Bolívar was born in Caracas on July 24th of 1783, descendant of a
family of Basque origin established in Venezuela since the end of the XVI
century and which occupied a distinguished social and economic position in the
early years of Simón Bolívar life were spent with occasional trips to the
family estates located in the Aragua Valley.
In 1792 Dońa Concepción passed away.
María Antonia and Juana were married quickly, and the two sons, Juan
Vicente and Simón continued to live with their family and maternal grandfather
who was their tutor.
the death of his grandfather, Simón Bolívar’s upbringing was left to the
care of his uncle, Carlos Palacios. In
July of 1795, when he became 12 years old, he suffered a crisis quite common to
adolescense. He fled from his uncle
seeking refuge in the home of María Antonia and her husband, for whom he felt
a consequence of these events, which came to a happy conclusion, Simón Bolívar
spent a few months as a guest of Don Simón Rodríguez (1771-1854) also born in
Caracas, who was the headmaster at an elementary school in the city.
A relationship of mutual comprehension and sympathy sprung up between the
genial pedagogue and social reformer, and the young Simón Bolívar.
This relationship lasted for a lifetime.
Before and after having been Rodríguez’s pupil, Bolívar studied under
other teachers in Caracas, and was instructed in writing and arithmetic,
history, religion and Latin. He
also received classes in History and Literature with Don Andrés Bello
(1781-1865) who cultivated his blossoming wealth of knowledge, which in later
years was to make him America’s greatest humanist.
early 1799, he traveled to Spain. In
Madrid, he devoted himself passionately to his studies.
He received the education accorded to a gentleman who was destined to a
vital role in worldly and military affairs; he widened his knowledge of history,
classical and modern literature, and mathematics, initiating studies in French;
he also learned the arts of fencing and dance, making rapid progress in all
these activities. His frequenting
of parties and dances polished his spirit, enriched his language, and gave him
social poise. In Madrid became
acquainted with María Teresa Rodríguez del Toro y
Alayza, with whom he fell passionately in love.
At the end of 1800, his thoughts turned to setting up a family life, and
return to Venezuela, particularly to attend to his properties.
May 26 of 1802, he married María Teresa. The
young newlyweds traveled to Venezuela, but their bliss was short lived, for she
passed away in January of 1803. The
widowed youth returned to Europe at the end of the same year, passing through
Cadiz and Madrid, and established residence in Paris in the spring of 1804.
the capital of the rising French Empire, the pleasures offered by a vigorous
social life and the mundane pastimes of an intellectual nature occupied Bolívar’s
time in no less a measure that the fascinating spectacle of a Europe caught up
in the throes of an ebullient political transformation.
19th of 1810 marks the date of the Declaration of Independence.
The “Junta” formed on that day appoints Bolívar, in the company of
Luis López Méndez and Andrés Bello, as representative to the British
Government. Once his mission was
completed, Bolívar returns from London at the end of the same year. In Britain he was able to observe the practical functioning
of institutions. Once restored to
his place in the Caracas Patriotic Society, he becomes one of the ardent
spokesmen for Independence which is finally proclaimed by Congress on July 5 of
1811. Bolívar enters military
service, and rising to the rank of Colonel he takes a hand in the raid of
Valencia under the orders of Miranda in 1811.
brilliant military campaigns get underway in which victory and defeat alternate
until 1818, and from the following years onwards his victories predominated.
Heading a small army, he clears the Magdalena River (nowadays part of
Colombia) of enemies, and in February of 1813 he takes the Villa de Cúcuta and
the liberation of Venezuela begins in May.
This series of battles and adroit maneuvers which took the victors within
a period of three months from the Táchira boundary to Caracas where he entered
on August 6, merit the name “Admirable Campaign” with which it became better
known in later years.
in Jamaica from May to December of 1815, Bolívar waits impatiently for the
right moment to intervene in the new fight.
Meanwhile, he meditates on the destiny of Latin America and in September
he draws up the now famous “Jamaica Letter”, in which he reviews with
penetrating comprehension and with a prophetic vision, the past, present and
future of the Continent. Napoleon’s
defeat in Europe and the arrival in Venezuela of a powerful Spanish army under
the command of General Pablo Morillo gave a new enthusiasm to sympathizers of
the royalist cause. Bolívar, after eluding the knife of a hired assassin, moves
to Haiti, in search of financial resources to continue the struggle. Haiti’s President, Alejandro Petion, lends him aid with
admirable magnanimity. An
expedition soon leave Los Cayos headed by Bolívar arriving in 1816 at the
island of Margarita. A short while later it leaves for the mainland.
