34: Bolivar, Part II

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The process of detaching Latin America from three centuries of colonial Spanish rule was hardly a linear one. Simón Bolívar, the most important but hardly the only revolutionary in Venezuela and New Granada (Colombia), came in and out of exile several times, was often defeated (sometimes by his own mistakes), and continually forced to try to “reboot” the revolution after another failed start. In the meantime, warfare and violence continued unremittingly within the contested areas, usually fueled by racial and class resentment. Despite all the challenges and reverses, Bolívar managed to advance his cause in a “three steps forward, two steps back” kind of way, and his mistakes tell us as much about him as his successes.

In this episode, Dr. Sean Munger continues the story of the Latin American revolution begun in the previous episode, and carries the story of Bolívar from his first exile in 1812 to his rocky consolidation of leadership of the revolutionary movement in late 1817. Here you’ll meet more of Bolívar’s colorful lovers, you’ll eat meat cured in horse sweat with the “Legions of Hell,” and you’ll dodge bullets from firing squads as the Venezuelan revolutionaries invariably fall out among one another. Was Bolívar a hero, deserving the accolades heaped upon him (at least on a few occasions) by his people, or was he a villain who overreached his power and betrayed the principles he supposedly espoused? You be the judge.

Additional Materials About This Episode