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Bolívar, Simón(sēmōn` bōlē`vär), 1783–1830, South American revolutionary who led independence wars in the present nations of Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia.
Early Life and Setbacks
Born of a wealthy creole family in Caracas, Venezuela, Bolívar was educated by tutors such as Andrés BelloBello, Andrés
, 1781–1865, South American intellectual leader, b. Venezuela. In 1810 he was sent with Bolívar on a mission to London, where he remained for 19 years as a diplomat, teacher, and writer.
..... Click the link for more information. and Simón Rodríguez, and was influenced by the writings of European rationalists such as John Locke and Jean Jacques Rousseau. When the revolution against Spain broke out in 1810, he enthusiastically joined the rebel army, but in 1812, his forces were defeated at Puerto Cabello, Venezuela. In bitter response, he joined the men who imprisoned the patriot leader, Francisco de MirandaMiranda, Francisco de
, 1750–1816, Venezuelan revolutionist and adventurer. A hero of the struggle for independence from Spain, he is sometimes called the Precursor to distinguish him from Simón Bolívar, who completed the task of liberation.
..... Click the link for more information. . In July, 1812, following an armistice, Bolívar went to Cartagena and joined forces with Colombian patriot, Antonio NariñoNariño, Antonio
, 1765–1823, Colombian revolutionary. A liberal intellectual, Nariño was one of the first to foment revolution against Spain in South America.
..... Click the link for more information. . He returned to win notable victories against the Spanish; in Aug., 1813, he entered Caracas and was given the title of "the liberator." In 1814, the Spanish recaptured Caracas and the revolutionaries were scattered by a royalist force under Pablo MorilloMorillo, Pablo
, 1778–1837, Spanish general. Sent in 1815 to put down the revolution in New Granada, he captured Cartagena, quelled (1816) the insurrection in Bogotá, and then marched into present-day Venezuela. His military occupations were ruthless and bloody.
..... Click the link for more information. . Bolívar escaped to Jamaica, where he wrote La Carta de Jamaica (The Letter from Jamaica), his inspired political document advocating republican government throughout Spanish America, modeled after Great Britain.
In the spring of 1816, with the backing of the small republic of Haiti, Bolívar launched an invasion of Venezuela. After a disastrous failure, he returned to Haiti. In 1817, he returned to his homeland to lead the revolutionary army. He recruited José Antonio PáezPáez, José Antonio
, 1790–1873, Venezuelan revolutionist, president, and caudillo. He boldly led (1810–19) a band of llaneros [plainsmen] in skillful guerrilla warfare against the Spanish, aided Simón Bolívar at the battle of
..... Click the link for more information. , who led an army of llaneros (plainsmen) and European veterans of the Napoleonic wars. Resuming the war, he occupied part of the lower Orinoco basin. At Angostura (now Ciudad BolívarCiudad Bolívar
, city (1990 pop. 225,340), capital of Bolívar state, E Venezuela, an inland port on the Orinoco River. It is the commercial center of the eastern llanos, the Orinoco basin, and the Guiana Highlands.
..... Click the link for more information. ) a congress elected him president of Venezuela.
There, in 1819, he conceived his brilliant strategy of attack. With a force made up largely of llaneros under Francisco de Paula SantanderSantander, Francisco de Paula
, 1792–1840, Colombian revolutionist. Given command of the guerrillas of the llanos by Simón Bolívar, Santander materially contributed to the victory at Boyacá. In Oct.
..... Click the link for more information. and Páez he crossed the flooded Apure valley, climbed the bitterly cold Andean passes, and defeated the surprised Spanish forces at BoyacáBoyacá
, town, Boyacá dept., N central Colombia, near Tunja. At Boyacá on Aug. 7, 1819, revolutionary forces under Simón Bolívar won the decisive engagement that assured the independence of present-day Colombia and Venezuela from Spain.
..... Click the link for more information. (Aug. 7, 1819) in one of the great campaigns of military history. The same year, he was made president of Greater Colombia (present-day Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Panama). Venezuela's freedom was secure following his victory at Carabobo (June, 1821). Ecuador was liberated when he and Antonio José de SucreSucre, Antonio José de
, 1795–1830, South American revolutionist, b. Cumaná, Venezuela. He joined (1811) the forces fighting for independence from Spain and rose to be the chief lieutenant of Simón Bolívar.
