Simón Bolívar

"Bolívar" redirects here. For other uses, see Bolívar (disambiguation) and Simón Bolívar (disambiguation).
This name uses Spanish naming customs: the first or paternal family name is Bolívar and the second or maternal family name is Palacios.
Simón Bolívar

Portrait by Arturo Michelena
President of the Second Republic of Venezuela
In office
7 August 1813  16 July 1814
Preceded by Francisco de Miranda
(As 3rd President of the First Republic of Venezuela)
Succeeded by Himself
President of the Third Republic of Venezuela
In office
October 1817  24 February 1819
Preceded by Himself
Succeeded by José Antonio Páez
(As 1st President of Venezuela)
1st President of Gran Colombia
In office
24 February 1819  4 May 1830
Vice President Francisco de Paula Santander
Succeeded by Domingo Caycedo
1st President of Bolivia
In office
12 August 1825  29 December 1825
Succeeded by Antonio José de Sucre
8th President of Peru
In office
8 February 1824  28 January 1827
Preceded by José Bernardo de Tagle, Marquis of Torre-Tagle
Succeeded by Andrés de Santa Cruz
Personal details
Born (1783-07-24)24 July 1783
Caracas, Captaincy General of Venezuela, Spanish Empire (present-day Venezuela)
Died 17 December 1830(1830-12-17) (aged 47)
Santa Marta, Gran Colombia (present-day Colombia)
Nationality Venezuelan
Spouse(s) María Teresa Rodríguez del Toro y Alaysa (died on January 22, 1803)
Religion Catholic Church

Simón Bolívar (IPA: [siˈmon boˈliβar]), in full Simón José Antonio de la Santísima Trinidad Bolívar y Palacios[1] (24 July 1783 – 17 December 1830), was a Venezuelan military and political leader who played a leading role in the establishment of Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Panama as sovereign states, independent of Spanish rule.

Bolívar was born into a wealthy, aristocratic Creole family and, like others of his day, was educated abroad at a young age, arriving in Spain when he was 16 and later on moving to France. While in Europe he was introduced to the ideas of Enlightenment philosophers, which gave him the ambition to replace the Spanish as rulers. Taking advantage of the disorder in Spain prompted by the Peninsular War, Bolívar began his campaign for independence in 1808, appealing to the wealthy Creole population through a conservative process,[2] and established an organized national congress within three years. Despite a number of hindrances, including the arrival of an unprecedentedly large Spanish expeditionary force, the revolutionaries eventually prevailed, culminating in a patriot victory at the Battle of Carabobo in 1821, which effectively made Venezuela an independent country.

Following this triumph over the Spanish monarchy, Bolívar participated in the foundation of the first union of independent nations in Latin America, Gran Colombia, of which he was president from 1819 to 1830. Through further military campaigns, he ousted Spanish rulers from Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia (which was named after him). He was simultaneously president of Gran Colombia (current Venezuela, Colombia, Panamá and Ecuador) and Peru, while his second in command Antonio José de Sucre was appointed president of Bolivia. He aimed at a strong and united Spanish America able to cope not only with the threats emanating from Spain and the European Holy Alliance but also with the emerging power of the United States. At the peak of his power, Bolívar ruled over a vast territory from the Argentine border to the Caribbean Sea.

Bolívar is, along with Argentine General José de San Martín, considered one of the great heroes of the Hispanic independence movements of the early 19th century.

Family history

Origin of Bolívar surname

The surname Bolívar originated with aristocrats from La Puebla de Bolívar, a small village in the Basque Country of Spain.[3] Bolívar's father came from the female line of the Ardanza family.[4][5] His maternal grandmother was descended from families from the Canary Islands.[lower-alpha 1]

16th Century

The Bolívars settled in Venezuela in the 16th century. Bolívar's first South American ancestor was Simón de Bolívar (or Simon de Bolibar; the spelling was not standardized until the 19th century), who lived and worked with the governor of Santo Domingo from 1559 to 1560. When the governor was reassigned to Venezuela by the Spanish Crown in 1569, Simón de Bolívar went with him. As an early settler in Spain's Venezuela Province, he became prominent in the local society, and he and his descendants were granted estates, encomiendas, and positions in the local cabildo.[6]

When Caracas Cathedral was built in 1569, the Bolívar family had one of the first dedicated side chapels. The majority of the wealth of Simón de Bolívar's descendants came from the estates. The most important was a sugar plantation with an encomienda that provided the labor needed to run the estate.[7] Another portion of the Bolívars' wealth came from silver, gold, and copper mines. Small gold deposits were first mined in Venezuela in 1669, leading to the discovery of much more extensive copper deposits. From his mother's side (the Palacios family), Bolívar inherited the Aroa copper mines at Cocorote. Native American and African slaves provided the majority of the labor in these mines.[8]

17th Century

Toward the end of the 17th century, copper mining became so prominent in Venezuela that the metal became known as cobre Caracas ("Caracas copper"). Many of the mines became the property of the Bolívar family. Bolívar's grandfather, Juan de Bolívar y Martínez de Villegas, paid 22,000 ducats to the monastery at Santa Maria de Montserrat in 1728 for a title of nobility that had been granted by the king, Philip V of Spain, for its maintenance. The crown never issued the patent of nobility, and so the purchase became the subject of lawsuits that were still in progress during Bolívar's lifetime, when independence from Spain made the point moot. (If the lawsuits had been successful, Bolívar's older brother, Juan Vicente, would have become the Marquess of San Luis and Viscount of Cocorote.) Bolívar ultimately devoted his personal fortune to the revolution. Having been one of the wealthiest persons within the Spanish American world at the beginning of the revolution he died in poverty.[9]

Early life

An 18th-century portrait of Juan Vicente Bolívar y Ponte, the father of Simón Bolívar.


