Who was Simón Bolivar? Is one of the most frequent questions people ask me when they know of my Hispanic background. Simón Bolivar was actually a pretty complex individual, at least from the standpoint of bygone history. His nickname was El Libertador (the liberator) because he fought for the liberation of so many South American countries.
In many ways, as I researched the man and his accomplishments, I was reminded very much of Ché Guevara. They were both born into wealthy families, they were both well-educated and they both became passionate fighters for independence and revolution. They were also seen at the time and now as polarizing figures.
Of course there are the contingents that celebrate both men as freedom fighters and revolutionaries, but their political beliefs were always a point of contention.
Who Was Simón Bolivar and What Did He Accomplish?
After being educated in Spain, Bolivar returned to his homeland of Venezuela although at that time it was known as New Granada. During the time that Bolivar lived, the late 1700’s and early 1800’s much of South America was still under Spanish colonial rule.
For Bolivar being under Spain’s rule was unsatisfactory and during his time in Spain he had moved about in the European circles where he conjured up many political ideas and beliefs that he borrowed from European nations. For example, he wanted to implement in South America a parliamentary system like the one Britain had.
He also had some political views that were somewhat unpopular. For instance, he favored a lifetime presidency for his vision of a united South America free from Spanish rule. Still, in his heart, Bolivar was a freedom fighter. He led many military campaigns in South America that won independence for various South American countries such as Venezuela, Ecuador, Panama and Colombia.
During his life he formed the Gran Colombia which was a united federation that included the four aforementioned countries. Although the union was unstable and Bolivar would have to flee his homeland due to civil war and unrest, he left an indelible mark on the entire South American continent.
A discussion no matter how brief about Simón Bolivar must include his lover and muse Manuela Sáenz. Although Bolivar was married to a woman who would eventually die of yellow fever, many considered Saenz to be Bolivar’s proper counterpart as she was herself a fiery activist and proponent of South American liberation.
Manuelita Sáenz as many knew her, helped Bolivar during many of his campaigns and aided in his escape an assassination attempt in Bolivia where he had named himself dictator. She was herself born in Quito, Ecuador of Spanish descent and became a figurehead of South American liberation thanks to her efforts with Bolivar himself.
Simón Bolivar’s days would see him liberate many territories from the Spanish, be named dictator of Peru and Bolivia and finally flee for exile in Europe. He was a polarizing figure but had a grand vision and with any grand, revolutionary vision, there are bound to be detractors.
Such was the case for Bolivar who had dreams that mimicked the state system of the U.S., the parliamentary system of Britain and ones that were his own. His leadership roles were short-lived but he succeeded in freeing much of South America from Spanish rule.
Simón Bolivar died in Santa Marta, Colombia on December 17th, 1830. Many experts believed that he succumbed to tuberculosis.