Carúpano is taken by assault and there, on June 2nd, Bolívar
issues a decree which grants the slaves their liberty.
The expedition moved on to the port of Ocumare de la Costa, where Bolívar
is accidentally separated from the main body of his army, and is forced to leave
the shore once again. Returning to
Haiti, he organizes a second expedition which arrives at the island of Margarita
at the end of the year.
rebirth of the republic
afterward, he launches a campaign which was to liberate Nueva Granada.
The army crosses the Andes via the inhospitable Páramo de Pisba, and
after bloody battles fought in Gameza and the Pantano de Vargas, in July of
1810, he obtains a decisive victory in the battle of Boyacá on August 7th.
liberation of Ecuador
sights are now turned towards Ecuador, which was still under the dominion of the
Spaniards. He travels by way of Maracaibo to Cúcuta, where Congress is
convened, and from here goes on to Bogotá.
In 1822 two patriot armies attempt to liberate Quito:
Bolívar leads the northern thrust; General Antonio José de Sucre the
southern one, starting out Guayaquil.
two illustrious captains of the South American independence embrace and hold
conversations there. What they had
discussed in private was later revealed in authentic documents emanating from
Bolívar and his General Secretary. General
San Martin’s main objective which was to negotiate the future destiny of
Guayaquil, could not be realized because the Province had already been
incorporated into the Great Colombian Republic.
the middle of 1823, the political-military situation of Perú had deteriorated
considerably. Called on by the Congress and the people of that nation, the
Liberator left Guayaquil on August 7 and arrived at Callao in early September.
Anarchy was rampant among the patriots.
Bolívar, whose charge was limited to military operations, dedicated
himself to reorganize the military, forming a nucleus comprised of battalions
which had accompanied him from where he was given notice that the garrison of
Callao had taken up the royalist cause. Facing
many difficulties, his indomitable spirit manifested itself in his now famous
projects of continental unity
days earlier, from Lima, Bolívar sent an invitation to the governments of Latin
America asking them to send their representative to a Congress that was to be
held in Panamá, in June of 1826.
fight against adverse conditions
in Venezuela, a revolution known as “La Cosiata” and headed by General José
Antonio Páez, breaks out against the Bogotá government. In April of 1826, Bolívar
returns to Caracas and manages to reestablish peace at the beginning of 1827.
However, the forces working toward dispersion prevailed over tendencies
toward union. Bolívar withdraws
politically as well as personally from Vice President Santander, until a total
rupture in their relations occurs. On
July 5 of 1827 Bolívar leaves Caracas for the last time, boards a ship in La
Guaira, and arrives in Bogotá. On
September 10, he takes oath before the Congress as President of the Republic.
The National Convention meeting in Ocańa in 1828 is dissolved without
the diverse parties having reached an agreement.
Bolívar, acclaimed Dictator, escapes an attempt against his life in
Bogotá in September of the same year; shortly afterward he was a forced to
launch a campaign against the Peruvian forces which menaced Ecuador. He remained there throughout the year of 1829.
Despite sickness and exhaustion, he struggles to preserve his work.
At the beginning of 1830 he returns to Bogotá to install the Constituent
Congress. Venezuela again faces
agitation and proclaims an Independent State.
In Nueva Granada, the opposition grows and becomes stronger.
The Liberator, with failing health, renounces the Presidency and embarks on a trip to the coast. The news of the assassination of General Sucre, which he received in Cartagena, affects him deeply. He envisions a trip to Europe, but death takes him by surprise on December 17, 1830 in San Pedro Alejandrino, an estate located on the outskirts of Santa Marta. On December 10, he made his last proclamation to his countrymen, which is considered his political testament. He distinguished himself among his contemporaries though the use of his prodigious talent, his intelligence, his will and abnegation, qualities which he placed entirely at the service of a great and noble endeavor: that of liberating and organizing the civil life of many nations which today view him as their founding Father. His mortal remains, brought to Venezuela with great pomp in 1942, now lie in the National Pantheon in Caracas.
By Manuel Pérez Vila