Spain, the country most widely responsible for the colonization of Latin America, was in trouble with Frances master of conquest, Napoleon Bonaparte. Napolien overthrew the King of Spain and replaced him with his brother, Joseph Bonaparte. The repercusions of this evet rolled through Latin America and primed the atmosphere for revolution. The colonial people of Latin America had no loyalty to the new Jing Joseph. This lack of respect for the new power also contributed greatly to the Revolutionary spirit.
The invasion of Spain by Napolien represents the final straw on the colonial back. There were three other main problems with the Spanish empire that agreed with revolution. The first and most obvious problem was Spains separation from her colonies by great distances. The affect of the great distance was a disloyalty to the throne, Then second was colonial resistance to commercial restrictions placed on them by Spain, and lastly, the immidiate problems that faced the throne, or the French. All of these problems allowed the revolutionary spirit to grow in the colonies. Simon Bolivar would be the man to try to unite and liberate much of Latin America, but with mild success.
He was born on July 24th, 1783, into a rich creolle family in Caracass, Venezuela. His life was one of potential ease, but he found little. His father died when he was three years old. Then, six years later his mother died as well. Young Bolivar was left to his tutor, Simon Rodriguez . Rodriguez was a radical political thinker who belived in much of what Rousseau had writen.
He traveled to Spain to continue his education, and ended up marring. Shortly upon his return to Venezuela, his wife died, and Bolivar launched himself into a new political and military life. He was an impulsive, passionate and restless character, with tremendous ambition and vision packed into a small body. He also is thought to have said If it wasnt for my wifes death, I might have led a quiet and passive life. Between 1810 and 1815 there were the first attempts at full independence.
This initial period is doomed by the inexperience and idealistic views of patriots feeling their way through a process that they did not understand. In Venezuela, the Republics are torn down by bloody counter-revolutions, led by non-creoles. In Mexico, Father Hidalgo and Morelos were crushed by their conservative countrymen. The second phase, which was less political and more militarily based took place between 1815 and 1825, and ended with the triumph of the patriots.
It was an an all-out militarization of the war; Simn Bolvar, for example, was able to incorporate popular elements into his armies, such as the llaneros (plainsmen), who had previously been formidable enemies of the patriot enterprise, and actually had forced his early attempts at independence into the ground. There change of loyalty to him indicated his own changing in value and understanding that he would need to please more than the creole class. In Mexico, a different process took place, but it reflects the real politics that characterized this successful predominatly military phase: the Royalist commander Agustn de Iturbide assimilated conservative and progressive elements into an independent monarchy with him at its head. He did not last long, but he lasted long enough to ensure the transition from colonial to national Mexico.
The victory of the patriots was ambigious, however the social and political structures of power continued to be oppressive for the mass majority of the people in the new republics. Throughout the nineteenth century, incessant civil war resulting from the powder keg of popular unrest and the unresolved conflicts between conservatives and liberals, centralists and federalists, one regional power center versus another will be seen. Simon Bolivar was part of the creme de la creme of Venezuela’s elite. and later in Spain, where he marries. Shortly upon his return to Venezuela, his wife dies, and Bolivar launches himself into political and military life.
He was an impulsive, passionate and restless character, with tremendous ambition and vision packed into a small body. During the first phase of the Wars of Independence, Bolivar begins his political and military career in a very inauspicious manner: he loses the port of Puerto Cabello to the Royalists during the Venezuelan First Republic. However, he is able to recoup his forces from his patriot base in New Granada (present day Colombia) and institute the Venezuelan Second Republic with himself at its head. The republic is torn down by the terrible, counter-revolutionary military force of the plainsmen led by Boves. At this time, Bolivar had not cemented his authority over other patriot warlords and suffered the consequences; when he needed them to defend Caracas and the second republic, they were not there for him.
Between 1815 and 1825, however, Bolivar is able to harness the plainsmen, international support, and his own continental vision into a winning strategy. His very survival was miraculous: he escaped assassination several times, and was constantly on the move, in rainforests, plains, and mountain slopes. He shows the dispersed patriot warlords of Venezuela and Colombia that it is he who can bring in arms and supplies, and he imposes his will to lead upon them successfully, especially after executing Manuel Piar, one of his most distinguished patriot allies, for treason. His most strategic ally was to be Jose Antonio Paez, who led the plainsmen to victory after victory. (Remember that the plainsmen were not always his allies) His most loyal commander was the Jose Antonio Sucre, a man of humble and quiet disposition that sealed Latin American independence at the Battle of Ayacucho (Peru) in 1825. Bolivar organizes the liberated territories into the super state of Greater Colombia, encompassing present day Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador.
He dreams of an even larger union, which would include Chile, Bolivia and Peru. However, he is unable to control the deep divisions between Venezuelans and Colombians from breaking out, and he is unable to temper the differences between centralists and federalists; he declares a dictatorship in 1825 and loses much of his prestige and beloved “glory. ” Bolivar died in 1830, virtually forgotten in both Colombia and Venezuela.