Who is Simon Bolivar?

Bronwyn Harris

Simón Bolívar, born Simón José Antonio de la Santísima Trinidad Bolívar y Palacios on 24 July 1783, came from a wealthy Venezuelan family and came to be known as "The Liberator." He led several different independent movements in South America. Together, these movements are referred to as "Bolívar's War."

Simón Bolívar remains a hero throughout South America, and Bolivia and Venezuela are named in his honor.
Simón Bolívar remains a hero throughout South America, and Bolivia and Venezuela are named in his honor.

Simón Bolívar left Venezuela to study in Europe, where he wed María Teresa Rodríguez del Toro y Alaysa, the daughter of a prominent Spaniard. His wife died within the first year of their marriage, and he never remarried. Bolívar began to imagine what South America would be like if it was free from Spanish colonialism when he was a young man.

Upon returning to Venezuela in 1807, Simón Bolívar found that Spain had become weak from all of Napoleon's invasions. Beginning in 1808 he started leading independence movements, or resistance juntas in Latin America. In 1813, his forces had their first success, taking over Caracas and declaring that Venezuela was now free from Spanish rule.

Simón Bolívar went on to help liberate Peru, Ecuador, Panama, Colombia, and Boliva, which was named after him. However, he also began declaring himself president over every country that he liberated. Although he said he was the president, he often behaved like a dictator.

Wanting to unite all of Latin America into a single country called Gran Colombia, Simón Bolívar ran into resistance from internal factions. Undeterred, Bolívar wrote a constitution for the fledgling country of Gran Colombia that made him a lifelong leader, able to appoint a successor of his choice. He quickly became unpopular, and resigned as president in protest in 1830.

Simón Bolívar intended to return to Europe, and sent his belongings ahead of him. However, he died of tuberculosis during the ocean voyage on 17 December 1830. Bolívar never had children, and therefore had no direct descendants.

Statues and monuments honoring Simón Bolívar appear all around the Americas, and there is even a street in Ankara, Turkey named after him. In addition, two different South American countries are named after Simón Bolívar: Bolivia and Venezuela. Bolivia obviously comes from "Bolívar," and Venezuela is officially named "Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela."

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