Simón Bolívar was born in a house in Caracas, Captaincy General of Venezuela, on 24 July 1783.[9]:6 He was baptized as Simón José Antonio de la Santísima Trinidad Bolívar y Palacios. His mother was María de la Concepción Palacios y Blanco, and his father was Colonel Don Juan Vicente Bolívar y Ponte. He had two older sisters and a brother: María Antonia, Juana, and Juan Vicente. Another sister, María del Carmen, died at birth.[1]

When Bolívar was an infant, he was cared for by Doña Ines Manceba de Miyares and the family's slave, Hipólita. A couple of years later, he returned to the care of his parents, but this experience would have a major effect on his life. His father died before Bolívar's third birthday,[1] and his mother died when he was almost nine.

After his mother's death, Bolívar was placed in the custody of an instructor, Miguel José Sanz, but this relationship did not work out and he was sent back home. He went on to receive private lessons from the renowned professors Andrés Bello, Guillermo Pelgrón, Jose Antonio Negrete, Fernando Vides, Father Andújar, and Don Simón Rodríguez, formerly known as Simón Carreño, Don Simón Rodríguez became Bolívar's teacher, friend and mentor. He taught him how to swim and ride horses while, at the same time, taught him about liberty, human rights, politics, history, and sociology.[10] Later in life Rodríguez was to be pivotal in Bolivar's decision to start the revolution, instilling in him the ideas of liberty, enlightenment, and freedom.[10]

In the meantime, Bolívar was mostly cared for by his nurse, the slave Hipólita, whom he later called "the only mother I have known".[11]


When Bolívar was fourteen, Don Simón Rodríguez had to leave the country after being accused of involvement in a conspiracy against the Spanish government in Caracas. Bolívar then entered the military academy of the Milicias de Aragua. [10] In 1800 he was sent to Spain to follow his military studies in Madrid, where he remained until 1802. Back in Europe in 1804 he lived in France and travelled to different countries. While in Paris, he witnessed the coronation of Napoleon in Notre Dame, an event that left a profound impression on him. Even if he disagreed with the crowning he was highly sensitive to the popular veneration inspired by the hero.[10]

El Libertador

Bolívar in 1812.
Simon Bolivar

Prelude, 1807-1810

Bolívar returned to Venezuela in 1807. After a coup on 19 April 1810, Venezuela achieved de facto independence when the Supreme Junta of Caracas was established and the colonial administrators deposed. The Supreme Junta sent a delegation to Great Britain to get British recognition and aid. This delegation presided by Bolívar also included two future Venezuelan notables Andrés Bello and Luis López Méndez. The trio met with Francisco de Miranda and persuaded him to return to his native land.

The First Republic of Venezuela, 1811-1812

In 1811, a delegation from the Supreme Junta, also including Bolívar, and a crowd of commoners enthusiastically received Miranda in La Guaira.[12] During the insurgence war conducted by Miranda, Bolívar was promoted to colonel and was made commandant of Puerto Cabello the following year, 1812. As Royalist Frigate Captain Domingo de Monteverde was advancing into republican territory from the west, Bolívar lost control of San Felipe Castle along with its ammunition stores on 30 June 1812. Bolívar then retreated to his estate in San Mateo.

Miranda saw the republican cause as lost and signed a capitulation agreement with Monteverde on 25 July, an action that Bolívar and other revolutionary officers deemed treasonous. In one of Bolívar's most morally dubious acts, he and others arrested Miranda and handed him over to the Spanish Royal Army at the port of La Guaira.[13] For his apparent services to the Royalist cause, Monteverde granted Bolívar a passport, and Bolívar left for Curaçao on 27 August.[14] It must be said, though, that Bolívar protested to the Spanish authorities about the reasons why he handled Miranda, insisting that he was not lending a service to the Crown but punishing a defector. In 1813, he was given a military command in Tunja, New Granada (modern-day Colombia), under the direction of the Congress of United Provinces of New Granada, which had formed out of the juntas established in 1810.

The Second Republic of Venezuela, 1813-1814. Exile in 1815

This was the beginning of the Admirable Campaign. On 24 May, Bolívar entered Mérida, where he was proclaimed El Libertador ("The Liberator").[15] This was followed by the occupation of Trujillo on 9 June. Six days later, on 15 June, Bolívar dictated his famous "Decree of War to the Death", allowing the killing of any Spaniard not actively supporting independence. Caracas was retaken on 6 August 1813, and Bolívar was ratified as El Libertador, establishing the Second Republic of Venezuela. The following year, because of the rebellion of José Tomás Boves and the fall of the republic, Bolívar returned to New Granada, where he commanded a force for the United Provinces. His forces entered Bogotá in 1814 and recaptured the city from the dissenting republican forces of Cundinamarca. Bolívar intended to march into Cartagena and enlist the aid of local forces in order to capture the Royalist town of Santa Marta. In 1815, however, after a number of political and military disputes with the government of Cartagena, Bolívar fled to Jamaica, where he was denied support. After an assassination attempt in Jamaica,[16] he fled to Haiti, where he was granted protection. He befriended Alexandre Pétion, the president of the newly independent country, and petitioned him for aid.[15]

Bolívar in 1816, during his stay in Haiti.

