nations Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia
venerate Simón Bolívar as their liberator from the rule of Spain.
This great statesman, writer, and revolutionary general is known
as the George Washington of South America. He inspired men to
follow him through trackless wilderness to fight and die for liberty.
Bolívar's followers, however, did not support him as loyally in
his struggle to set up stable governments. Simón Bolívar was born
in Caracas (now in Venezuela) on July 24, 1783, of a noble Spanish
family. Orphaned in boyhood, the youth was educated in Europe.
He absorbed the spirit of revolution then widespread in Europe
and vowed to free Venezuela. When Napoleón Bonaparte overran Spain,
the restive colonies of Spanish America seized the opportunity
to revolt. Venezuela was the first to declare its independence,
in 1811. The revolt failed and in 1812 the colony was again under
stern Spanish rule. For 20 years Bolívar led the fight to free
northern South America. His small, poorly equipped forces won
amazing victories and met overwhelming defeats. At one time he
might be a conquering hero, with honors and autocratic power at
another, a fugitive in exile. At his height, between 1825 and
1828, he was president or protector of Gran Colombia (now Venezuela,
Colombia, Panama, and Ecuador), Peru, and the newly formed Bolivia.
The spirit of disunion and opposition, however, was strong. Bitter
and broken in health, he died at a friend's estate in Colombia
on Dec. 17,1830 seven months after he resigned his offices. Bolívar
was a sincere patriot, devoted to the cause of liberty and equality.
While ruler of Venezuela he proclaimed the liberation of slaves.
He also was a pioneer in urging the formation of a union of American