Simón Bolívar

Simón Bolívar

If historians were forced to designate the most decisive protagonist of the turbulent processes that, in the first decades of the nineteenth century, led to the emancipation of Latin America, there is no doubt that it would be elected Venezuelan military and statesman Simón Bolívar (1783-1830), righteously honored with the title “Liberator of America”.

After not a few setbacks, Simón Bolívar led the military campaigns that gave independence to Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador. And like another distinguished leader of independence, José de San Martín, Bolívar understood the inevitable strategic need to occupy Peru, the true Neuralgic center of the Spanish Empire. Simón Bolívar is victories in the battles of Junín and Ayacucho (1824) meant the fall of the ancient Viceroyalty, the independence of Peru and Bolivia and the final point to three centuries of Spanish domination in South America.

Such was the transcendence of his figure that has been affirmed that, in the South American sphere, the history of the Emancipation is the biography of Simón Bolívar and part of the one of San Martín. And no less admirable is his total dedication to the emancipatory ideal, a cause to which he had sworn to consecrate himself with only 22 years in an evocative scenario: the sacred mountain of Rome. Politically, his dream was to unite the Spanish colonies liberated in an American-style confederacy; This project was materialized in the “Gran Colombia” (1819-1830), which presided over Bolivar itself and came to encompass Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador and Panama.

Despite the realism and rigor of his political thinking (he always judged that it was necessary to adapt the European doctrines to the American reality), the success did not accompany him in the monumental company to configure the new republics; Subjected to the pressure of the caudillismos and territorial claims, the dismemberment of the great Colombia would also have been inevitable without the premature death of Bolivar.

Simón Bolívar Biography

Simón José Antonio de la Most Holy Trinity Bolivar and Palacios was born in Caracas on July 24, 1783. Venezuela was then a General captain of the Kingdom of Spain between whose population the discontent was breathed by the differences of rights existing between the Spanish oligarchy owner of the power, the Mantuan or Creole class, landowners for the majority, and the Low strata of mulattos and slaves.

The Creoles, in spite of the privileges they had, had developed a particular feeling of the “American being” that invited them to the rebellion: “We were (would explain Bolivar later) abstracted and, let thus, absent from the universe as it is relative to The science of government and State administration. We were never virreyes or governors but for very extraordinary causes; Archbishops and bishops seldom; Diplomats never; Military only in the capacity of subordinates; Nobles, without real privileges; We were not, in short, neither magistrates nor financiers, and hardly even traders; All in direct contravention of our institutions ”

This was, moreover, the class to which their parents belonged, Juan Vicente Bolivar and Ponte and María de la Concepción Palacios and Blanco. The child Simon was the youngest of four brothers and soon would become, next to them, heir to a great fortune. Bolivar was orphaned at the age of nine, passing the care of his maternal grandfather and later of his uncle Carlos Palacios; They would watch for their education, but also the black Hippolyta, his slave and nurse, would continue to take care of the boy.

Between the valleys of Aragua and the city of Caracas, childhood and part of the young Simon’s adolescence passed. He combined his studies in the School of first letters of the city with visits to the hacienda of the family. Later, at fifteen years of age, the Aragüeños territories would gain a greater relief in his life when, by the mediation carried out by his uncle Esteban (Minister of the Court of the greater accounting of the kingdom to King Charles IV), he was appointed Second lieutenant of militias of White infantry from the valleys of Aragua.

While this was happening, he was fortunate enough to be a part of the city’s best teachers and thinkers; They included Andrés Bello, Guillermo Pelgrón and Simón Rodríguez. It was the latter, however, who managed to calm the child’s nervous and rebellious momentum, staying as an intern in his house by order of the royal audience, which would be the genesis of a great friendship. But neither the attachment to the mentor nor the entry into the militia were enough to quiet the boy, and his uncles decided to send him to Spain to continue his training.

The stay in Europe

It was in the year 1799 when Simón Bolívar landed on peninsular lands. In Madrid, despite continuing his studies, the atmosphere of the city seduced him: he frequented the reading, dancing and gathering halls, and watched the Court of the Kingdom marvel at the gardens of Aranjuez, a place he would evoke in delirious dreams on his deathbed. Dressed as a soldier in those times when Spain began to speak of Napoleon, and so visited the Marquis of Ustáriz, a cult man with whom he shared long afternoons of conversation.