"Should I not let it be known to later generations that Alexandre Pétion is the true liberator of my country?"

—Simón Bolívar[17][18]

Bolívar and Francisco de Paula Santander during the Congress of Cúcuta, October 1821

Campaigns in Venezuela, 1816-1818

In 1816, with Haitian soldiers and vital material support, Bolívar landed in Venezuela and fulfilled his promise to Pétion to free Spanish America's slaves on 2 June 1816.[9]:186 In July 1817, on a second expedition, he captured Angostura (now Ciudad Bolívar)[9]:192–201 after defeating the counter-attack of Miguel de la Torre. However, Venezuela remained a captaincy of Spain after the victory in 1818 by Pablo Morillo in the second battle of La Puerta.[9]:212 On 15 February 1819, Bolívar was able to open the Second National Congress in Angostura, in which he was elected president and Francisco Antonio Zea was elected vice president.[9]:222–225 Bolívar then decided that he would first fight for the independence of New Granada, to gain resources of the vice royalty, intending later to consolidate the independence of Venezuela.[19]

Liberation of New Granada, 1819-1820

The campaign for the independence of New Granada was consolidated with the victory at the Battle of Boyacá on 7 August 1819.[9]:233 Bolivar returned to Angostura, where congress passed a law forming the Republic of Greater Colombia on 17 December, making Bolivar president and Zea vice president, with Francisco de Paula Santander vice president on the New Granada side, and Juan Germán Roscio vice president on the Venezuela side.[9]:246–247 Morillo was left in control of Caracas and the coastal highlands.[9]:248 After the restoration of the Cadiz Constitution, Morillo ratified two treaties with Bolivar on 25 Nov. 1820, calling for a six-month armistice and recognizing Bolivar as president of the republic.[9]:254–255 Bolivar and Morillo met in San Fernando de Apure on 27 November, after which Morillo left Venezuela for Spain, leaving La Torre in command.[9]:255–257

Liberation of Venezuela and Ecuador, 1821-1822

From his newly consolidated base of power, Bolívar launched outright independence campaigns in Venezuela and Ecuador. These campaigns concluded with the victory at the Battle of Carabobo, after which Bolívar triumphantly entered Caracas on 29 June 1821.[9]:267 On 7 September 1821, the Gran Colombia (a state covering much of modern Colombia, Ecuador, Panama and Venezuela) was created, with Bolívar as president and Santander as vice president. Bolívar followed with the Battle of Bombona and the Battle of Pichincha, after which he entered Quito on 16 June 1822.[9]:287

Liberation of Peru, 1822-1824

On 26 and 27 July 1822, Bolívar held the Guayaquil Conference with the Argentine General José de San Martín, who had received the title of "Protector of Peruvian Freedom" in August 1821 after partially liberating Peru from the Spanish.[9]:295 Thereafter, Bolívar took over the task of fully liberating Peru. The Peruvian congress named him dictator of Peru on 10 February 1824, which allowed Bolívar to reorganize completely the political and military administration. Assisted by Antonio José de Sucre, Bolívar decisively defeated the Spanish cavalry at the Battle of Junín on 6 August 1824. Sucre destroyed the still numerically superior remnants of the Spanish forces at Ayacucho on 9 December 1824.

Consolidation of the independence, 1825-1827

On 6 August 1825, at the Congress of Upper Peru, the "Republic of Bolivia" was created.[9]:346 Bolívar is thus one of the few people to have a country named after him.

Bolivar returned to Caracas on 12 January 1827, and then back to Bogotá on 10 September 1827 to assume absolute power. He set the date of the constituent congress, 2 January 1830, as the day he would surrender power.[9]:369,378,408

Proclamation of presidency

Battle of Carabobo, 24 June 1821
Battle of Junín, August 1824

Bolívar had great difficulties maintaining control of the vast Gran Colombia. In 1826, internal divisions sparked dissent throughout the nation, and regional uprisings erupted in Venezuela. The new South American union had revealed its fragility and appeared to be on the verge of collapse. To preserve the union, an amnesty was declared and an arrangement was reached with the Venezuelan rebels, but this increased the political dissent in neighboring New Granada. In an attempt to keep the nation together as a single entity, Bolívar called for a constitutional convention at Ocaña in March 1828.[20]

Bolívar's dream was freedom for all races in the Americas. He not only liberated the slaves of African origin, but also promoted social inclusion for the indigenous populations. But while an idealist he was also a realist that understood that a federation like the one founded in the United States was unworkable in his part of the world.[9]:106,166 For this reason, and to prevent a break-up, Bolívar sought to implement a more centralist model of government in Gran Colombia, including some or all of the elements of the Bolivian constitution he had written, which included a lifetime presidency with the ability to select a successor (although this presidency was to be held in check by an intricate system of balances).[9]:351 This move was considered controversial in New Granada and was one of the reasons for the deliberations, which met from 9 April to 10 June 1828. The convention almost ended up drafting a document which would have implemented a radically federalist form of government, which would have greatly reduced the powers of a central administration. The federalist faction was able to command a majority for the draft of a new constitution which has definite federal characteristics despite its ostensibly centralist outline. Unhappy with what would be the ensuing result, pro-Bolívar delegates withdrew from the convention, leaving it moribund.[21]

