Simón Bolívar



Venezuelan Liberator of Northern South America




1783                Simón Bolívar was born in Caracas, Venezuela, as a Spanish citizen in the Captaincy General, which was part of the Viceroyalty of the Nueva Granada.

                        He came from a rich and influential family of criollos whose first members arrived in Venezuela in the late 16th century.

                        His teachers (tutors) were Andrés Bello, the most prominent humanist and grammarian of Bolívar's lifetime, and Simón Rodríguez, who was an outspoken iconoclast and rationalist.

                        Due to their French-influenced teaching, Bolívar can be considered a disciple of the social and political doctrines of Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

                        His parents died when he was very young, and he was raised by an uncle who paid little attention to him.

1799                He went to Spain to finish his education.

1802                Bolívar married María Teresa Rodríguez del Toro y Alaysa, the niece of the Marqués de Toro (a prominent city in Castile) while living in Spain. She died from yellow fever less than a year later during a trip they took to Venezuela. (Simón Bolívar never married again.)

1804                He traveled to Paris, France. He was fluent in French. He joined the group surrounding Napoleon Bonaparte briefly.

1806                He traveled to the U.S.A., visiting Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Charleston, South Carolina. While in the US he tried to get American help for his plans to liberate South American from Spanish control. In general, he held contradictory ideas about the United States, but he did say that the USA was "the great adventure of mankind." He thought that South America should have a government that was a fusion of the governments of both England (monarchy) and the USA (federal republic). He feared American democracy because he felt that Latin America's people were not sufficiently educated or ready for democracy. In this regard, he said:


"It is amazing that this model in North America should subsist so prosperously and should not become entangled at the appearance of the first obstacle or danger—although that nation is a rare model in political virtues and in moral examples—and granting the fact that liberty was its cradle, and that it was reared and nourished on freedom—I will say it all, although this nation is unique in the history of mankind, it is prodigious, I repeat, that a system so weak and complicated could have governed it through circumstances so difficult and delicate as the past one."



                        Bolívar was, generally speaking, a utopian who hoped to create one American nation, but he realized that his was not possible.


1810                He traveled to London, where he attempted again to obtain English aid for his liberation plans. In this city he got Francisco de Miranda to join his cause to help the South American revolutionaries.




1811                The criollos in Caracas declared independence from Spain

                        Bolívar and Miranda then returned to Caracas, Venezuela.

                        Miranda is named commander of the rebel army.

1812                (July 12) Bolívar wrote to Miranda promising to give his commander an account of Bolívar's defeat at Puerto Cabello (for this letter, see: => Bolívar Document #1)

                        Miranda surrenders to the Spanish colonial army when Bolívar handed him over to the Spanish. Bolívar thought Miranda was a traitor, but Bolívar never justified his action.

                        Bolívar flees to Cartagena de Indias where he joins the rebels in Colombia.

                        He wrote his Manifiesto de Cartagena, in which he analyzes the political, social, and economic causes—including an earthquake in Caracas—for the fall of Venezuela's first republic.

1813                Bolívar named commander of an army in Colombia, and then he invades Venezuela. He killed all his Spanish prisoners, and he also gets new recruits for the rebel cause. As a result of victories in Venezuela, he was proclaimed El Libertador (the Liberator). He then proclaimed the Second Venezuelan Republic, but this free republic fell apart within a year. (For Bolívar's address accepting such honors, see: => Bolívar Document #2)

1814                While the rebellion is going on in South America, king Fernando VII returns to the throne of Spain, where he becomes one of the worst despots in history. Fernando VII then sends large Spanish armies to South America to fight the rebels.

                        As a result of Fernando VII's actions, the prosperous criollos in Nueva Granada (Gran Colombia) no longer wanted to support Spain; so they join the rebellion.

                        Bolívar led an army into Bogotá, Colombia, but all sorts of internal disputes erupted within the rebel forces.

1815-1816       Bolívar then fled to first to Curaçao, then to Colombia, then to Jamaica, where he sought English aid.

                        Then he went to Haiti, where he asked the free Haitian leader, Alexandre Pétion, for support.

                        During this time, he wrote a diary about South America and its problems. In it he makes the following points:


Ø      Latin America lacks a "political attitude";

Ø      Latin America has a heritage of neglect and ill treatment from Spain;

Ø      Latin Americans are "passive";

Ø      Latin America has been governed by incompetent subordinates;

Ø      Democracy and republics are not appropriate for Latin America;

Ø      Latin America does not need a monarchy, but it does need paternalistic governments;

Ø      Many small republics would suit Latin America better than the idea of manifest destiny, which was guiding the United States;

Ø      Mexico should lead all of Latin America, and should model an ideal for all of Latin America; but this result would not be possible throughout Latin America due to the obstacles of geography and climate differences.


1816                With the help of Haitian soldiers and money, which he got from Pétion in exchange for freeing the black slaves in Venezuela, Bolívar successfully landed in Ciudad Bolívar, Venezuela.

                        Bolívar then returns to Haiti.

1817                The llaneros (men from the plains of central and south Venezuela) join the rebellion and become the first major fighters to join Bolívar against the Spanish armies.

1819                Volunteers arrive from England to help Bolívar.

                        Bolívar's battered army marches to Colombia, where it wins a major victory and thereby adds New Granada to territories free from Spanish control,

                        Bolívar goes to Venezuela, where he creates the idea for Gran Colombia (Venezuela, Colombia—which included Panamá—and Ecuador).

1820-1823       Meanwhile, in Spain, Spanish liberals revolt against king Fernando VII; this revolt in the fading "mother country" helps the rebels in South America.

1821                Gran Colombia is declared a reality with Bolívar as president and Francisco de Paula Santander as vice president.

                        Bolívar marches to Ecuador and liberates it from Spain.

1822                Bolívar meets with the Argentinian liberator, José de San Martín, in Guayaquil, Ecuador. San Martín decides to turn over the entire rebel army to Bolívar, and San Martín then leaves South America for good.

1823                The last Spanish forces are defeated in Venezuela.

1824                Bolívar commands the rebel forces in the great battle of Junín (August 6th) while Antonio José de Sucre defeats the last Spanish army at Ayacucho, Peru (December 9th).

                        Bolívar marches to Cuzco, Peru, and Lake Titicaca and Potosí in Bolivia.

1825                Bolívar liberates Alta Peru, and it is named for him: Bolivia.

                        Sucre becomes the first president of Bolivia.

                        Bolívar returns to Lima, then to Bogotá.




1825-1830       There is violent and bitter factionalism through all of northern South America.

1827                Bolívar leaves Venezuela for the last time and goes to Colombia.

1828                To solve the political impasse Bolívar proclaims himself dictator on August 27th.

                        Bolívar's lover, Manuela Sáenz, helps save him from an assassination attempt.

1828-1830       Uprisings break out all over Gran Colombia.

1830                Simón Bolívar resigns his presidency (dictatorship).

                        He dies of tuberculosis on December 17th at La Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino in Santa Marta, Colombia.


1842                Bolívar's remains were moved to a Panteón Nacional (National Pantheon) in Caracas. The current monument was built in 1876.

                        For a website dedicated to the monument where Simón Bolívar is buried, click on the following image: