Basque Fact of the Week: Simón Bolívar, the Liberator, had Roots in Bizkaia

Known as the Liberator, Simón Bolívar is a national hero to many South American countries. Under his leadership, Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Panama gained their independence from Spain. He also became president of what was then called Grand Columbia, encompassing the modern countries of Venezuela, Colombia, Panama and Ecuador. Inspired by the American and French revolutions, he envisioned a united Spanish America, though felt that it needed a stronger central government than the United States because of the more varied peoples. Though Bolívar dreamed of a united Spanish America, his dream failed, in part due to the political ambitious of others as well as the fear that he was establishing a dictatorship with him at the helm. He died in 1830 of tuberculosis, at the age of 47.

Statue of Bolívar in Washington, D.C., photo taken by Blas Uberuaga.
  • Simón Bolívar was born into a wealthy family in Caracas in what is modern day Venezuela in the year 1783. His ancestor, Simón de Bolívar, from the village of Bolibar in Bizkaia, left for Santo Domingo, in what is now the Dominican Republic, sometime around 1559. In 1569, Simón de Bolívar moved to Venezuela. The wealth of the family came from a large number of estates and plantations. Simón Bolívar, the Liberator, dedicating his personal wealth to the cause of liberation and revolution, died a poor man.
  • The Bolívar name comes from the small village of Bolibar (current spelling in Euskara) in the heart of Bizkaia. There is a museum dedicated to the history of Bizkaia in the Middle Ages and to Simón Bolívar himself. Bolibar is only kilometers away from where my dad was born, but I have yet to visit the museum. The name comes from the Basque words “bolu” (mill) and “ibar” (valley), meaning “valley of the mill.” The country Bolivia gets it’s name from Bolívar.
  • Bolibar, the village, is very close to the neighborhood of Zenarruza, famous for the Collegiate Church of Cenarruza, which was an important stop on the Camino de Santiago. Zenarruza is a name familiar to Idahoans, belonging to long-time Idaho politician Pete Cenarrusa.

Primary source: Wikipedia.

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