Two months after the failure of this congress to write a new constitution, Bolívar was declared president-liberator in Colombia's "Organic Decree".[9]:394 He considered this as a temporary measure, as a means to reestablish his authority and save the republic, although it increased dissatisfaction and anger among his political opponents.[9]:408 An assassination attempt on 25 September 1828 failed, thanks to the help of his lover, Manuela Sáenz.[9]:399–405 Bolívar afterward described Manuela as "Liberatrix of the Liberator".[9]:403 Dissent continued, and uprisings occurred in New Granada, Venezuela, and Ecuador during the next two years.[21]

A failed dream

For Bolivar, Hispanic America was the fatherland. He dreamed of a united Spanish America and in the pursuit of that purpose he not only created Gran Colombia but also the Confederation of the Andes which was to gather the latter together with Peru and Bolivia. Moreover, he envisaged and promoted a network of treaties that would hold together the newly liberated Hispanic American countries. Nonetheless he was unable to control the centrifugal process that pushed in all directions. On January 20, 1830, as his dream fell apart, Bolívar delivered his last address to the nation, announcing that he would be stepping down from the presidency of Gran Colombia. In his speech, a distraught Bolívar urged the people to maintain the union and to be wary of the intentions of those who advocated for separation. At the time, "Colombians" referred to the people of Gran Colombia (Venezuela, New Granada, and Ecuador), not modern-day Colombia:

Bogotá, January 20, 1830.

Simón Bolívar

Colombians! Today I cease to govern you. I have served you for twenty years as soldier and leader. During this long period we have taken back our country, liberated three republics, fomented many civil wars, and four times I have returned to the people their omnipotence, convening personally four constitutional congresses. These services were inspired by your virtues, your courage, and your patriotism; mine is the great privilege of having governed you.

The constitutional congress convened on this day is charged by Providence with the task of giving the nation the institutions she desires, following the course of circumstances and the nature of things.

Fearing that I may be regarded as an obstacle to establishing the Republic on the true base of its happiness, I personally have cast myself down from the supreme position of leadership to which your generosity had elevated me.

Colombians! I have been the victim of ignominious suspicions, with no possible way to defend the purity of my principles. The same persons who aspire to the supreme command have conspired to tear your hearts from me, attributing to me their own motives, making me seem to be the instigator of projects they themselves have conceived, representing me, finally, as aspiring to a crown which they themselves have offered on more than one occasion and which I have rejected with the indignation of the fiercest republican. Never, never, I swear to you, has it crossed my mind to aspire to a kingship that my enemies have fabricated in order to ruin me in your regard.

Do not be deceived, Colombians! My only desire has been to contribute to your freedom and to be the preservation of your peace of mind. If for this I am held guilty, I deserve your censure more than any man. Do not listen, I beg you, to the vile slander and the tawdry envy stirring up discord on all sides. Will you allow yourself to be deceived by the false accusations of my detractors? Please don't be foolish!

Colombians! Gather around the constitutional congress. It represents the wisdom of the nation, the legitimate hope of the people, and the final point of reunion of the patriots. Its sovereign decrees will determine our lives, the happiness of the Republic, and the glory of Colombia. If dire circumstances should cause you to abandon it, there will be no health for the country, and you will drown in the ocean of anarchy, leaving as your children's legacy nothing but crime, blood, and death.

Fellow Countrymen! Hear my final plea as I end my political career; in the name of Colombia I ask you, beg you, to remain united, lest you become the assassins of the country and your own executioners.


Bolívar ultimately failed in his attempt to prevent the collapse of the union. Gran Colombia was dissolved later that year and was replaced by the republics of Venezuela, New Granada, and Ecuador. Ironically, these countries were established as centralist nations, and would be governed for decades this way by leaders who, during Bolívar's last years, had accused him of betraying republican principles and of wanting to establish a permanent dictatorship. These separatists, among them José Antonio Páez and Francisco de Paula Santander, had justified their opposition to Bolívar for this reason and publicly denounced him as a monarch. Some of them had in the past been accused of plotting against Bolívar's life (Santander, who governed the second centralist government of New Granada, was associated with the September Conspiracy). José María Obando, who led the first dictatorship of New Granada, had been linked to the assassination of Antonio José de Sucre in 1830. Sucre was regarded by some as a political threat because of his popularity after he led a resounding patriot victory at the Battle of Ayacucho, ending the war against the Spanish Empire in South America. Bolívar also considered him his direct successor and had attempted to make him vice president of Gran Colombia after Santander was exiled in 1828.[23]

For the rest of the 19th century and into the early 20th century, the political environment of Latin America was fraught with civil wars and characterized by a sociopolitical phenomenon known as caudillismo. This was characterized by the arrival of an authoritarian but charismatic political figure who would typically rise to power in an unconventional way, often legitimizing his right to govern through undemocratic processes. These caudillos would maintain their control primarily on the basis of their personality, and a skewed interpretation of their popularity and what constituted a majority among the masses. In his deathbed Bolívar envisaged the emergence of countless "caudillos" competing for the pieces of the great nation he once dreamed about.


Sketch of Bolívar at age 47 made from life by José María Espinosa in 1830

Saying that "all who served the revolution have plowed the sea",[9]:450 Bolívar finally resigned the presidency on 27 April 1830, intending to leave the country for exile in Europe.[9]:435 He had already sent several crates containing his belongings and writings ahead of him to Europe,[24] but he died before setting sail from Cartagena.

