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What everyone ought to know about Latin America’s Liberator

I’ve been traveling Colombia for the last three weeks now, going through Bogotá, Cartagena, Santa Marta and Medellin. In every town, there’s a center or a road named after Simon Bolivar.

He was ‘The Liberator.’ He led the region to victory against the Spanish. This man created Latin America.

The only way you achieve that level of greatness is by turning your life upside down. By making mistakes, failing constantly and eventually coming out of the other side with more wisdom than the rest.

So, here’s what you should know about Simon Bolivar, Latin America’s Liberator.

He dreamed big. Simon Bolivar traveled to Europe at the age of 20. Napoleon had just been proclaimed emperor.

In his own words, “The crown which Napoleon placed on his head I regarded as a miserable thing and a gothic fancy: what seemed great to me was the universal acclaim and interest that his person inspired. This, I confess, made me think of my country’s slavery and the glory in store for the man who would free her.”

He lost his first battle and tendered a resignation. One of his first assignments was to defend an important port on the Venezuelan coast. Nearby, the San Felipe fort protected the Venezuelan people and also held leading royalist prisoners. A rebel freed the prisoners and a battle was fought.

Bolivar was defeated. Embarrassed, he wrote to his general that, “My spirits are so depressed that I do not have the heart to command a single soldier.” Shortly afterwards, the rebels surrendered to Spain.

He tried and failed to distribute land equally. He promised the soldiers who fought with him land grants. Had it been successful we might’ve seen a very different social structure in Latin America.

Instead, the elite found ways to further concentrate their wealth. They gave soldiers certificates for the land. The certificates were then purchased for five percent of their value. This transferred power from the Spanish Elite to the Revolutionary Elite.

Lifetime presidency. Bolivar’s dream was to create a united Gran-Colombia. Unfortunately, he held tightly to the proclamation that the state should have a lifetime president (himself). This was resisted by legislators since it removed any opportunity of them attaining the highest office.

The lifetime presidency is credited with leading to the failure of a united Latin America.

Simon Bolivar died poor, alone and sick of tuberculosis in Santa Marta. He was exiled to Europe, but never made it that far.

However, they never took away his glory.

He parted with these words, ”I have worked unselfishly, sacrificing my fortune and my peace of mind… As I depart from your midst, my regard for you tells me that I should make known my last wishes. I aspire to no other glory than the consolidation of Colombia. You must all work for the supreme good of the Union.”

About Adriana Villavicencio

Dr. Adriana Villavicencio is the youngest child of Ecuadorian immigrants. She has moved 29 times in her life, taking her on a journey from California to Bangalore, India, and New York City, where she recently earned a Ph.D. in Education Leadership and works as a Research Associate at New York University. An avid traveler, Adriana has collected experiences in four different continents and 16 different countries. But as a former high school English teacher, some of her fondest memories are those of her brilliant and brilliantly funny students in Brooklyn and Oakland. Adriana has contributed to several publications including the Daily News and, and is a managing editor for the Journal of Equity in Education. She earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in English Education at Columbia University, and currently serves on the board of Columbia’s Latino Alumni Association (LAACU). She enjoys scary movies with red vines, Sauvignon Blanc, and her Maltese dog, Napoleon.

To learn more about Adriana’s education consulting company, please visit

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.

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