In one of them he met María Teresa Rodríguez del Toro, with whom he would marry on May 26, 1802 in the chapel of San José, in the palace of the Duke of Frías. While Bernardo Rodríguez, father of the girl, decided to take long engagement, Bolivar followed them to Bilbao and took advantage to travel to France: Bayonne, Bordeaux and Paris. Immediately after the wedding, the newlyweds moved to Caracas and, despite the resentments that channeled the creoles through their conspiracies, Bolivar remained with his wife, leading a quiet life. This conjugal serenity, however, would not last long: Maria Teresa died a few days after she had been infected with yellow fever, in January 1803. Bolivar, disillusioned, decided to move away and marched back to Europe.

While the Caracas Francisco de Miranda, from the United States and the Antilles, patiently gathered support for a military expedition that would give independence to the country, the events in Venezuela began to take airs of revolt. Oblivious to all that, Bolivar met his father in Madrid, to move to Paris in 1804. In the shadow of Napoleon Bonaparte (who would soon proclaim himself Emperor of France) had formed an aristocratic class, found among the bourgeoisie, which met in the large halls to which he attended Simón Bolívar in the company of Fernando Toro and Fanny du Villars.

There, the young Simón Bolívar, a kind of American dandy, would gradually spread the liberal ideas and literature that had inspired the French Revolution. He was a great reader and a very interested interlocutor in today’s politics. At that time he met the eminent German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt, expeditionary and great connoisseur of the American territory, who told him about the maturity of the colonies for independence. “What I do not see (Humboldt would say) is the man who can perform it.”

His former tutor, Simón Rodríguez, was then in Vienna; Bolivar, upon learning, ran in his quest. Later the master moved to Paris, and in the company of Fernando Toro embarked on a journey whose final destination was Rome. They crossed the Alps walking to Milan, where they stopped on May 26, 1805 to witness the coronation as king of Italy of Napoleon, whom Bolivar would always admire. Then they visited Venice, Ferrara, Bologna, Florence, Perugia and Rome. In this last city took place the so-called Oath of Mount Sacro: In the presence of Simón Rodríguez and Fernando Toro, Simón Bolívar solemnly swore to dedicate his life and all his energies to the liberation of the American colonies.

The gestation of an ideal

Evidently, such purpose and convictions were not born in Simón Bolívar spontaneously or suddenly; The fervor of the moment and his conversations with important intellectuals (starting with his master Simón Rodríguez) had made him understand the injustice that entailed the subjugation of America to the yoke of Spain. After having heard of the failed expeditions liberating of Francisco de Miranda in Ocumare and the candle of chorus, Simón Bolívar decided to undertake the voyage of return.

After a short stay in the United States, Simón Bolívar returned in the mid-1807 to Caracas, where he had to retake his old squire’s occupations. José Antonio Briceño, a neighbor of lands and estates, was waiting for him with a fence on his land; Such a matter had to be resolved as soon as possible. Despite the failure, the incursions of Miranda had had the virtue to adhere some Caracas to the Emancipatory project; However, the vast majority of Creoles were conformed to rebel passively violating the rules that were dictated from Spain.

In 1808 Simón Bolívar had already been incorporated into the conspiracy activities. That same year serious events took place in the metropolis: Napoleon invaded the peninsula, kept Charles IV and his son Ferdinand VII in Bayonne and gave the crown to his brother Joseph I Bonaparte. Such usurpation triggered the war of the Spanish Independence (1808-1814), whooping stage in which the continuous fighting against the invader and the popular rejection to the French king tax caused a vacuum of power in Spain, barely covered with the establishment In Seville of the supreme Junta of Spain and the Indies (May 27, 1808).