On 17 December 1830, at the age of 47, Simón Bolívar died of tuberculosis[25] in the Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino in Santa Marta, Gran Colombia (now Colombia). On his deathbed, Bolívar asked his aide-de-camp, General Daniel F. O'Leary, to burn the remaining, extensive archive of his writings, letters, and speeches. O'Leary disobeyed the order and his writings survived, providing historians with a wealth of information about Bolívar's liberal philosophy and thought, as well as details of his personal life, such as his long love affair with Manuela Sáenz. Shortly before her own death in 1856, Sáenz augmented this collection by giving O'Leary her own letters from Bolívar.[24]

Bolívar's death by Venezuelan painter Antonio Herrera Toro

His remains were buried in the cathedral of Santa Marta. Twelve years later, in 1842, at the request of President José Antonio Páez, they were moved from Santa Marta to Caracas where they were buried in the cathedral of Caracas together with the remains of his wife and parents. In 1876 he was moved to a monument set up for his interment at the National Pantheon of Venezuela. The Quinta near Santa Marta has been preserved as a museum with numerous references to his life.[26] In 2010, symbolic remains of Bolívar's later years lover, Manuela Sáenz, were also interred in Venezuela's National Pantheon.[27]

On January 2008, then-President of Venezuela Hugo Chávez set up a commission[28] to investigate theories that Bolívar was the victim of an assassination. On several occasions, Chávez has claimed that Bolívar was in fact poisoned by "New Granada traitors".[29] In April 2010, infectious diseases specialist Paul Auwaerter studied records of Bolívar's symptoms and concluded that he might have suffered from chronic arsenic poisoning, but that both acute poisoning and murder were unlikely.[30][31] In July 2010, Bolívar's body was ordered to be exhumed to advance the investigations.[32] In July 2011, international forensics experts released their report claiming that there was no proof of poisoning or other unnatural cause of death.[33]

Private life

Manuela Sáenz, lover of Bolívar who rescued him from an assassination attempt

In 1799, following the early deaths of his father Juan Vicente (died 1786) and his mother Concepción (died 1792), he traveled to Mexico, France, and Spain, at the age of sixteen years, to complete his education. While in Madrid during 1802 and after a two-year courtship, he married María Teresa Rodríguez del Toro y Alaiza, who was to be his only wife. She was related to the aristocratic families of the marquis del Toro of Caracas and the marquis de Inicio of Madrid.[10] Eight months after returning to Venezuela with him, she died from yellow fever. Bolivar was so devastated by this loss that his relatives feared for his life. He swore never to marry again, a promise that, like many others, he kept. In 1804 he traveled again to Europe in an attempt to ease his pain and began falling into a dissolute life. It was then that he met again with his old teacher Simón Rodríguez in Paris who little by little was able to transform his acute depression into a sense of commitment towards a greater cause: the independence of Venezuela. Not surprisingly, many years later Bolívar would refer to the death of his wife as the turning point of his life. He lived in Napoleonic France for a while and undertook the Grand Tour.[34] During this time in Europe, Bolívar met Alexander von Humboldt in Rome, Humboldt later writing: "I was wrong back then, when I judged him a puerile man, incapable of realizing so grand an ambition."[9]:64 Manuela Sáenz was his mistress in later life during his presidency in South America and became a trusted confidant and advisor, saving his life during the September Conspiracy of 1828.

Descriptions of Bolívar

Ducoudray Holstein's description of Bolívar

In his Memoirs of Simón Bolívar, Henri La Fayette Villaume Ducoudray Holstein (who himself has been called a "not-always-reliable and never impartial witness"[35]) described the young Bolívar as he was attempting to seize power in Venezuela and Bolivia in 1814–1816. Ducoudray Holstein joined Bolívar and served on his staff as officer and Bolívar's confident during this period.

He describes Bolívar as a coward who repeatedly abandoned his military commission in front of the enemy, and also as a great lover of women, being accompanied at all times by two or more of his mistresses during the military operations. He would not hesitate to stop the fleet transporting the whole army and bound for Margarita Island during two days in order to wait for his mistress to join his ship. According to Ducoudray Holstein, Bolívar behaved essentially as an opportunist preferring intrigues and secret manipulation to an open fight. He was also deemed incompetent in military matters, systematically avoiding any risks and permanently anxious for his own safety.

In the Diario de Bucaramanga, Bolívar's opinion of Ducoudray is presented when Louis Peru de Lacroix asked who had been Bolívar's aides-de-camp since he had been general; he mentioned Charles Eloi Demarquet and Ducoudray. Bolívar confirmed the first but denied the second, saying that he had met him in 1815 and accepted his services, even admitting him to his General Staff, but "I never trusted him enough to make him my aide-de-camp; to the contrary, I had a very unfavorable idea of his person and his services", and that Ducoudray's departure after only a brief stay had been a "real pleasure."[36]

Karl Marx's description of Bolívar

"Moreover a longish article on Bolívar elicited objections from Dana because, he said, it is written in a 'partisan style', and he asked me to cite my authorities. This I can, of course, do, although it is a singular demand. As regards the 'partisan style', it is true that I departed somewhat from the tone of a cyclopedia. To see the dastardly, most miserable and meanest of blackguards described as Napoleon I was altogether too much. Bolívar is a veritable Soulouque."

