Against all odds: How Bolivar managed to liberate 6 Latin American countries

"A people who love freedom will be free in the end"

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The most emphatic victory in Simon Bolivar's long battle for Latin American independence came in 1819.

The man everyone called "El Libertador" (The Liberator) led an ill-fated detachment of ragged men through the impassable Andes to strike suddenly and with excessive audacity the superior Spanish forces.

The always impulsive and resourceful Bolivar even kept his plan a secret from his men.

He knew that they would die if he told them that he intended to cross miles and miles of swamps and swamps and climb steep mountain peaks even 4 kilometers high.

In fact, in the heart of winter!

The attack that no one expected

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Only a madman would do such a thing. However, they followed this madman and remained by his side despite the unimaginable hardships. They also had the warmth and charisma of his immense personality for consolation.

Only they did not arrive. THE malaria and the yellow fever hit most of them in the lowlands and then came the icy mountain peaks to be swept away by the wind and to lose all their horses and mules.

Bolivar suffered just like his men, but he looked strong and healthy, despite his tall, almost weak physique. With what was left of his half-naked and hungry men, they went down to the Colombian side of the Andes and easily took the victory, without substantial Spanish resistance.

No sane Spanish general expected such an insidious attack to be possible! And yet it was and remains in history. In the same way that Hannibal stayed, when he crossed the Alps.

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Within a few days he managed to raise reinforcements from the Colombian countryside and give his men time to rest and prepare for another battle. And on July 25, he was ready to strike again. To hit the Spaniards armed like lobsters, in their polished uniforms, in a battle that would remain legendary again.

The revolutionaries, however, had a secret weapon, the Laneros, something ruthless Latin American cockroaches, the equivalent of the American Cowboy, who rushed at the enemy with machetes and poles.

The next battle would be the last of these three years. A three-year continuous and methodical war against the conquering Spanish forces that was about to end with the Battle of Boyacca (1819).

Bolivar's rebels easily won it, so wings as it now had their morale. The Spanish generals were bent by the guerrilla war of the patriots and their cries for "war to the end". And they lost not only their courage, but also their colonies in the south of the New World.

A few years even everything would have been lost for the Spaniards.

How Bolivar achieved a feat beyond reason

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Bolivar did not act alone. It certainly acted as a catalyst in the struggle for independence, embodying all the ideals of the liberation movements that stigmatized the 19th century. His action, however, was part of a broader framework of national liberation spirit, of which he became the main spokesman in South America.

A movement that gained independence for six Latin American nations: Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Παναμάς, Peru and Bolivia. With the latter taking its name from the Liberator himself.

"George Washington of South America" ​​was characteristically called the Marquis of Lafayette, the French nobleman who was anointed general by Washington during the American Revolutionary War against the British.

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And he was admired indefinitely by both the French national and the general of the American Revolution and first president of the USA later.

Ο Washington he had even sent him an honorary pendant, which Bolivar kept as the apple of his eye. The analogies between them, however, are exhausted by the fact that they were both of aristocratic origin. And that heroes sprang up for their nations.

Washington as a general was very careful, both militarily and politically. Bolivar was much more impulsive and unstable. Both of them, however, proved to be strategic minds, putting up with the best armies in the world and scoring victories against every possibility.

Who was the rich widow who was transformed into a Liberator

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Simon Bolivar (Bolivar, or rather) was born in 1783 in Caracas, then New Granada (modern-day Venezuela), into a wealthy family of aristocratic descent. His father owned gold and copper mines, a large fortune that his son would later oust by financing the liberation movements out of his own pocket.

As if destiny wanted him, he studied at the military academy of New Granada from the age of 14, as if he had been preparing for war since he was a child. But his parents will die in two years and he will be in Spain, wherever he comes in contact with liberal ideas and radical beliefs.

He married early, in 1802, the daughter of a Spanish nobleman and just as early he became a widow. The very next year, returning to his hometown, his wife was stricken with yellow fever and died.

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Widowed at 19, he never remarried, despite the many romances he had in his life. Historians believe that if his wife had not died, he would have lived a mere family life. But without her by his side, alone and sad, he sought new meaning in life.

And he found it at Paris. When he did not enthusiastically read the giants of the Enlightenment, Locke, Rousseau and Voltaire in particular, he entered and left the great halls of the aristocracy, maintaining personal relations even with Napoleon Bonaparte! He was also present at the coronation of the Emperor of France in 1804.

