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Sim贸n Bolivar Liberator of Venezuela

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According to historians, Caracas, Venezuela was among the most beautiful and fertile properties held by Spain in the 16th century. The county was perfect for raising cattle, growing sugar cane, cocoa and was rich in other resources including silver, copper and indigo. More than half of Venezuela鈥檚 population resided in Caracas also creating additional appeal to the Spanish. In Caracas the maintenance of a rigid caste system was possible given that over 60% of the population consisted of Negroes and pardos (Negro mixed race) who served primarily as the enslaved labor force.

The other 40% of the population consisted of Europeans, Indians and mestizos (Indian mixed race), this stratification of the races made enforcing a caste system easy for Spaniard who held themselves superior event o the creoles who were of European descent聽 but born in the Americas. Vicente Bolivar y Ponte and his wife, Concepcion Palacios y Blanco were wealthy Creole plantation owners whose聽 wealth was at least two centuries old and could be traced back almost to founding of the city of Caracas in 1567. They owned twelve houses, cattle and indigo plantations in Caracas and La Guaira, Venezuela. Yet because of their designation as 鈥渃reoles鈥 they (along with all other Creoles) were treated as inferior to those individuals born in Spain, and could not hold high offices in the government as a result of their classification.

Vicente being an intellectual was allowed to serve a lower governmental role which called for him to travel to Madrid. While serving as a deputy in Madrid he was able to observe the monarchy at a vantage point that was foreign to his peers back in Venezuela. Vicente was disillusioned by the Spanish leadership and returned home to Caracas convinced that his country was best independent from Spanish rule.聽 Upon his return home Vicente and a few other wealthy plantation owners joined forces and wrote to Sebasti谩n Francisco de Miranda Rodr铆guez, a fellow Venezuelan who shared his dream of an independent South America. While Miranda would eventually play a stronger role in the South American revolution, Vicente would not live to see his dream fulfilled. Vicente Bolivar died in 1786 of tuberculosis; his three year old son, Simon, would inherit land, riches and his father鈥檚 passion for a free South America.

Heralded as being one of the greatest liberators of South America, Sim贸n Bolivar was destined to accomplish great things since his birth in 1783. Born in Caracas, Venezuela into a wealthy Creole family, Sim贸n and his siblings were raised to love and value education. After his father鈥檚 death in 1786, Simon鈥檚 mother Concepcion, ensured that he and his siblings received the best education possible. First, Simon was tutored by his grandfather but soon began to study under the tutelage of other great teachers such as Andres Bello and Simon Rodriguez. Rodriguez, was a follower of Jean-Jacques Rousseau 聽and taught his young pupil in accordance to his own appreciation for the Franco-Swiss philosopher whose ideas shaped the logic of many leaders to come. Rodriguez would in future years become Simon鈥檚 friend as well as companion on his many trips to Europe and the United States (Worcester 9). Many things impacted Bolivar, however, he credited Rodriguez with 鈥渕olding his heart for liberty and justice鈥 (Worcester 11), among his other influences was his love for his Negro nurse whom he considered his mother since he had lost much of his family at an early age and his deep reliance on himself which also came from this early loss of loved ones.

聽聽聽聽 Being wealthy afforded Simon, the best education and wonderful opportunities to travel. At the age of fifteen, he traveled to Madrid, where he was able to study languages, mathematics, dancing and dueling. He was also able to spend time in the company of the royal family and much like his father before him, he was able to see first hand the imperfection of the monarchy. Young Simon developed a hatred for Spanish rule and agreed with larger European sentiment that the rule of Charles IV and Maria Luisa was a farce at best. Bolivar could see that while the rest of the world was engaging in social, educational and economic revolution Spain and its territories were non participatory, limited by the shallowness of its rulers.

聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 聽While in Europe, Bolivar experienced another life altering occurrence when he met and fell in love with Maria Teresa la Contessa de Toro, the daughter of a wealthy Spanish family with whom Simon had become acquainted.聽 Not yet out of his adolescence, Bolivar and Maria Teresa married in 1802. The newlyweds returned to Venezuela where they lived happily for the remaining ten months of Maria Teresa鈥檚 life. Contracting a 鈥渢ropical fever鈥 Maria Teresa died in 1803 (Fabian Barber Productions 1995). Narrowly escaping insanity, Bolivar traveled back to Europe in order to free himself from the depression of losing his true love. While in Europe he engaged deeply into his studies and vowed never to marry again.

