Sunday, October 19, 2008

Simon Bolivar and Latin American Revolutions

Simon Bolivar is famous for his liberative efforts in South America. With pen, powder, and persuasion he rose to become the freedom fighter ("George Washington of South America" or "Libertador") for Venezuela and then all of South America except for the region of Brazil. These accomplishments were due to his early studying of the Enlightenment (Rousseau, Locke, and Voltaire) and his lifelong tutor/friend Simon Rodriguez who raised him after his parents died. He studied in Spain in 1799 after their death (since his parents left him a lot of money) and married there. Unfortunately his wife died shortly after returning to South America (1803) and he left for Europe again in 1804.

He became part of Napoleon I's circle in order to study how one forms a nation after revolution. As a Creole, he could not hold office yet was well educated and he had fallen in love with the ideas of freedom that the Enlightenment era of reason gave and the success of the revolutions in America and in France. At first he loved Napoleon, but then grew to hate him because he felt he had betrayed the ideals of the Enlightenment. Later in 1808 he also resented that a Napoleon had put his brother Joseph on Spain's throne. It was bad enought being a colony of Spain, but under a Frenchman? He made a vow on a mountain near Rome Italy that he would never rest until South America was free.

Simon left Napoleon and returned to South America via the United States studying how they set up their government after a revolution, for by this time he knew his native land would be better off without being a colony of Spain and he could also put his ideals into practice. His idea was to set up a country like the United States where each of the newly freed colonies would ban together as one nation.

Upon his return in 1807 he joined the resistance junta movement in Venezuela and quickly rose up through its ranks. Although it took many years and often exile to other places like Haiti, he accomplished what he dreamed. Simon not only was part of the resistance fighters, he also raised troops and money. All of the colonies were finally freed by August 1824. Bolivia was part of Upper Peru but became a separate country in 1825. It was named after him to honor his untiring efforts to win freedom for South America. He even wrote a consitution for it, but it was never used.

His accomplishments won him the title of "Libertador", but peace was not long lasting. Just as France and Italy had trouble staying united after revolution, the democratic republic of South America broke apart over rivalries between the general of the revolution and into civil war. Also, Simon Bolivar as an autocratic ruler trying desperately to hold the nation together dind't help. He died in December 1830 but is still honored for his role in their liberation.

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