The situation was conducive to Martin Tovar and Ponte, then mayor of Caracas, to present to the General captain a project to create a board of government attached to the supreme junta of Seville, expressing the creole demands of political participation. In the beginning, the colonial authorities were reluctant to the project, but later, in the face of the power vacuum that had occurred, they decided to agree with the conspirators. Aware of the situation, Simón Bolívar opened the doors of a family summer house (La Cuadra de Bolívar) to host the meetings. He categorically refused to participate in any alliance; For him, he had to cry out for absolute emancipation.

On the eve of the Holy Thursday of 1810, the commissioners of the New Regency Council of Cadiz arrived to the city, an organ of government that acted in the peninsula to replace Ferdinand VII, after having relieved the supreme Junta. They were greeted by Vicente Emparan, the highest colonial authority as governor and captain General of Venezuela, but the next day the Creoles besieged him and forced him to head to the Cabildo. The Venezuelan mythology collects from this date (April 19, 1810) the instant in which Vicente Emparan looked at the balcony of the cabildo of Caracas to interrogate the inflamed people about their willingness to continue accepting their authority, with clergyman José Cortés De Madariaga behind him beckoning with his finger to the village to refuse. After a resounding “No! ” On the part of the population, Vicente Emparan relented: “Well, I don’t want command either.”

Thus began the famous revolt Caracas, which, without unintentionally, gave the beginning of the process of independence of Venezuela. The supreme Junta of Venezuela was constituted, a government body theoretically loyal to King Ferdinand VII who, among other provisions, appointed Simón Bolívar Coronel de Infantry and assigned him the task of travelling to London, in the company of Andrés Bello and Luis López Méndez, in He’s looking for support for the new government.

In London they were greeted by Foreign Minister Lord Wellesley, who after several interviews ended up being neutral in the face of the situation. Simón Bolívar, despite seeing the attempt frustrated, found at this juncture a reorientation and clarification of his ideas on the emancipation of Latin America. The key moment was his interview in London with Francisco de Miranda, ideologue and visionary of the independence of America, who had already devised, among other things, a project for the construction of a great nation called “Colombia”, which was to bring together in his bosom All the old colonies, from Mexico to Chile and Argentina. Simón Bolívar soaked the ideas of the great precursor and reformulated them throughout a campaign that would last twenty years.

Simón Bolívar returned to Caracas convinced of the mission that had decided to be attributed. Miranda would soon follow him; His figure was somewhat mythical among the Creoles, both for the long time he had spent abroad and for his participation in the independence of North America and the French Revolution. Almost no one knew him, but Simón Bolívar, convinced of the usefulness of Miranda for the company that started, introduced him to the Patriotic Society of Agriculture and Economy, created in August 1810.

Venezuela’s independence

Partisans to proclaim an absolute independence for Venezuela, Bolivar and Miranda urged the members of the Patriotic society to pronounce in this regard before the constituent Congress of Venezuela, meeting on March 2, 1811. It was on this point that Simón Bolívar dictated his first memorable speech: “Let us fearlessly put the cornerstone of South American freedom. Hesitating is to miss “. On July 5, 1811, the Constituent Congress declared independence and the Federal Constitution for the states of Venezuela was approved.

The First Republic was lost as a consequence of the differences of criteria between the Creoles, of the resentments between castes and social classes, and of the incursions of Domingo Monteverde (captain of frigate of the Realistic army) in chorus, Siquisique, Charon, Trujillo, Barquisimeto, Valencia and, finally, Caracas. It was clear that a civil war was going to be unleashed immediately, as the company in question was anything but monolithic. Simón Bolívar would be aware of the class character of the war and would reflect on it throughout all its political proclamations.

On this occasion, however, he had to defend the Republic from Puerto Cabello. Despite his excellent political and military work in defense of the castle, everything was futile; The forces of the other side were superior, and this was compounded by the ruin caused by the earthquakes that occurred in March 1812. On July 25th, the capitulation of the Generalissimo Francisco de Miranda was produced; While it was necessary in his opinion, Miranda had not consulted her companions, and the surrender filled with IRA to Simón Bolívar, who, upon learning of Miranda’s plans to leave the territory, participated in his arrest in the port of La Guaira: “I did not arrest him to serve the King, but to punish a traitor ”

