Week 4

Simon Bolivar is an idolized figure of Latin American Independence. He was strong, brave, and optimistic. He was also wealthy, Creole, and educated. He had the ability to summon the masses by promising one united Latin America- an autonomous land free of the “unnatural Stepmother-Spain”. He claims that “we are still in a position lower than slavery”- “we” primarily referring to the wealthy Creole elite. It is clear that his intentions are selfish, as he ignores the real slaves in the Old World. Many of the independence movements are characterized by the replacement of one oppressive ruler (the crown), with another (the American). In addition to Bolivar, two other examples of this are George Washington and Agustín de Iturbide. With the overthrow of one ruler, no fundamental change occurs for the members of the lower classes. Although Bolivar’s goals were skewed in his own interest as a Creole, he did establish a sense of pride and a vision of Latin America as a strong, united country. This pride is mirrored by Hugo Chavez, a contemporary model of Bolivar.

Connections can be made between the ideologies of Simón Bolivar and Hugo Chavez. They both ultimately sought to be the absolute ruler of one, united society. Chavez hopes to emulate the narrative of Bolivar of uniting the oppressed, however he fails to include the stories of the people who were not included in Bolivar’s narrative such as the Native Americans and the women. Chavez used the gleaming image of Bolivar to bolster support for himself. He has similar goals as Bolivar: to eliminate the power of one dominant force in favor of independence. For Bolivar it was independence from the crown, but for Chavez it was the North: “condemns them to the never-ending role of producer of wealth and recipients of leftovers”. This quote is applicable to both leaders, but is used by Chavez to support his call for an end to the economic power of the north. He sites neoliberalism as the cause of poor educational, economic, and health conditions when in fact he causes a great deal of suffering himself.

It is important to look at the narratives of independence from different perspectives. Although many independence movements had common characteristics, each was distinct and carried many different stories of the same events. Bolivar attempts to generalize these stories by grouping all occupants of America as opponents to the crown. Chavez, too, adopts the idea that he knows what is best for all.


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