Karl Marx[37]

In an unsympathetic biography titled Bolívar y Ponte, Simón, published in the New American Cyclopedia, Karl Marx criticized much of Bolívar's life. Marx begins saying that Bolívar was born to a family of "creole nobility in Venezuela" and that similar to the "custom of wealthy Americans of those times, at the early age of 14 he was sent to Europe". Throughout Marx's piece, he explains how Bolívar abandoned his troops multiple times as well. Marx also explains how Bolívar had to be persuaded by his cousin Ribas to return to fight against the Spanish after staying at Cartagena. Marx then explains that after arriving in Caracas in 1813, Bolívar's "dictatorship soon proved a military anarchy, leaving the most important affairs in the hands of favorites, who squandered the finances of the country, and then resorted to odious means in order to restore them". At the conclusion of the biography, Marx uses Ducoudray Holstein's description of Bolívar.[37]

According to Beddow and Thibodeaux, Marx called Bolívar a "falsifier, deserter, conspirator, liar, coward and looter", stating that Marx dismissed Bolívar as a "false liberator who merely sought to preserve the power of the old Creole nobility which he belonged".[38]


Bolívar had no children, possibly because of infertility caused by having contracted measles and mumps as a child. His closest living relatives descend from his sisters and brother. One of his sisters died in infancy. His sister Juana Bolívar y Palacios married their maternal uncle, Dionisio Palacios y Blanco, and had two children, Guillermo and Benigna. Guillermo Palacios died fighting alongside his uncle Simón in the battle of La Hogaza on 2 December 1817. Benigna had two marriages, the first to Pedro Briceño Méndez and the second to Pedro Amestoy.[39] Their great-grandchildren, Bolívar's closest living relatives, Pedro, and Eduardo Mendoza Goiticoa lived in Caracas, as of 2009. The family still lives in Caracas today.

His eldest sister, María Antonia, married Pablo Clemente Francia and had four children: Josefa, Anacleto, Valentina, and Pablo. María Antonia became Bolívar's agent to deal with his properties while he served as president of Gran Colombia and she was an executrix of his will. She retired to Bolívar's estate in Macarao, which she inherited from him.[40]

His older brother, Juan Vicente, who died in 1811 on a diplomatic mission to the United States, had three children born out of wedlock whom he recognized: Juan, Fernando Simón, and Felicia Bolívar Tinoco. Bolívar provided for the children and their mother after his brother's death. Bolívar was especially close to Fernando and in 1822 sent him to study in the United States, where he attended the University of Virginia. In his long life, Fernando had minor participation in some of the major political events of Venezuelan history and also traveled and lived extensively throughout Europe. He had three children, Benjamín Bolívar Gauthier, Santiago Hernández Bolívar, and Claudio Bolívar Taraja. Fernando died in 1898 at the age of 88.[41]

Political beliefs

Simón Bolívar was an admirer of both the American and the French Revolutions.[9]:35,52–53 Bolívar even enrolled his nephew, Fernando Bolívar, in a private school in Philadelphia, Germantown Academy, and paid for his education, including attendance at Thomas Jefferson's University of Virginia.[9]:71–72, 369 Bolívar differed, however, in political philosophy from the leaders of the revolution in the United States on two important matters. First of all, he was staunchly anti-slavery, despite coming from an area of Spanish America that relied heavily on slave labor. Second, while he was an admirer of the American independence, he did not believe that its governmental system could work in Latin America.[42] Thus, he claimed that the governance of heterogeneous societies like Venezuela "will require a firm hand".[43]

Bolívar felt that the U.S. had been established in land especially fertile for democracy. By contrast, he referred to Spanish America as having been subject to the "triple yoke of ignorance, tyranny, and vice".[9]:224 If a republic could be established in such a land, in his mind, it would have to make some concessions in terms of liberty. This is shown when Bolívar blamed the fall of the first republic on his subordinates trying to imitate "some ethereal republic" and in the process, not paying attention to the gritty political reality of South America.[44]

Among the books accompanying him as he traveled were Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations, Voltaire's Letters and, when he was writing the Bolivian constitution, Montesquieu's The Spirit of the Laws.[45] His Bolivian constitution placed him within the camp of what would become Latin American conservatism in the later nineteenth century. The Bolivian constitution intended to establish a lifelong presidency and a hereditary senate, essentially recreating the British unwritten constitution, as it existed at the time.


Similarly to some others in the history of American Independence (George Washington, Miguel Hidalgo, José de San Martín, Bernardo O'Higgins and Francisco de Miranda), Simón Bolívar was a Freemason. He was initiated in 1803 in the Masonic Lodge Lautaro, which operated in Cádiz, Spain.[46] It was in this lodge that he first met some of his revolutionary peers, such as José de San Martín. In May 1806 he was conferred the rank of Master Mason in the "Scottish Mother of St. Alexander of Scotland" in Paris. During his time in London, he frequented "The Great American Reunion" lodge in London, founded by Francisco de Miranda. In April 1824, Simón Bolívar was given the 33rd degree of Inspector General Honorary.


Political legacy

Due to the historical relevance of Bolívar as a key element during the process of independence in Hispanic America, his memory has been strongly attached to sentiments of nationalism and patriotism, being a recurrent theme of rhetoric in politics, especially in Venezuela. For instance, the nationalist government led by Marcos Pérez Jiménez and the left-wing political movement led by Hugo Chávez in Venezuela both prominently utilize the memory, image and written legacy of Bolívar as important parts of their political messages and propaganda.[47][48] Since the image of Bolívar became an important part to the national identities of Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, his mantle is often claimed by Hispanic American politicians all across the political spectrum.

Monuments and physical legacy

The nations of Bolivia and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (Venezuela), and their respective currencies (the Bolivian boliviano and the Venezuelan bolívar), are all named after Bolívar. Additionally, most cities and towns in Venezuela are built around a main square known as Plaza Bolívar, as is the case with Bogotá. In this example, most governmental buildings and public structures are located on or around the plaza, including the National Capitol and the Palace of Justice. Busts and statues in his memory can be found around the world, including in the capital cities of Quito, Lima, Washington, D.C., Algiers, Paris, Ottawa, London, Bucharest, Havana, Ankara, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Prague, New Delhi, Port-au-Prince, Santo Domingo, Paramaribo, Sucre, Buenos Aires, San José, etc.

