Simón José Antonio de la Santísima Trinidad Bolívar y Palacios Ponte y Blanco, or simply Simón Bolívar (1783-1830), was born into a wealthy Venezuelan family. At age 14, he entered the military academy, and then spent several years in Europe before returning to Venezuela in 1807. In 1810, the Congress of United Provinces of New Granada gave him command of an independence army. Bolívar soon earned himself the nickname “El Libertador” (the Liberator). For the next decade and half, he led battle from Angostura (now Ciudad Bolívar) in Venezuela to Ayacucho, Peru. During these years he faced a temporary exile and various assassination attempts.
The first Congress of Gran Colombia (1821), uniting Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador, was held in Villa del Rosario, near Cucutá in Colombia; Bolívar was elected President. Gran Colombia, however, was doomed to failure. Once the common enemy–the Spanish–was vanquished, petty regional rivalries surfaced almost immediately which tore the young nation apart. Disheartened by Gran Colombia’s demise, Bolívar journeyed down the Río Magdalena, making his way to his native Caracas. By the time he reached Santa Marta, he was weak. He was given refuge at Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino, where he died of tuberculosis. His body was laid out for public viewing in Santa Marta’s Casa de la Aduana, and then buried in the Cathedral. In 1839 his body was transferred to his native Caracas.
Besides many plazas being named for Bolívar, Colombia has other sites honoring him: Quinta Bolívar in Bogotá, Casa de Bolívar in Bucaramanga and Museo Bolivariano-Casa de Bolivar in Soledad, near Barranquilla. Today, Bolívar’s philosophies continue to be influential in the Bolivariano countries (so-called for those he liberated: Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia) and elsewhere in Latin America.