By his own admission the death of his wife led him early in his career to politics (Worcester 12), while he had planned to settle down in Caracas with his wife and 聽manage his family properties, losing Maria Teresa allowed him to focus solely on expanding his knowledge. While in Paris, Simon met Alexander Von Humboldt, the German explorer, who forced the young Venezuelan into action by asking 鈥淲here in Venezuela is a leader strong enough to liberate her from Spanish rule?鈥 (Fabian Barber Productions 1995). Angered into action by this question, Bolivar returned to Venezuela with a hunger to enact change.

鈥 I swear before you, by the God of my fathers and the honor of my country: I will not rest, not in body or soul, till I have broken the chains of Spain鈥 was the pledge of twenty-two year old Simon Bolivar (Ybarra 22) in the presence of his tutor and companion Simon Rodriguez. When he returned to South America, Bolivar found a country undergoing monumental changes; changes which appropriately set the stage for revolution. In 1808, Napoleon Bonaparte had begun to send soldiers into Spain to seize control of the Spanish government, holding the monarchy as prisoners. By interfering in the Spanish political structure and usurping the rule of the monarchy Napoleon created enemies of not only Spaniards but those individuals in the territories who with felt allegiance to the royals or simply felt even more oppressed by the notion of a foreigner seizing control of the government. Simon Bolivar recognized this tension as an opportunity to for revolution and began to lay the groundwork for creating an independent South America.

First Bolivar created a secret society who appeared to pledge allegiance to the Spanish government while plotting to overthrow the governor Vicente Emparan.聽 Once, Emparan was forced out of the country the newly formed government of junta began to modify and change the laws. Among the changes was the abolishment of the introduction of slavery, they created a declaration of independence and sent representatives to other countries in an attempt to galvanize support for a free Venezuela. As an emissary, Bolivar traveled to England in hopes of utilizing their animosity toward the French as a means of confirming their support in a free Venezuela. Unfortunately the English could not imagine Venezuela as an independent entity and therefore denied Bolivar the support he sought.

Due to a lack of support and resources, the first republic of Venezuela failed. The country was taken over by Juan Domingo Monteverde as instructed by the Spanish government. Bolivar then traveled to New Grenada where he hoped to convince other revolutionaries to make the freeing of Venezuela one of their first steps toward liberating South America. Bolivar utilized every faculty of his intellect in hopes of encouraging the organization of a force to Venzuela and other countries from the grip of Spanish rule.

Eventually, Bolivar was given an opportunity to demonstrate the worthiness of his mission. Leaders of New Grenada gave him an opportunity to 鈥渉old the fort鈥 in a tiny town near the Magdelena River; seeing this as an opportunity to聽 lead and offensive Bolivar led the 200 soldiers who accompanied聽 him to military victory taking over the cities of Tenerife and Mompox. Due main to the Spaniards lack of familiarity with Bolivar鈥檚 use of guerilla warfare, Bolivar was able to obtain five victories in his quest toward unifying an independent South America.聽 By December of 1812 Venzuela was embroiled in an outright war for Independence. Miranda who had returned to Venezuela in an attempt to assist in the revolution was convicted of treason and turned over to the Spanish government where it is alleged that he spent the remaining years of his life in Spanish jails.

Over the course of the next few years Bolivar fought beside his men instead of commanding their actions, this built loyalty among his soldiers. By August of 1813, Bolivar had liberated twelve cities and caused over 6,000 soldiers to flee the country.聽 It is this dedication to his vision of unification that earned Bolivar the title of the Liberator (Fabian Barber Productions 1995). Much of this was possible because Spain was unable to send adequate troops to the territories as they were engrossed in a war against Napoleon. Bolivar鈥檚 great military fortune was about to wear thin as a new enemy was to enter the military fray. Jos茅 Tom谩s Boves聽 was a cow boy of Indian heritage and viewing Bolivar to hold the best interest of the rich creole plantion owners Boves鈥 army of 8,000聽 decimated Bolivar鈥檚 troops and caused him to flee the country for Jamaica.

While in Jamaica Bolivar contacted Haitian leader Alexandre P茅tion with a request for military aid. Petion, who was a former slave, agreed to assist Boliviar seeing this as an opportunity help in his quest to end slavery throught the new world. Recognizing that his previous campaigns had failed largely due to his failure to demonstrate the wide appeal f his mission, Bolivar saw his commraderie with Petion as a chance to show the 鈥渓ower castes鈥 that he held their interests as well. In 1816, Bol铆var landed in Venezuela and captured the city Angostura now聽 known as the Bolivar City. An entry in the online encyclopedia details the successes of Bolivar and his achievement of his motto freedom and fame (Worcester 15) as follows:

鈥淎 victory at the Battle of Boyac谩 in 1819 added New Granada to the territories free from Spanish control, and in September 7, 1821 the Gran Colombia (a federation covering much of modern Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, and Ecuador) was created, with Bol铆var as president and Francisco de Paula Santander as vice president.