Simón Bolívar is strategy was then to flee to Curaçao, from where he left for Cartagena, on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. On November 27, 1811, Cartagena and other cities of the Kingdom of Nueva Granada (present-day Colombia) had proclaimed their independence and constituted the United Provinces of Nueva Granada. The intention of Bolivar, wrapped in the mantle of a dazzling speech, was to find support in the Neogranadinas forces to undertake the reconquest of the Republic in neighboring Venezuela. “I am, Granada, a son of the unhappy Caracas, prodigiously escaped from the midst of his physical and political ruins “: With these words began the manifesto of Cartagena, letter of presentation of Bolivar before the Sovereign Congress of the United Provinces of Nueva Granada, in which he plotted a diagnosis of defeat while offering his services to the army of that region. The Granada welcomed him by giving him the rank of captain of the garrison of Barrancas.

Simón Bolívar waged a few battles, even disobeying orders, and under the same procedure began his onslaught to Venezuela. In May 1813 he undertook the “admirable campaign”, a feat that consisted of the reconquest of the territories of the western part of the country (while, simultaneously, Santiago Mariño took the eastern ones) until he entered triumphantly in Caracas in August of the same year. As he passed through Mérida he was called “The Liberator”, and with that title he was ratified by the Municipality of Caracas, who also named him Captain General of the armies of Venezuela. But the second Republic was to be, in essence, as ephemeral as the first.

It was clear that the nature of the war was changing, which would soon be demonstrated again. The cunning with which Simón Bolívar tried to polarize the sides through the decree of war to the death of 1813 (“Spaniards and Canaries, count with the death, even being indifferent. […] Americans, count on life, even when you are guilty “), it was not enough to mitigate the differences between the armies of Mulattos and blacks in the face of the emancipating feat. The fury of the realistic armies, under the command of the Spaniard José Tomás Boves, forced the Patriots to leave Caracas in July 1814. The Republic fell again.

The situation had to be rethinked. After a short but victorious transit through the New Granada (he directed the troops that occupied Bogotá, thus sealing the accession of Cundinamarca to the United Provinces of Nueva Granada), Bolívar marched to Jamaica in May 1815. In Kingston he dedicated himself to divulging, through a copious correspondence with personalities from all over the world, the purpose of the war that was being waged in the territory of South America. Until then, the world only knew the version of the realists.

Of these informative documents, the most famous is the letter of Jamaica. It reproduces the panorama of all the struggles that took place simultaneously in America, speculates about the future of the Territory and advances the idea of the Colombian Union. And it is that Scripture was an important chapter in the life of Bolivar. It can be said that the power exerted by his pen guaranteed him much of his triumphs. He revolutionized the style of prose by making his letter the vivid reflection of his passions, thoughts and actions. Its amanuenses and secretaries agreed that the dictates of the Liberator “had won the printing press without a blow of correction “. At the same time, from the office of Jamaica, Bolívar prepared the new strategy for Venezuela.

The “Great Colombia”

The reconquest of Venezuela would take six years to achieve. The expeditions began on Isla Margarita and continued to climb the east towards Guayana. The Battle of San Félix (1817) gave the independentists the Guiana region and the navigation by the Orinoco. In 1819, Bolívar launched the Andes campaign, and, after defeating the realists in the Battle of Boyacá (August 7, 1819), he gained control of the United Provinces of Nueva Granada (the current Colombia), which had fallen into the hands of the Spaniards in 1816. Finally, the victory in the Battle of Carabobo (June 24, 1821) definitively sealed the independence of Venezuela and Colombia.

It was the times of the fearsome realist general Pablo Morillo, to whom the absolutist Spanish monarch Ferdinand VII, spared on the throne once the Spanish War of Independence had ended, had entrusted the mission of crushing all insurgency. To overcome it was a difficult task, and Bolivar had to use new strategies of accession: it proclaimed the freedom of the slaves and offered land in exchange for military loyalty. It thus obtained the collaboration of the Armies Ranger in command of José Antonio Páez, vital for the development of the contest, as also was the assistance of a large contingent of soldiers and European generals, British fundamentally, who yearned for Join the Liberator.

