It is astonishing that Simón Bolívar, the great Liberator of South America, is not better known in the United States. He freed six countries from Spanish rule, traveled more than 75,000 miles on horseback to do so, and became the greatest figure in Latin American history. His life is epic, heroic, straight out of Hollywood: he fought battle after battle in punishing terrain, forged uncertain coalitions of competing forces and races, lost his beautiful wife soon after they married and never remarried (although he did have a succession of mistresses, including one who held up the revolution and another who saved his life), and he died relatively young, uncertain whether his achievements would endure.
Drawing on a wealth of primary documents, novelist and journalist Marie Arana brilliantly captures early nineteenth-century South America and the explosive tensions that helped revolutionize Bolívar. In 1813 he launched a campaign for the independence of Colombia and Venezuela, commencing a dazzling career that would take him across the rugged terrain of South America, from Amazon jungles to the Andes mountains. From his battlefield victories to his ill-fated marriage and legendary love affairs, Bolívar emerges as a man of many facets: fearless general, brilliant strategist, consummate diplomat, passionate abolitionist, gifted writer, and flawed politician. A major work of history, Bolívar colorfully portrays a dramatic life even as it explains the rivalries and complications that bedeviled Bolívar’s tragic last days. It is also a stirring declaration of what it means to be a South American.
The George Washington of South America cuts a dashing though dark-edged and ultimately tragic figure in this rousing biography. Peruvian journalist Arana (American Chica) chronicles Gen. Sim n Bol var s struggle against the Spanish Empire in the 1810s and 20s through several dizzying cycles of battlefield victory, triumphal procession, demoralizing reversal, and squalid exile, before he finally drove imperial forces out of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. Her vivid portrait shows us a charismatic man of high ideals, fiery oratory, unflagging energy and resolve, bold strategies, and a romantic aura he rode, ragged and shirtless... his wild long hair riding the wind that women found irresistible. (His preeminent mistress was no slouch herself: she once took up a sword to protect him from assassins.) Behind the epic marches, picturesque battles, and swirling ballroom scenes, the author smartly fills in the troubled background of the revolution, which descended from Enlightenment principles into bloody civil and racial conflict and grisly massacres that Bol var sometimes fomented; his tense rule over politically fractious republics also declined from a vision of freedom and unity to an unpopular authoritarianism. Arana s dramatic narrative is appropriately grand and enthralling, if a tad breathless, and it makes Bol var an apt embodiment of the ambitions and disappointments of the revolutionary age. 8 pages of color photos, 2 b&w maps.
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I couldn't stop reading. My admiration for Simon Bolivar grew!