Countless monuments, schools, literature, and much more are dedicated to Latin American hero Simón Bolívar. Despite his short life, his achievements gained him immortality. Born 228 years ago today, El Libertador de America (America’s Liberator) dreamed of a free and united Latin America.

Bolívar was born to Don Juan Vicente Bolívar y Ponte and his wife Doña María de la Concepción Palacios y Blanco on July 24, 1783 in Caracas, Venezuela. The young Bolívar enjoyed wealth and status thanks to his aristocratic family. Orphaned at the age of 9, he was raised by his uncle and aunt, who made sure he received a proper education. He was given private lessons by distinguished figures of that time. However, it was his private tutor and mentor, Simón Rodriguez, who instilled in Bolívar a strong sense and love for freedom and justice, by teaching him about human rights, history, and politics. Years later, Bolivar wrote a letter to his mentor, in which he expresses his gratitude: “You formed my heart for freedom, for justice, for everything that is grand, and beautiful. I have followed the path you showed me . . . .”

Young Bolívar traveled throughout Europe and witnessed many historical events, such as the French Revolution, which helped shape him into the revolutionary he would become. Together with his mentor Simón Rodriguez, he traveled to Rome, where on August 1805 he pledged on Monte Sacro that he “would not allow his arm to rest nor his soul to die until he had realized his dream of liberating the South American world from Spanish dominion.”

Soon after, Bolívar returned to Venezuela, and in 1810 he joined the independence movements. From that time on, Bolívar dedicated his life towards working for the independence of South America. He became a general and led several battles that would lead towards the independence of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Peru, and Bolivia from Spanish rule. Besides his war achievements, Bolívar left numerous writings describing his political beliefs and his vision of a free Latin America, independent and just.

It was Bolívar’s vision to create a free and independent Latin America from Spanish rule, undisturbed by foreign powers. His vision was not completely achieved. There is still much more work to do before Latin America can become politically stable and thrive. However, his message has survived and is lived by many who have worked and continue to labor towards a free and just Latin America. As Bolívar wisely proclaimed, “To practice justice is to practice liberty.”

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