Born July 24, 1783, Caracas, New Granada
died Dec. 17, 1830, near Santa Maria, Colombia
South American soldier and statesman who led the revolutions against Spanish rule in New Granada (now Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador), Peru, and Upper Peru (now Bolivia).
The son of a Venezuelan aristocrat, Bolivar received a European education. Influenced by European rationalism, he joined Venezuela’s independence movement and became a prominent political and military leader. The revolutionaries expelled Venezuela’s Spanish governor (1810) and declared the nation’s independence in 1811. The young republic was defeated by the Spanish in 1814, and Bolivar went into exile. In 1819 he undertook a daring attack on New Granada, leading some 2,500 men over routes considered impassable. Taking the Spanish by surprise, he defeated them quickly. With the help of Antonio Sucre, he secured the independence of Ecuador in 1822. He completed Josede San Martin’s revolutionary work in Peru, freeing that country in 1824. On Bolivar’s orders, Sucre liberated Upper Peru (1825). As president of both Colombia (1821–30) and Peru (1823–29), Bolivar oversaw the creation in 1826 of a league of Hispanic American states, but the new states soon began warring among themselves. Less successful at ruling countries than at liberating them, Bolivar exiled himself and died on his way to Europe.