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Simon Bolivar was a famous Venezuelan military and political leader who was responsible for taking the countries of Venezuela, Bolivia, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, and Panama to independence from the Spanish rule.
Simon: Ancestors and Birth
Simon’s ancestors had settled in Venezuela in the 16th century and were aristocratic. They owned lands, had gold, silver, and copper mines, and sugar plantation. Simon was born on 24 July 1783 in Caracas, Venezuela. He has a lengthy name-Simón José Antonio de la Santísima Trinidad Bolívar y Palacios. His parents were María de la Concepción Palacios y Blanco, and Colonel Don Juan Vicente Bolívar y Ponte. He had two older sisters and a brother and another sister had died at birth.
His father died before he was 3 while his mother died when he was 9. He was tutored privately. It was Don Simón Rodríguez who taught him to swim and ride horses.
Little Simon also learned about liberty, human rights, politics, history, and sociology from him. His nurse the slave Hipólita cared for him like a mother. Don Simon Rodriguez had to leave the country on charges of conspiracy against the Spanish rule when Simon was 14.
Simon entered the military academy and was sent to Spain to study in Madrid from 1800-1802. He stayed in Paris for a while and returned to Venezuela in 1804.
His military and political career commences
In 1810 there was a coup in his country and colonial rulers were deposed. Simon rose to prominence at this time. In 1811, he was promoted to the rank of a colonel and the year after he was made commandant of the Puerto Cabello. In 1813, he got a military command in Tunja, New Granada which is modern-day Colombia.
In 1813 and 1814, he advanced to other territories and was proclaimed The Liberator. He announced his famous ‘Decree of War to Death’ wherein any Spaniard not supporting independence was killed. He established the Second Republic of Venezuela.
The liberation of Venezuela and New Granada
In 1816, he freed Spanish America’s slaves. He seized more territories as he marched forward. In 1819, he liberated New Granada and Venezuela. He was elected the President of the Second National Congress.
Liberation of Ecuador and Peru
In 1822, Simon battled and managed to free Ecuador and Peru from the Spanish rule. On 6 August 1825, the Republic of Bolivia was created. Internal dissent erupted in Venezuela and Simon found it difficult to control. There was a collapse of Gran Colombia and it was replaced by Venezuela, New Granada, and Ecuador. Problems continued to plague this region even in the 19th and 20th centuries.
His resignation and death
Simon tried to save the fall of Gran Colombia but was unsuccessful. On 27 April 1830, he resigned from the Presidency and prepared for an exile to Europe. But before he could start the journey, he died on 17 December 1830 of tuberculosis. He had requested his letters to be burned but they were not and historians got an insight into his liberal thinking through them.
His personal life
The letters also gave a clue to his long-term affair with Manuela Saenz. In 1802 while in Madrid, he was married to Maria Teresa Rodriguez del Toro y Alaiza.
She died on 22 January 1803 due to yellow fever. He said:
“You then […] got married at the age of 45; […] I was not even 18 years old when I did the same, and I was not even nearly 19 years old when I was widowed; I loved my wife a lot in Madrid, and her death made me swear not to get married again, and I kept my word. Look the way things are: if I were not widowed, my life would have maybe been different; I would not be General Bolívar nor the Libertador, though I agree that my temper is not suitable for being the landlord of San Mateo.”
He also had several other love affairs which were short-lived.