Further victories at the Carabobo in 1821 and Pichincha in 1822 consolidated his rule over Venezuela and Ecuador respectively. After a meeting in Guayaquil on July 26 and 27 1822 with Argentine General Jos茅 de San Mart铆n, who had received the title of Protector of Peruvian Freedom in August 1821 after having partially liberated Peru from the Spanish, Bol铆var took over the task of fully liberating Peru. The Peruvian congress named him dictator of Peru on February 10, 1824, which allowed Bol铆var to completely reorganize the political and military administration. Bol铆var, assisted by Antonio Jos茅 de Sucre, decisively defeated the Spanish cavalry on August 6 1824 at Jun铆n. Sucre destroyed the still numerically superior remnants of the Spanish forces at Ayacucho on December 9.

On August 6, 1825, at the Congress of Upper Peru, the Republic of Bolivia was created in honour of Bol铆var, who drafted a new constitution for the new nation. This constitution reflected the influence of the French and Scottish Enlightenment on Bol铆var’s political thought, as well as that of classical Greek and Roman authors鈥 (Wikipedia) .

聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 While Bolivar would become president of much of South America it was extremely difficult for him to maintain unity across the federation. 聽He was met with much dissent and faced many uprisings. Ultimately in 1830 Bolivar resigned from his lifetime Presidency . Much like his father Vicente, who had dreamed of an independent South America long before his son鈥檚 birth, Simon Bolivar died without seeing his dream fully realized. In December of 1830 Bolivar found himself almost penniless and feeling defeated, he made plans to return to Europe where he planned to live out the remainder of his life. This last desire would never be fulfilled as he died before he could set sail, ironically he died of tubercolosis the same disease that had killed his father.

聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Simon Jose Antonio de la Trinidad Bolivar y Palacios was predestined for greatness. Almost named Santiago in honor of the day of his birth, the priest instead proposed that he be named Simon in honor of Simon Maccaebus, a Jewish liberator who lead his nation to freedom (Ybarra 24). He was educated by the best tutors and as a result was well versed in politics, literature and the written and spoken word. Bolivar is heralded as one of the most eloquent intellectuals tocome out of South American as evidence by his many volumes of text. Disillusioned by his preceived failure, Bolivar instructed his personal assistant to burn his extensive writings. Unable to image the loss of such great historical accounts of South America鈥檚 liberation, the texts were preserved. From his writing we know that Bolivar believed that a government should be ruled only by a constitution, thereby limiting the powers of the government. This would have been important given the injustice he witnessed growing up in Caracas under Spanish rule. Under the cruelty of Spain citizens suspected of聽 disobedience we imprisioned and in extreme cases put to death. Bolivar also believed in the separation of powers and the importance of creating various branches of government each聽 to serve as a checks and balance for the other. He also espoused the belief in freedom of religion, property rights and the rule of law.

聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 While the united South America of Bolivar鈥檚 dreams was never actualized, the impact on the South American governing bodies is evident today.聽 Venezuela, Columbia, Peru, and Bolivia were all positively impacted by the works of Simon Bolivar and his daring passion for independence. In conclusion, young Simon Bolivar was a visionary fueled by a solid education and opportunities to travel extensively. Even the hardship of the others like Peruvian revolutionary聽 Tupac Amaru, who was dismembered and placed on display to warn others who may consider taking revolutionary action helped to fuel Bolivar鈥檚 drive to unify South America. Having suffered so many losses so early in his life, Bolivar grew up with a strong sense of self and an indomitable spirit that could only result in an outward manifestation of greatness. Known as a pioneer, a liberator, a revolutionary, a freedom fighter and an intellectual debate regarding his cultural identity still loom ever present in a country where a racially based caste system dictated the rights of its citizens. Current Venezuelan President Hugo Chaves was said to have made claims that Bolivar was more of African or Amerindian blood than European (Wikipedia), while this would explain his desire for equality across the caste system it is not backed by any evidence.

Bibliography

YBarra, T.R. 聽BOLIVAR The Passionate Warrior. New York: Ives Washburn, 1929.

Wilford, Miriam. Jeremy Bentham on Spanish America: An Account of His Letters and

聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Proposals to the New World. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1980.

Paparchontis, Kathleen. 100 Leaders Who Changed the World. Milwaukee: World Almanac

聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Library, 2003.

Worcester, Donald E. Bolivar. 聽Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1977.

Perez Vila, Manuel. 鈥淪imon Bolivar.鈥 Being There.

1 Mar. 2005 <http://www.embavenez-us.org/kids.venezuela/simon.bolivar.htm>.

Simon Bolivar. Dir. Fabian-Baber Productions, The Hispanic and Latin American Heritage

Video Collection, 1995.

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