Simon Bolivar and Latin American Independence
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Just as the history of the United States filled with such patriotic names as Thomas Paine and George Washington, the history of other nations are ripe with similar freedom fighters. In various Latin American nations, the name of Simon Jose Antonio de la Santisima Trinidad Bolivar y Palacios Ponte Blanco, or Simon Bolivar for short, is synonymous with freedom.
In the early 19th century, Bolivar helped defeat Spain, the European nation with the most prominent colonial holdings throughout Latin America. From the newly-freed territories, he formed the nation of Gran Colombia and served as its leader for just under a decade. Recognizing the inherent social and cultural differences throughout the region, Bolivar helped to establish independent authorities in several of the nations that made up Gran Colombia, including Peru, Panama, and Bolivia. This appeased the various nationalist groups for a time, but the permanence of Bolivar’s creation would never come to fruition. By 1863, Gran Colombia would collapse from within, forming the modern-day nations of Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador in the process. While Bolivar’s vision of a governing structure similar to that of the former American colonies would never be a reality, he played a critical role in reducing Spain’s iron grip on the region. Through his military efforts, he was able to unify the indigenous people, mobilize them against a colonial oppressor, and secure for them a sense of independence they had not seen in generations. Though some of his politics can be questioned, his motives cannot, for he was the true liberator of the South American continent.