..... Click the link for more information. won the battle of Pichincha in May, 1822. In Quito, Bolívar met (1822) the woman who was to accompany him for much of his life, Manuela Sáenz, 1797?–1856, a devoted revolutionary and progressive thinker.
From Quito, Bolívar undertook to free Peru, where the forces of the great Argentine liberator José de San MartínSan Martín, José de
, 1778–1850, South American revolutionist, b. Yapeyú, in present-day Argentina. After service with the Spanish army in Europe, he returned (1812) to join the revolution against Spain in his native country.
..... Click the link for more information. were already operating. At Guayaquíl in July, 1822, Bolívar and San Martín met in secret. What occurred there is still unknown, although speculation continues to this day. The outcome was the withdrawal of San Martín. Bolívar commanded the patriot forces that won at Junín and Ayacucho in 1824, bringing to a victorious conclusion the revolution in South America. He organized the government of Peru, and dispatched Sucre to conquer Alto Perú, which became Bolivia.
Disillusionment and Tribute
In 1826, he furthered his vision of a united Spanish America by convening representatives of the new republics at Panama; although little was accomplished, it marked the beginning of Pan-Americanism. Separatist movements continued to undermine the union and there was much dissent against his power and his high-handed methods. Bolívar declared himself dictator in 1828, and the next night, Sept. 24, 1828, he barely escaped assassination by jumping from a high window and hiding with the help of Manuela Sáenz. He could not halt the crumbling of Greater Colombia, and Venezuela and Ecuador seceded.
In poor health and disillusioned ("We have ploughed the sea," he said), he resigned the presidency in 1830. Shortly thereafter, he died near Santa Marta. (His death may have been the result of tuberculosis or accidental poisoning from medicines; an exhumation in 2010–11 was unable to conclusively establish the cause of death.) He died poor and bitterly hated, yet it was not long before South Americans began to pay tribute to the hero of their independence. Today, monumental statues of Bolívar adorn the central plazas of cities and towns throughout the Andean region.
See biographies by J. L. Salcedo-Bastardo (1983), D. Wepman (1985), J. Lynch (2006), and M. Arana (2013); bibliography by R. Gordon (1976).
Born July 24, 1783, in Caracas, Venezuela; died Dec. 17, 1830, near Santa Marta, Colombia. One of the leaders of the independence struggle of the Spanish colonies in America. Born into a noble Creole family.
Bolívar spent his youth in Europe, in Spain, France, and Italy. Returning to his homeland, he took an active part in the overthrow of Spanish rule in Venezuela (1810) and in its proclamation as a republic (1811). After the latter was smashed by the Spanish, Bolívar settled down in New Granada (now Colombia). In 1813 his troops occupied Caracas; the second Venezuelan republic, headed by Bolívar, was established. However, he was defeated in 1814 and was forced to leave his homeland. A band led by Bolívar once again settled on the shores of Venezuela in 1816. The abolition of slavery (1816) and the decree allocating land to soldiers of the liberation army (1817) helped him obtain the support of the broad masses. In 1819 his troops liberated New Granada, and he was chosen president of the republic of Gran Colombia, which included Venezuela and New Granada. Concluding the rout of the major Spanish forces in Venezuela (1821), Bolivar’s army liberated the province of Quito (present-day Ecuador) in 1822, which was subsequently joined to Gran Colombia. In 1824 he smashed the Spanish forces on the territory of Peru, and in 1825 he became head of the republic of Bolivia—so-named in his honor—which was forming in upper Peru. In the effort to rally and unite the new states of Latin America, Bolívar called a continental congress in Panama (1826). However, he did not succeed in realizing his plans. The separatist actions that began led to the overthrow of Bolivar’s regime in Peru and Bolivia, and they threatened to separate Venezuela and Quito from Colombia. Bolívar retired at the beginning of 1830.
Bolivar’s activity, which aimed at the liquidation of the colonial regime with its characteristic feudal features, objectively furthered the bourgeois development of the countries of South America.
WORKSObras completas, vols. 1–2. Havana, 1947.
REFERENCESMarx, K. “Bolivar-i-Ponte.” In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 14.
Lavretskii, I. R. Bolivar, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1966. (Bibliography.)
M. S. AL’PEROVICH