At the same time, Bolívar was responsible for the political reconstruction of the region. In February 1819 he convened the Congress of Angostura, before which he gave a famous speech in which he urged the representatives to promulgate a centralist constitution that was to be the legal basis of the dreamed Republic of the great Colombia. Presided over by Bolivar itself, the “Gran Colombia” was formed that same year, and grouped for the moment the territories of the current Venezuela and Colombia.

The south was in the sights of the great Colombia, ie Bolivar. The liberation and accession of the provinces of Quito and Guayaquil (the current Ecuador) was fundamental to consolidate and maintain the hegemony in the continent of the newly created Republic. This was achieved, from the military point of view, in the Battle of Pichincha (1822), and from the political point of view, by the negotiations advanced by Antonio José de Sucre and Simón Bolívar, thanks to which the region agreed to integrate in the Gran Colombia once Released.

The emancipation process in Latin America would end in Peru two years later. The strategic value of the conquest and liberation of this territory by the liberating army was vital: as a true neuralgic center of Spanish Power, the fall of the Viceroyalty of Peru would mean the definitive departure of the Spaniards from the American territory. This victory would also mean the triumph of the Republican Bolivarian ideology on the proposal to build monarchies in the southern territories, defended by the Peruvian oligarchy and seconded, apparently, by another great warlord of independence Americana: José de San Martín.

In an unforgettable feat that included the crossing of the Andes from Argentina, San Martín had liberated Chile in 1817; From there, in front of a nourished army that moved by sea, landed in Peru, occupied Lima in 1821 and proclaimed independence. But just a year later, internal dissensions and the harassment of the realists, who actually controlled most of the territory, had significantly weakened their position. Both liberators met in Guayaquil in July 1822 in order to deal with this and other matters related to the war. It was never known what Simon Bolivar and José de San Martín spoke of, but the course of events provides evidence of profound disagreement; Soon after, San Martín gave up his position as Protector of Peru and returned to Chile.

The definitive liberation of Peru was thus in the hands of Bolivar. Just two years later, after taking charge in person of the preparations, the battles of Junín and of Ayacucho (August and December of 1824) ended with the realistic resistance: The fall of the Viceroyalty of Peru put an end to three centuries of Spanish domination. In Alto Peru, released in the early months of 1825, was constituted the current Republic of Bolivia, chaired by his lieutenant Antonio José de Sucre. All the military operations were completed, Bolivar returned to account for the Colombian Congress.

Under its half-continent impulse it had reached independence, but, despite having long reflected on the form of government that suited the American territories, neither fortune nor Clairvoyance would accompany it in its political action. Bolivar pleaded at all times for the building of a centralist state that achieved unite that which, by virtue of a racial, cultural and geographical heterogeneity of which he was very conscious, did not resist the perfection of a federation; It was soon revealed, however, that the project to keep the new nations united in Confederation was a chimera.

Although he still managed to placate the revolt of the Cosiata (1826), Bolívar then tried to avoid the dismemberment of the great Colombia by indressing itself of dictatorial powers (1828), which only served as pretext for that, on September 25 of the same year, it was perpetrated A failed attempt against his person who deeply undermined his morality. Everything was useless: the victorious general in the struggles for the freedom of the nations was defeated in that new stage of struggle for the real construction of the same. On April 27, 1830, Bolívar presented its resignation before the last Congress of the great Colombia. The caudillistas and nationalist struggles disrupted all possible conciliation and led to the separation of Venezuela and Ecuador.

During the months preceding his death, the Liberator had to constantly evoke his bitter political defeat. He recalled his last love, Manuela Sáenz, that by saving his life in the attack on September 25, 1828 he had won the title of “Liberator of the Liberator”; It also evoked other loves and other attacks. The death of Sucre, the faithful lieutenant murdered on June 4, 1830, was mourned in Berruecos; He remembered and raved, and thus died, alone and defenestration of the territories which he had liberated, because of a hemoptysis, in the fifth St. Peter Alejandrino, on December 17, 1830. In 1842 the Venezuelan government decided to move the remains of Bolivar, according to its last wish. Since then, his legacy has become myth and veneration as the founder of the Fatherland.

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