Trip through Time / Liberator's Memory Lives on in S. America: Simon Bolivar (1783-1830) in Caracas
Hamasuna, Masakazu, The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan)
By Masakazu Hamasuna
Yomiuri Shimbun Correspondent
CARACAS--Simon Bolivar is regarded as the liberator of Latin America. As a military leader, Bolivar liberated northern South America from colonial rule. As a politician, he called for solidarity among Central and South American countries.
According to the official version, Bolivar was born in Caracas, now the capital of Venezuela. Even today, he is respected widely by Venezuelans and his ideas continue to affect contemporary politics.
I visited Plaza Bolivar in central Caracas on March 22 and saw people in military uniforms and suits laying floral tributes at the foot of statue of Liberator Simon Bolivar, in which he is shown on a rampant horse.
Local people said it was a ritual commemorating the Day of the Sea, a holiday in Bolivia, a country liberated by Bolivar. Diplomats from Bolivia and neighboring countries were also in attendance.
Venezuelan military bands performed the national anthems of both countries, striking a solemn chord.
Humberto Guevara, a 63-year-old tour guide, said: "There are many occasions in which people in local companies, officers of police stations, baseball players and other organizations and individuals pay floral tribute to the statue to commemorate something. In Venezuela, Bolivar is holy."
Bolivar was born to one of the wealthiest families in Caracas in the latter half of the 18th century. The colonial-style house where he was born still remains in the old area of the city.
When he was in his late teens and early 20s, Bolivar spent time in Europe. He was strongly influenced by the enlightened thinking of European scholars such as Charles-Louis de Montesquieu.
After returning home, Bolivar joined the wars for independence. After many victories, he become the commander of the liberation armies.
In 1819, Bolivar established a nation, Gran Colombia, which included territories of today's Venezuela, Colombia, Panama and Ecuador.
He became the first president of Gran Colombia and won plaudits as a liberator.
But his life from then on was unhappy. He pushed for the realization of "a fair and equal society" by abolishing slavery and distributing land to native people. His efforts were met with resistance from white people with vested interests.
His plan to integrate nations in Central and South America was largely ignored. …