Simón Bolívar (1783-1830) born Simón José Antonio de la Santísima Trinidad Bolívar y Palacios was a Venezuelan military genius and political leader. He led a revolution that liberated South American countries that are now Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Panama and Bolivia from the Spanish Empire.
Born to a wealthy, politically connected, Venezuelan family, Bolívar was still not as high in the caste system as Spaniards born in Spain. This was part of the reason his allegiance belonged to his home in South America.
18th-century liberal thinkers
As a youth his tutor Simón Rodríguez introduced Bolívar to the world of 18th-century liberal thought. In 1804 Napoleon I was approaching the height of his career. Rodríguez and Bolívar sailed to Europe. In Paris Bolívar was discovered to the works of 18th century great minds like John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Voltaire, Montesquieu, and Rousseau.
As liberation took hold world wide Bolívar came believe that the Spanish colonies were ripe for independence. A year later the the fight for independence began. He sailed for England in hope of eliciting help for the cause from the British. It didn’t work. But Bolívar persuaded exiled Venezuelan Francisco de Miranda to return and lead the revolution. Miranda’s leadership failed. But eventually Bolívar took over, financing the revolution with his own money.
Fight for independence
The attach on New Granada is considered a military masterpiece, as daring and hazardous as Hannibal‘s crossing the Alps. Bolívar’s small army of 2,500 including a British legion forded rivers and and plain during the rainy season. For a week they waded through waist high waters. They crossed the Andes, a mountain range considered impossible by the defending Spaniards. Though Bolívar lost men, the Spaniards were caught flat footed and in 1819 surrendered. This was the turning point of the war.
Peace and legacy
Still it would be nearly another decade before peace was finally negotiated. Simón Bolívar is considered Latin America’s greatest military genius. His legacy is of mythical proportions.