Legacy of Simon Bolivar
It is impossible to overstate Bolívar's importance in northern and western South America. Although the eventual independence of Spain's New World colonies was inevitable, it took a man with Bolívar's skills to make it happen. Bolívar was probably the best general South America has ever produced, as well as the most influential politician. The combination of these skills on one man is extraordinary, and Bolívar is rightly considered by many as the most important figure in Latin American history. His name made the famous 1978 list of the 100 most famous people in History, compiled by Michael H. Hart: other names on the list include Jesus Christ, Confucius and Alexander the Great.
Some nations had their own liberators, such as Bernardo O'Higgins in Chile or Miguel Hidalgo in Mexico. These men may be little known outside of the nations they helped free, but Simón Bolívar is known all over Latin America with the sort of reverence that citizens of the United States associate with George Washington.
If anything, Bolívar's status now is greater than ever. His dreams and words have proved prescient time and again. He knew that the future of Latin America lay in freedom and he knew how to attain it. He predicted that if Gran Colombia fell apart and that if smaller, weaker republics were allowed to form from the ashes of the Spanish colonial system that the region would always be at an international disadvantage. This has certainly proven to be the case, and many a Latin American over the years has wondered how things would be different today if Bolívar had managed to unite all of northern and western South America into one large, powerful nation instead of the bickering republics that we have now.
Bolívar still serves as a source of inspiration for many. Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez has initiated what he calls a "Bolivarian Revolution" in his country, comparing himself to the legendary General as he veers Venezuela into socialism. Countless books and movies have been made about him: one outstanding example is Gabriel García Marquez' The General in his Labyrinth, which chronicles Bolívar's final journey.
Harvey, Robert. Liberators: Latin America's Struggle for Independence Woodstock: The Overlook Press, 2000.
Lynch, John. The Spanish American Revolutions 1808-1826 New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1986.
Lynch, John. Simon Bolivar: A Life. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2006.
Scheina, Robert L. Latin America's Wars, Volume 1: The Age of the Caudillo 1791-1899 Washington, D.C.: Brassey's Inc., 2003.