In Bogotá, the Simón Bolívar Park has hosted many concerts.

Outside of Latin America, the variety of monuments to Simón Bolívar are a continuing testament to his legacy. These include statues in many capitals around the world. Several cities in Spain, especially in the Basque Country, have constructed monuments to Bolívar, including a large monument in Bilbao and a comprehensive Venezuelan government-funded museum in Bolívar, his ancestral hometown. An imposing bronze equestrian statue of Simón Bolívar at the entrance to Central Park at the Avenue of the Americas in New York City also celebrates Bolívar's contributions to Latin America.[49]

Monuments to Bolívar's military legacy also comprise one of Venezuelan Navy's sail training barques, which is named after him, and the USS Simon Bolivar, a Benjamin Franklin-class fleet ballistic missile submarine which served with the U.S. Navy between 1965 and 1995.

The Bolivar Peninsula in Galveston County, Texas is named for Bolívar. It is major part of the Texas coastline. The Peninsula partially covers Galveston Bay and also has a namesake ferry which goes to Galveston Island.

Bolivar County, Mississippi is named for Bolívar.

In the United Kingdom, in the south west of England there was a railway branch line in Devon running from Totnes to Ashburton. The one or two coach passenger train - the service was withdrawn on 3 November 1958 - was known locally as Bulliver. The branch had been opened in 1872, to Brunel's seven feet and a quarter inch broad gauge, to be converted to standard gauge in 1892. The name Bulliver was said to have been given by a local wit, assuming that Simon Bolivar had been not a South American political figure but one of the Spanish world seafarers. The branch was just eight and a half miles long. Today the section from Totnes to Buckfastleigh (Staverton being the only other intermediate station) is operated as a heritage line by the South Devon Railway.

See also

Explanatory notes

  1. "Por las venas del libertador corría sangre guanche, en efecto, su abuela materna, doña Francisca Blanco de Herrera, descendía de san martines, era nieta de Juana Gutiérrez, de "nación guanche", y procedía además de otras familias canarias establecidas en Venezuela, tales como las de Blanco, Ponte, Herrera, Saavedra, Peraza, Ascanio y Guerra" ("Through the Liberator's veins ran Guanche blood. In fact his maternal grandmother, Francisca Blanco de Herrera, was a descendant of the original Canarian people, as she was the granddaughter of Juana Gutiérrez, of "the Guanche nation", and also came from other Canarian families established in Venezuela, such as Blanco, Ponte, Herrera, Saavedra, Peraza, Ascanio and Guerra. "). Hernández García, Julio: Book "Canarias – América: El orgullo de ser canario en América" (Canarias – America: The pride of being a Canario in America). First edition, 1989. Historia Popular de Canarias (Popular History of the Canary Islands).


