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Although the creator of the northern half of Latin America, Bolivar inspired the whole continent and still does today. This is Robert Harvey’s astonishing, gripping, and beautifully researched biography of one of South America’s most cherished heroes and one of the world’s most accomplished military leaders, by any standard.
The great liberator Simón Bolívar (1783–1830) receives a colorful treatment by an admiring British journalist.
Harvey (The Fall of Apartheid: The Inside Story from Smuts to Mbeki, 2002, etc.) sees in Bolívar's evolution the epitome of the Romantic hero. He was a spoiled son of Venezuela who seized sobering ideas from his enlightened tutor and from far-flung travels to Europe, and, after a terrible clash with adversity, he joined the rebel movement against the Spanish oppressors of his homeland. Harvey examines Bolívar's later greatness from his early revolutionary seeds. He was born to an independent-minded family from northern Spain that broke off from the Castilian state in the late 16th century to migrate, and Bolívar grew up within a charmed life in Caracas and demonstrated early on an ungovernable spirit. His formative experiences included being tutored by the unorthodox Simón Rodríguez, steeped in Rousseau'sEmile, his ill-fated young marriage (his bride died after less than a year) and witnessing the coronation of Napoleon Bonaparte, whom Bolívar had worshipped before he proved to be a "hypocritical tyrant." Inculcated in the Spanish criollo system of feudalism, Bolívar had also soured on the oppressive Spanish reign that had denied his family a certificate of pure blood; he grew to abhor what he witnessed as the exploitation of Latin American resources and people "to satisfy the insatiable greed of Spain." Harvey ably weaves the context around Bolívar's daredevil vision to challenge the powerful Spanish empire built by central authority, the church and military. Later in life, Bolívar displayed the ruthlessness, daring and literary eloquence that would ultimately liberate millions of enslaved, illiterate South Americans and inspire a continent—as well as create a troubling legacy of authoritarianism that would wreak bloody havoc after him.
An energetic, satisfyingly florid narrative that captures the passion and frenzy in this extraordinary life.
Acknowledgements and a Note on Sources 1
Part 1 The Liberation of New Granada (Modern Venezuela, Colombia and Panama)
1 Young Bolívar 15
2 Madrid 21
3 The Longest Empire 35
4 Tremors 51
5 Miranda: Poseur, Seducer, Genius 65
6 Revolutionary General 83
7 The 'Invasion' of Venezuela 97
8 i Independencia! 111
9 The Avenger 123
10 Up River, Across Mountains 137
11 Into Venezuela 147
12 Hell's Legionnaires 161
13 Down and Out in Jamaica 183
14 The Orinoco 199
15 Páez 217
16 The Crossing of the Andes 239
17 Victory at Carabobo 255
Part 2 The Liberation of Peru (Modern Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia)
18 Towards the Silver Mountain 271
19 Showdown with San Martín 279
20 Trapped in Lima 293
21 Lances in the Mountains 307
Part 3 Downfall
22 The Idealist 331
23 The Division of Colombia 347
24 Showdown with Santander 355
25 Ploughing the Sea 375
Posted October 14, 2011
My parents are from Colombia, South America and the name Simon Bolívar was commonly mentioned not only within my own home but when I visited there. I did not really know much about the Liberator and that is why I was drawn to this book.
Robert Harvey, a columnist for the Daily Telegraph and author of other biographies on South Americans has taken this mythic figure and brought his story alive in Simon Bolívar: The Liberator of Latin America: The War Against the Spanish Empire.
The book focuses on three phases of Simon Bolívar's life. According the author, they were "the first being that of the ruthless and frenzied aristocratic fighter defending his own class interest, the second his conversion to ensuring the well being of all classes, and to more humanitarian and subtle military tactics." The third phase was his "equally romantics, perhaps inevitable, downfall."
The book takes the reader back to his youth and how this basically orphan young man had the vision to break ties from Spain. The portrait is delves into his loves, his friendships, and enemies.
Hugo Chavez, the President of Venezuela has a spiritual connection to this iconic figure, now we are able to understand the division between the mythic figure and the flesh and blood man.
In the end Bolívar declared that "Three great killers of humanity have been Jesus Christ, Don Quixote and myself", the author clarifies, "killers because they had been idealist and misled people". Now in Simon Bolívar: The Liberator of Latin America: The War Against the Spanish Empire you can be the judge of the rightful role of this visionary.
Ironically part of the limitations that the South America has not progressed as much as the United States in the North can be attributed to problems that even Simon Bolívar was unable to solve.
Posted May 10, 2013
No text was provided for this review.