France and the United States had lived through their revolutions, and Bolivar began to believe that Latin American states deserved the same degree of freedom and self-determination. And that he had to become the spark of the revolution against the Spaniards!

Two successful revolutions, two failed outcomes

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After wandering for three years between Latin America and Europe, he returned to Venezuela and managed with his compatriots to drive the Spaniards out of the country twice. Both the First and the Second Republics, however, would not last long.

In 1807, when Napoleon enthroned his brother Joseph at the helm of Spain, Bolivar considered the moment ideal to join the Venezuelan resistance movement in body and soul.

Now an active member of the military movement and a key funder of it, by 1810 the Caracas guerrilla had partially achieved its goals.

Bolivar proclaimed its First Republic Venezuela, a regime of partial autonomy, but did not stop the struggle for Venezuela's complete independence from the Spanish yoke.

He was betrayed by the other leaders, who surrendered to the King of Spain in 1812, and he took refuge in Cartagena, Colombia, writing the famous "Cartagena Manifesto". The First Republic is already a thing of the past.

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In 1813 his time came again: the revolutionary Assembly of the United Provinces of New Granada appointed him general in the Tuncha of New Granada (today Colombia) and he leads the invasion of Venezuela.

These were the first battles of the so-called "Wonderful Campaign", which liberated Venezuela from the Spanish yoke and gave it the nickname "El Libertador". After officially declaring the Second Republic of Venezuela, he dictated the even more famous "Decree of Death to Death" (Decreto de Guerra a Muerte).

The following year, however, this second attempt at independence was overthrown by a coup!

He escapes to Jamaica, where he writes the monumental "Letter from Jamaica", a call for British aid in which he describes his vision for a united Latin America from Mexico to Chile. "A people who love freedom will be free in the end," he said.

The Redeemer finishes his work once and for all

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With the British refusing to help his struggle, Bolivar arrives in Haiti in 1816, where he seeks the help of its leader. Haiti had gained its independence from France in 1804 and the atmosphere was still festive.

The president Haiti, Alexandre Petion, offers Bolivar plenty of money and weapons, in return: to shake off the institution of slavery in every Spanish colony he liberates. It was the moment that would change everything.

His struggle was no longer a struggle of the rich white man who got tired of paying taxes to the colonialist. By freeing the slaves, he would have all the tribes and classes by his side. His enemy was exclusively the Spaniards and everyone could help, whatever color they had on their face.

Within three years New Granada would have been completely liberated from Spanish rule.

Greater Colombia and great collapse

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Just like Washington, Bolivar learned from its mistakes in the previous two national liberation attempts. And the third would be the best! Now he is carrying out his monumental descent from the Andes, crushing the Spaniards one battle at a time.

In December 1821 he was ready to become the first president of the independent and federal state of Greater Colombia, the formation that covered the area of ​​present-day Venezuela, Colombia, Panama and Ecuador.

His vision for a unified and federal Latin America had come much closer. In 1822 he conceived a plan for the liberation of Peru and within two years the military campaign in the country was crowned with success. In February 1824 the Peruvian Assembly appointed him dictator.

Despite his increased administrative duties, he does not neglect the struggle for freedom. It is now Bolivia's turn, one of the strongholds of the Spaniards, but it falls into his hands within a year! It was all his own work, so it seemed appropriate for the country to take the name of its liberator.

The end of all this, however, was to be bitter. Greater Colombia is not easy to govern, uprisings are raging everywhere, interests are many and conflicting, and unity is openly at stake.

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Wanting not to extinguish the idea of ​​the South American alliance, he becomes more and more centralized in his powers and finally gets to the point of declaring himself the provisional dictator of the state (August 27, 1828)!

Things are now at an end. The Liberator rules like a dictator, this is the message that reaches every corner of the world. In September 1828 they went to kill him. The attempt does not hurt him physically, but it mortally injures his psyche. His dream had clearly failed.

Political enemies and old comrades want to oust him. Having lost the battle of unity and amid the bloody events that rocked his state over the next two years, Bolivar finally resigned from his presidency in April 1830.

Humiliated and frustrated, he decides to exile himself to Europe. The first boxes of his belongings had left the country, but he would not follow them: he died shortly before sailing, in December 1830, of tuberculosis.

His political enemies, now the leader of Venezuela, have even banned the mention of his name. It took over 40 years for everyone to remember who the man to whom they owed their freedom was.

For this freedom he had traveled over 123.000 kilometers in his life…