  1. 1 2 3 Arismendi Posada 1983, p. 9.
  2. ed, Thomas Riggs, (2013). The literature of propaganda. Detroit [u.a.]: St. James Press. pp. 153–155. ISBN 9781558628595.
  3. Museo Simon Bolivar, Cenarruza-Puebla de Bolívar, Spain.
  4. "Simón Bolívar".
  5. "". 14 February 2012. Retrieved 2012-04-09.
  6. Slatta & de Grummond 2003, pp. 10–11.
  7. Masur 1969, pp. 21–22.
  8. Thornton 1998, p. 277.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 Arana, M., 2013, Bolivar, New York: Simon & Schuster, ISBN 9781439110195
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 Arismendi Posada 1983, p. 10.
  11. Lynch 2007, p. 16.
  12. Crow (1992:431).
  13. Masur (1969), 98–102; and Lynch, Bolívar: A Life, 60–63.
  15. 1 2 Bushnell, David. The Liberator, Simón Bolívar. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1970. Print.
  16. Simón Bolívar has been indirectly saved his French friend Benoît Chassériau who 10 December 1815 a few hours before the assassination attempt, visited him and gave him money to seek alternative accommodation. Thus, the Liberator left the room where José Antonio Páez had slept for several nights and depended on the guesthouse Rafael Pisce at the corner of Prince and White streets. The same night, Pio the servant of Bolivar and Paez plunged his murderous knife into the neck of Captain Felix Amestoy, thinking it was the Liberator. References: 1) in ‘Bolívar y los emigrados patriotas en el Caribe (Trinidad, Curazao, San Thomas, Jamaica, Haití)’ – By Paul Verna – Edition INCE, 1983; 2) in ‘Simón Bolívar: Ensayo de interpretación biográfica a través de sus documentos’ – By Tomás Polanco Alcántara – Edition Academia Nacional de la Historia, 1994 – Page 505; 3) in ‘Petión y Bolívar: una etapa decisiva en la emancipación de Hispanoamérica, 1790–1830’ – Colección Bicentenario – By Paul Verna – Ediciones de la Presidencia de la República, 1980 – Page 131
  17. Robert, Pascal, ed. (1982). "U.S. Owes Haitian Gratitude, Not Abuse". The Crisis. Retrieved 15 September 2015.
  18. Allen, Alexander, ed. (9 July 2013). "The Importance of Haiti". Huffington Post. Retrieved 15 September 2015.
  19. Batallas de Venezuela: 1810–1824. p124. Edgar Esteves González
  20. Petre 1910, p. 381–382.
  21. 1 2 Bushnell, David (1954) The Santander Regime in Gran Colombia
  22. Fornoff, Frederick. El Libertador: Writings of Simon Bolivar. Oxford University Press, 2003, p. 143. "Writings of Simon Bolivar"
  23. Harvey, Robert. “Bolivar: The Liberator of Latin America”. Skyhorse, 2013, Ch. 24 "Bolivar: The Liberator of Latin America"
  24. 1 2 Bolívar, Simón (1983). Hope of the universe (print ed.). Paris: UNESCO.
  25. Arismendi Posada 1983, p. 19.
  26. Simón Bolívar entry on Find a
  27. BBC, Grant 5 July 2010.
  28. Forero, Juan (23 February 2008). "Chávez, Assailed on Many Fronts, Is Riveted by 19th-Century Idol". The Washington Post. Retrieved 17 July 2010.
  29. "Bolivar and Chavez a Worthy Comparison". Council on Hemispheric Affairs. 11 August 2011. Archived from the original on 30 March 2012. Retrieved 2012-04-09.
  30. "Doctors Reconsider Health and Death of 'El Libertador,' General Who Freed South America". Science Daily. 29 April 2010. Retrieved 17 July 2010.
  31. Allen, Nick (7 May 2010). "Simon Bolivar died of arsenic poisoning". The Telegraph. Retrieved 17 July 2010.
  32. James, Ian (16 July 2010). "Venezuela opens Bolivar's tomb to examine remains". MSNBC. Archived from the original on 20 July 2010. Retrieved 16 July 2010.
  33. Girish Gupta (2011-07-26). "Venezuela unable to determine cause of Bolivar's death". Retrieved 2013-06-29.
  34. Lynch 2006.
  35. Slatta, Richard W. Simón Bolívar's Quest for Glory. Texas A&M University Press, 2003. Print.
  36. Peru de Lacroix, Luis (2009). Diario de Bucaramanga (PDF) (print ed.). Caracas: Ministry of Popular Power for Communication and Information.
  37. 1 2 Marx, Karl (1858). "Bolivar y Ponte". Retrieved 18 August 2010. First published in the New American Cyclopedia, Vol. III, 1858.
  38. Beddow, D. Méndez; Thibodeaux, Sam J. (2010). Gangrillas : the unspoken pros and cons of legalizing drugs. [U.S.]: Trafford On Demand Pub. p. 29. ISBN 1426948468.
  39. De-Sola Ricardo, Irma, "Bolívar Palacios, Juana" in Diccionario de Historia de Venezuela, Vol. 1. Caracas: Fundación Polar, 1999. ISBN 978-980-6397-37-8 also reproduced in Simón Bolí, Biografías Familiares de Simón Bolívar at Simón Bolívar, el hombre. Archived 8 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  40. De-Sola Ricardo, Irma, "Bolívar Palacios, María Antonia" in Diccionario de Historia de Venezuela, Vol. 1. reproduced in Simón Bolí, Biografías Familiares de Simón Bolíbar. Archived 8 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  41. Fuentes Carvallo, Rafael, "Bolívar, Fernando Simón" in Diccionario de Historia de Venezuela, Vol. 1. reproduced in .
  42. Bushnell & Langley 2008.
  43. Bushnell & Langley 2008, p. 100.
  44. Bushnell & Langley 2008, p. 136.
  45. Lynch 2006, p. 33.
  46. Martinez, Carlos Antonio, Jr. "Simon Bolivar, Liberator & Freemason". Masons of California. Archived from the original on 13 August 2011. Retrieved 2015-01-23.
  47. Carrera Damas, Germán (2006). Mitos políticos en las sociedades andinas: Orígenes, invenciones, ficciones. Miranda: Equinoccio. p. 398. ISBN 9789802372416.
  48. Martin, Stephen (5 October 2009). "Hugo Chavez presents Simon Bolivar". VenezuelAnalysis. Retrieved 2012-04-09. Halvorssen, Thor (25 July 2010). "Behind exhumation of Simon Bolivar is Hugo Chavez's warped obsession". The Washington Post.
  49. "Central Park Monuments – Simon Bolivar Monument : NYC Parks". Retrieved 2014-02-05.

Cited sources

  • Arismendi Posada, Ignacio (1983). Gobernantes Colombianos [Colombian Presidents] (second ed.). Bogotá, Colombia: Interprint Editors Ltd.; Italgraf. 
  • Bushnell, David; Langley, Lester D. (2008). Simón Bolívar: Essays on the Life and Legacy of the Liberator. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-0-7425-5619-5. 
  • Grant, Will (5 July 2010). "Venezuela honours Simón Bolívar's lover Manuela Saenz". BBC. Retrieved 17 July 2010. 
  • Lynch, John (2006). Simón Bolívar: A Life. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-11062-3. 
  • Lynch, John (5 July 2007). Simón Bolívar: A Life. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-12604-4. 
  • Masur, Gerhard (1969). Simón Bolívar (Revised ed.). Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. 
  • Petre, Francis Loraine (1910). Simon Bolivar "El libertador": a life of the chief leader in the revolt against Spain in Venezuela, New Granada & Peru. J. Lane. 
  • Slatta, Richard W.; de Grummond, Jane Lucas (2003). Simón Bolívar's Quest for Glory. Texas A&M University Press. ISBN 978-1-58544-239-3. 
  • Thornton, John Kelly (28 April 1998). Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400–1800. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-62724-5. Retrieved 8 April 2012. 

Further reading

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