Simon Bolivar (1783-1830)
Simon Bolivar was one of South America's greatest generals. His victories over
the Spaniards won independence for Bolivia, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and
Venezuela. He is called El Liberator (The Liberator) and the "George Washington
of South America."
Bolivar was born in July 24, 1783, at Caracas, Venezuela. His parents died when
he was a child and he inherited a fortune. As a young man, he traveled in Europe.
As he returned to Venezuela, Bolivar joined the group of patriots that seized
Caracas in 1810 and proclaimed independence from Spain. He went to Great Britain
in search of aid, but could get only a promise of British neutrality. When he
returned to Venezuela, and took command of a patriot army, he recaptured Caracas
in 1813 from the Spaniards.
The Spaniards forced Bolivar to retreat from Venezuela to New Granada (now
Colombia), also at war with Spain. He took command of a Colombian force and
captured Bogota in 1814. The patriots, however, lacked men and supplies, and new
defeats led Bolivar to flee to Jamaica. In Haiti he gathered a force that landed
in Venezuela in 1816, and took Angostra (now Ciudad Bolivar). He also became
Bolivar marched into New Granada in 1819. He defeated the Spaniards in Boyar in
1819, liberating the territory of Colombia. He then returned to Angostura and
led the congress that organized the original republic of Colombia (now Ecuador,
Colombia, Panama, and Venezuela). Bolivar became its first president on December
Bolivar crushed the Spanish army at Carabobo in Venezuela on June 24, 1821. Next,
he marched into Educador and added that territory to the new Colombian republic.
After a meeting in 1822 with another great liberator, Bolivar became dictator of
Peru. His army won a victory over the Spaniards at Auacucho in 1824, which
needed Spanish power in South America. Upper Peru became a separate state, named
Bolivia in Bolivar's honor, in 1825. The constitution, which he drew up for
Bolivia, is one of his most important political pronouncements.
by Harvey L. Johnson