Saturday, July 27, 2013

From Mr. Seymour

I just finished a new and definitive biography of Simon Bolivar by Marie Arana called "
Bolivar: American Liberator".  At first the size of the book looked a little daunting, but I soon realized that Bolivar's life was so interesting and had such an impact on the World that anything less would be a disservice to his name.  If you like biographies or are even remotely intrigued about how South America became the continent we know today, then this book is for you.  Bolivar's story is incredible; he was born into one of the wealthiest families in Venezuela, educated in Spain and France, and exposed to Napoleonic Europe before returning to Venezuela and Colombia.  He used his wealth and influence to try to start rebellions throughout Spain's colonies ( Spain controlled all of South America save Brazil prior to Bolivar's successful revolution of the 1820's).  He attempted to bring the people together against Spain but realized after two failed revolutions ( that nearly cost him his life and forced him to flee to the safety of the Caribbean islands) that the racial and economic differences in South America were so pervasive that a united front against Spain would be nearly impossible.  However, Bolivar used his dynamic personality to free Colombia, then Venezuela, and parts of today's Ecuador.  He marched his army over the Andes mountains on impossible journeys, traveled through the crocodile infested Amazon river, and rode thousands of miles throughout his career.  His ability to ride hundreds of miles at a time earned him the nickname "iron ass" from his men.  He was a lover of liberty but equally of women.  Bolivar's wife died young and he vowed to never marry again...but he played the field better than any other historical figure I have read about (except perhaps Alexander Hamilton or the Marquis de Sade).  Every city he liberated sent the prettiest women of the village to greet him and place laurels around his neck; the governors of such places served as the perfect wing man for Bolivar when he was on the prowl.  Not content with his incredible feats, Bolivar took his army into Peru, the gilded Capitol of New Spain and liberated all of Northern Peru and Southern Peru ( which today is the nation of Bolivia).  He recognized the opportunity for a canal at Panama earlier then most leaders of the time and repeatedly tried to create democracies in the areas he  liberated.  However, Bolivar felt that the people of South America were so uneducated that a stronger governing hand was needed and he set himself up as a dictator in nearly all of the places he liberated.  Ultimately, the man who liberated 6 countries and rode over ten thousand miles on horseback to glory died without a cent to his name and more than a few enemies.  It may seem like I have given the whole story away in this review, but believe me there is so much more to this book that I have left for anyone interested to discover for themselves.  I picked this book up at the Wead Library's new arrivals section in Malone- the price was right and the story was great.

**Note to self - I really need to get back into the library and save some $$

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