I found myself agreeing with much of Hugo Chavez’s speech. He acknowledged the negative effects that colonialism and neoliberal economic rules had had on non-Western nations and called for them to unite and help each other in development. After later reading Bolivar’s Letter from Jamaica, I could see how Chavez was inspired by his compatriot. Both envisioned oppressed regions banding together against a common opponent for the good of all. However, I believe Max Cameron was correct in saying that Bolivar was a more complex man than he tends to be portrayed as, particularly by Chavez. As he said, Bolivar seemed more focused on liberation for the criollos, rather than for all the inhabitants of the Americas. He was fighting for less involvement from the peninsulares but at the same time was forgetting that the Indios had more claim to the land and yet were still treated as periphery. We can see evidence of this when he states that “we are, moreover, neither Indian nor European, but a species midway between the legitimate proprietors of this country and the Spanish usurpers.” Here he is clearing speaking as a voice of criollos, and maybe perhaps mestizos as well. As the textbook pointed out, some natives even preferred Spanish rule as they were less “predatory” and so chose to support the lesser of two evils, so to speak. Yet, he did promise freedom to slaves if they joined his cause against the Spaniards and did recognize the injustices different native groups faced at the hands of the Spaniards. My view of Bolivar, though it may be unpopular, is that he was a flawed man that despite his setbacks was able to inspire thousands of South Americans to fight for independence.
Nonetheless, I can understand where the idealized depiction of Bolivar comes from. We seem to have the tendency of romanticizing those from the past and only focusing on the good (or bad if they are seen as villains) they did when the reality was not so black and white. He died in shame after failing to run his birth country, but this is not something that is brought up often today. We want heroes to look up to and villains to despise, not to see the messiness of humanity.
My question for this week is how do you see Bolivar? Do you believe he should get as much credit as he has for the independence of many Latin American countries?