Next, Bolívar organized one of his most famous campaigns: the liberation of New Granada (the current Colombia). In front of an army of about 3.000 men, repeated the feat of 1813 and crossed in the rainy season the summits of the Andes; This surprised the Spanish army led by Brigadier José María Barreiro, whom he defeated in the battle of Boyacá, the August 7st, 1819. Upon returning to Angostura, Bolívar managed to approve the constitution of the Republic of Colombia (or Gran Colombia), which included the current Venezuela and Colombia. Venezuela, however, remained in Spanish hands.

In June of 1821, the victory of the independentistas in the plain of Carabobo, against Caracas, sealed the independence of Venezuela. The Congress of Cúcuta elected Bolívar president of Colombia and granted him broad executive powers, which ratified his model of a centralized state that would equally avoid the extremes of the monarchy and democratic anarchy.

Bolívar persisted in its efforts to expand the territory of the newly founded Republic. The next step was Ecuador. In 1822, during his march to Quito he defeated the Hispanic troops in Bomboná. Meanwhile, one of his most beloved generals, Antonio José de Sucre, won a landslide victory on the slopes of the Pichincha volcano, with which he released the viceroyalty of Peru, which Bolívar annexed to Guayaquil. In the south, José Francisco de San Martín, who had successfully faced the Spaniards in Argentina and Chile, had declared himself "Protector of Peru" with the intention, similar to that of Bolívar, to bring independence to the entire continent . After the liberation of Chile, and supported by the fleet of the English adventurer Lord Cochrane, San Martín disembarked in Lima and established the Protectorate, before the suspicion of the conservative public opinion of the city.

The obvious push of the liberating army of Bolivar forced the conference between both leaders in Guayaquil, the 27 de julio de 1822. As a consequence, San Martin left the path free to the Liberator. In 1824, Bolívar defeated the Spanish general José de Canterac in Junín. Sucre, on the other hand, defeated the army of the last Peruvian viceroy, José de la Serna, count of the Andes, in Ayacucho, at the end of 1824. This closed the cycle of battles and the war of independence was terminated. Twelve years of struggles allowed Bolívar and the patriotic army that managed to concentrate to expel troops from Fernando VII From South America. Spain would never be the owner of continental territory.

The war was over, but the political intrigue had only just begun. Bolivar was at the pinnacle of his career and shone like the Liberator of an entire continent. The presiding Grand Colombia grouped a vast space in the northern half of South America, the current states of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador and Panama; Peru and Bolivia, freed by himself and Sucre, remained in their orbit. But Bolivar went even further. In 1818 I dreamed: "United America, if heaven gives us this desired vote, may be called the queen of nations and the mother of the republics". Already president of Colombia, he imagined an “American League” that would unite his republic with the other independent Spanish-American states (Mexico, Peru, Chile and Argentina) in a federation that would have its own presence in international politics.

But soon his former fighting companions became enemies: Páez moved away from him, Santander did not want him in Nueva Granada and Santa Cruz revoked the Bolivarian constitution of Peru. Accused of imperial cravings, in 1828 He assumed the dictatorship after a conspiracy in Bogotá that was about to cost him his life. Tired of quarrels, ambitions and political crimes, frustrated because he had "plowed at sea" in January 1830 He convened a congress in which he presented his irrevocable resignation. In a few months his unified republic dissolved, leaving in its place a series of independent countries ruled by military leaders.

The twenty years he had spent traveling the continent on horseback had undermined the health and spirits of Bolivar, who dedicated his life and his fortune to carry out the oath he made with his teacher at the foot of Mount Aventine. He died in Santa Marta on December 17, 1830, completely impoverished, away from public life, blamed for an excessive desire for power, pursued viciously by his envious enemies. The last wish of his political testament reveals what caliber was the bravery that guided him even to the gates of death, the greatest difficulty: "If my death contributes to stop the parties and consolidate the union, I will go down quietly to the grave".


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