Simón Bolívar (or in full Simón José Antonio de la Santísima Trinidad Bolívar Palacios y Blanco) lived from 24 July 1783 to 17 December 1830. He was a Venezuelan general and statesman who led the revolutions against Spanish rule in the former Viceroyalties of New Granada (integrated by the territory of the modern Republics of Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Panama) and Peru (Peru and Bolivia).
Bolivar is still known today as El Libertador (The Liberator). He has also been referred to as the "George Washington of South America.".
Simón Bolívar was born in Caracas, Venezuela on 24 July 1783. He was the youngest child of the married couple composed by Juan Vicente de Bolívar and María de la Concepción Palacios y Blanco. His parents were members of the highest social class of the Capitanía General de Venezuela, a former Spanish captaincy general integrated by the territory of the current Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Simón Bolívar became orphan of father at the age of three and orphan of mother at the age of nine.
In his youth Bolívar received education from some notable teachers from Caracas such as Andrés Bello Miguel José Sanz, the catholic priest Andújar and Simón Rodríguez. Later he did a trip to Spain to continue with his learning. Bolívar learned to speak French fluently. Besides Bolívar could talk in Italian and understand English language.
After the Spanish captain general Vicente Emparan was deposed by the people of Caracas on 19 April 1810, Bolívar became a member of La Junta Patriótica, a committee which encouraged the idea of the independence. On 5 July 1811 the Congress of Venezuela declared the independence of Spain and Bolívar began his military participation as a colonel in the defense of the young republic against the Spanish reaction. When Francisco de Miranda surrendered before the Spanish general Domingo Monteverde in 1812 Bolívar was arrested, but he could escaped to Colombia.
In 1813 Bolívar, as chief of a small army, invaded Venezuela from Colombia. He beat the troops of Domingo Monteverde in few months and obtained the liberation of Venezuela. This short military campaign is known in Venezuela as La Campaña Admirable (The Admirable Campaign). Unluckily some Spaniards and Venezuelans who were loyal to the King of Spain organized a new resistance. They, under the leadership of the Spanish general José Tomás Boves, could conquer the country again in 1814.
Bolívar lived in the exile, first in Jamaica and later in Haiti, between 1814 and 1816. In Haiti he gained provision of weapons given by the Haitian president Alexandre Petion. Later Bolívar returned to Venezuela and was recognized again as the main leader of the movement.
In 1919 Bolívar carried out an invasion to Colombia with the purpose of liberating that country of Spain and then to join the Colombian and Venezuelan forces to free Venezuela. He and his army moved across the Andean mountains, entered to Colombia and some days after defeated the Spaniards in the decisive battle of Boyacá on 7 August 1819.
On 17 December 1819 a congress, met in the Venezuelan city of Angostura (the actual Bolívar city), created The Republic of Colombia which was the union of the territories of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador and Panama. Bolívar was chosen president of Colombia. This republic is called by the historians The Great Colombia in order to differentiate this country from the current Republic of Colombia.
Bolívar and his troops beat the Spaniards in the battle of Carabobo on 24 July 1821. Venezuela was free.
Later Bolívar went to Ecuador where he fought in the battle Bomboná in 1822. Antonio José de Sucre, one of his collaborators and his best friend, got the victory in the battle of Pichincha on 24 May 1822. Ecuador was free.
On 26 July of the same year Bolívar met with the Argentine general José de San Martin to discuss about the future of the port of Guayaquil. Finally Bolívar obtained the annexation of Guayaquil to the Great Colombia.
The congress of Peru asked Bolívar to continue the San Martin’s work of finishing the process of independence of that country. Understanding that Colombia was in danger while a Spanish army was located in Peru, Bolívar planned a military operation for Peru. There he fought in the battle of Junín on 6 August 1824. Later Antonio José de Sucre defeated the forces of the Spanish viceroy La Serna in the battle of Ayacucho on 9 December 1824. Peru was free. Bolívar was offered the presidency of the country by the Peruvian congress, but he refused it.
A congress met in the city of Chuquisaca decided to separate that region from Peru on 6 August 1825. A new nation, The Republic of Bolívar (the current Bolivia), was created. Bolívar wrote the first constitution of Bolivia.
With the process of independence of Spain ended the opposition to the existence of the Great Colombia and to the authority of Bolívar increased. This opposition was leaded by several people from Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador who liked a federal republic and wanted to obtain the power. Those persons began to accuse Bolívar of being a dictator. Even a failed attempt on Bolívar’s life happened on 25 September 1828.
At the end Bolívar, tired of the dissensions between his fellow countrymen, resigned from the presidency of Colombia on 29 January 1830.
Simón Bolívar died of tuberculosis in a farm next to the port of Santa Marta, Colombia, on 17 December 1830. Between January, 1830 and May, 1830 the Great Colombia was disintegrated in three separated countries: Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador.
In 1842 his remains were sent back to Venezuela. Today Bolívar is buried in the Panteón Nacional, a monument of Caracas where the mortal remains of the most important Venezuelans are located.
His most lasting legacy is the independence of the countries located in the northern part of South America. On the other hand, his project of a Latin American integration failed due to internal dissensions. However that idea of integration is still preserved in the mind of many Latin Americans.
Today Bolívar is the official hero of Venezuela and Bolivia. Colombia, Ecuador and Peru show him respect. His thoughts, written on his letters, contained messages of republican ethics and love to the homeland that give moral guide to many Venezuelans.
In 1826 Bolívar convened the representatives of the governments of the Great Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Mexico and the United Provinces of Central America (the current republics of Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua) for a Congress in Panama to build a confederation of the former Spanish colonies. Although the agreements got during the meeting were unsuccessful that congress is considered a precedent of the Organisation of American States (OAS).
Bolívar is seen by many Colombians as the founder of the current Conservative Party of that nation. In fact the Colombian conservatives took the ideas of El Libertador about a unitarian republic in opposition to a federal one, the defence of religion and the support of the law as a part of their political programme in 1849.
In the history of Hispanic literature Bolívar’s letters are considered as an example of good usage of Spanish language. Perhaps his most outstanding writings are a letter known commonly as Carta de Jamaica (Letter from Jamaica) and the poem Mi Delirio sobre el Chimborazo.
Honors to Bolívar
Apart from numerous schools, streets, avenues, municipalities and squares which have the name of the Venezuelan hero the following places were named after him.
- Bolivia, a South American country (capitals: Sucre and La Paz).
- The official name of Venezuela (República Bolivariana de Venezuela / Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela).
- A Venezuelan state (Bolívar State).
- The capital city of Bolívar State (Ciudad Bolívar / Bolívar City).
- The Colombian department (province) of Bolívar (capital city: Cartagena de Indias).
- The highest mountain of Venezuela (Pico Bolívar / Bolívar Pike).
- The second highest mountain of Colombia (Monte Simón Bolívar / Mount Simón Bolívar).
- The main airport of Venezuela (Aeropuerto Internacional Simón Bolívar / International Airport Simón Bolívar), located in the city of La Guaira.
- A public university from Venezuela (Universidad Simón Bolívar / Simón Bolívar University), located in Caracas.
Besides his name is mentioned in the lyrics of the national anthem of Bolivia.
The national currency of Venezuela is El Bolívar.
The Bolivarian games are an international sport competition held every four years. The countries liberated by Bolívar participate in it. The seat of the games is rotary.
La Orden del Libertador is the most important medal that the Venezuelan government gives to prominent people.
Cátedra Bolivariana is a school subject taught at secondary level in Venezuela with the goal to give students an approach to Bolívar’s life and thoughts.
-  Origin of Colombian conservatism (in Spanish).