El Libertador: Writings of Simón Bolivar

El Libertador: Writings of Simón Bolivar

El Libertador: Writings of Simón Bolivar

El Libertador: Writings of Simón Bolivar

Synopsis

General Simon Bolivar (1783-1830), called El Liberator, and sometimes the "George Washington" of Latin America, was the leading hero of the Latin American independence movement. His victories over Spain won independence for Bolivia, Panama, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela. Bolivar became Columbia's first president in 1819. In 1822, he became dictator of Peru. Upper Peru became a separate state, which was named Bolivia in Bolivar's honor, in 1825. The constitution, which he drew up for Bolivia, is one of his most important political pronouncements. Today he is remembered throughout South America, and in Venezuela and Bolivia his birthday is a national holiday. Although Bolivar never prepared a systematic treatise, his essays, proclamations, and letters constitute some of the most eloquent writing not of the independence period alone, but of any period in Latin American history. His analysis of the region's fundamental problems, ideas on political organization and proposals for Latin American integration are relevant and widely read today, even among Latin Americans of all countries and of all political persuasions. The "Cartagena Letter," the "Jamaica Letter," and the "Angostura Address," are widely cited and reprinted.

Excerpt

With the possible exception of Fidel Castro, Simón Bolívar is by far the most widely known of Latin American historical figures. Books and articles written about him in his native region are very numerous, and works both translated and original abound in English and other major languages. Bolívar enjoys a degree of name recognition around the world even among people who have read none of the works concerning him or anything else that deals expressly with Latin America. Yet much of what people know or think they know about Bolívar is superficial or even erroneous. As Venezuelan historian Germán Carrera Damas shrewdly observed, the sheer accumulation of writings on Bolívar's life has served as much to obscure as to clarify his historical significance.

Part of the problem in understanding Bolívar is the sheer breadth of his thought and action. He was one of the few leaders of Latin American independence who remained fully engaged in the struggle from beginning to end, or more precisely from immediate antecedents to early aftermath. But he was more than just a soldier and founder of new nations, or “Liberator” to use his preferred title. He was a thinker who probed the meaning of what he was doing in historical perspective and in a wide international context. He analyzed past and present conditions of his part of the world and speculated, sometimes with uncanny prescience, con-

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