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Simón Bolívar

Simón José Antonio de la Santísima Trinidad Bolívar y Palacios Ponte y Blanco, or simply Simón Bolívar (1783-1830), was born into a wealthy Venezuelan family. He was tutored by legendary teachers of the era, among them Andrés Bello and Simón Rodríguez, who had great influence on his ideas that would lay the foundation for Nueva Granada’s independence. At age 14, he entered the military academy, and then spent several years in Europe before returning to Venezuela in 1807.


In 1810, the Congress of United Provinces of New Granada gave him command of an independence army. Bolívar soon earned himself the nickname “El Libertador” (the Liberator). For the next decade and half, he led battle from Angostura (now Ciudad Bolívar) in Venezuela to Ayacucho, Peru, including the decisive victories against Spanish troops at Boyacá, Colombia, in 1819 and at Junín, Peru, in 1824 with an army under Mariscal José Antonio Sucre. He received tremendous support from Valledupar and Mompós, of which he said, “If to Caracas I owe my life, to Mompós I owe my glory.” During these years he faced a temporary exile and various assassination attempts.


The first Congress of Gran Colombia (1821), uniting Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador, was held in Villa del Rosario, near Cucutá; Bolívar was elected President and General Francisco de Paula Santander Vice President. Gran Colombia, however, was doomed to failure. Once the common enemy–the Spanish–was vanquished, petty regional rivalries surfaced almost immediately which tore the young nation apart. In addition, northern South America’s mountains, rivers and dense jungles made communication and government very difficult.


Disheartened by Gran Colombia’s demise, Bolívar journeyed down the Río Magdalena, making his way to his native Caracas. By the time he reached Santa Marta, he was weak. He was given refuge at Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino, where he died of tuberculosis. His body was laid out for public viewing in Santa Marta’s Casa de la Aduana, and then buried in the cathedral. In 1839 his body was transferred to his native Caracas (though his heart and intestines remain in Santa Marta’s Catedral). Nobel-Prize winning writer Gabriel García Márquez’ novel “The General in his Labyrinth” is a moving—though controversial—portrait of Bolívar’s final days.


After his death, many people close to him were forced to go into exile, like confidante Generala Manuela Sáenz and Simón Robinson, or were killed under mysterious circumstances, like Mariscal José Antonio Sucre.


Besides many plazas being named for Bolívar, Colombia has other sites honoring him: Quinta Bolívar in Bogotá, Casa de Bolívar in Bucaramanga and Museo Bolivariano-Casa de Bolivar in Soledad, near Barranquilla. Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino and Villa Rosario also have museums. Today, Bolívar’s philosophies continue to be influential in the Bolivariano countries (so-called for those he liberated: Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia) and elsewhere in Latin America.

Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Colombia: The History of San Agustín, Cartagena Neighborhoods, History of Quibdó, Tunja History, History Of San Andrés, History of Eastern Colombia, The Legend of Pablo Escobar, History, History of Santa Marta and Tumaco History.

By Lorraine Caputo

Upon re-declaring her independence at age 29, Lorraine Caputo packed her trusty Rocinante (so her knapsack's called) and began...

26 Sep 2011

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