If there is a man who has shaped South American history as we know it, that man is Simon Bolivar. His vision, courage, integrity, high morals and unmitigated perseverance to fight against overwhelming odds made him a role model to many.
A man who gave his entire life and family's fortune to fulfill his dream of a South America federation, freed from Spanish domination. He is known as El Libertador - The Liberator. By the time of his death, at the age of forty six, he had emancipated Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Peru and founded Bolivia.
Furthermore, two South American countries bear his name: Bolivia and the Bolivarian State of Venezuela. States, cities, universities, schools, squares, avenues, streets and buildings commemorate his figure throughout South America.
Every single city and town in Colombia and Venezuela has a square named Plaza Bolivar with his bust or statue.
Statues of Bolivar are also found all over the world: USA, Canada, Australia, France, Italy, etc.
His massive political legacy and achievements is celebrated by nearly all politicians from all over the political spectrum.
At the same historic time of Bolivar's accomplishments, another superb General was fighting against the Spanish rule in the southernmost part of the continent: Jose de San Martin.
He also gave his life to see an independent South America.
Jose de San Martin liberated Argentina and made a legendary cross through the Andes before freeing Chile.
He continued north and partially liberated Peru, until that historic meeting with Simon Bolivar, in Guayaquil, Ecuador, on July 26 and 27 of 1822.
What happened then it would be for historians to find out, for the meeting was held in closed doors. A clash of vision between two strong leaders?...perhaps.
To some, San Martin was a military genius but not as charismatic a leader, or as politically ambitious as Bolivar.
What we all know is that, soon after, San Martin unexpectedly left Ecuador and resigned the command of his army. He excluded himself from politics and the military.
A couple of years later, in 1824, he moved to Europe following his wife (Remedios de Escalada) death and, after living in England and Brussels, he resided in France.
He died in Boulogne-sur-Mer, on August 17th, 1850.
Whichever the case, both San Martin and Simon Bolivar played a key role in liberating Latin America from the Spanish Crown.
He wasn't fortunate in matters of love and affection. Lost his father at the age of three and his mother when he was nine.
Not too long after (less than ten years), lost his wife following a short marriage. She succumbed to yellow fever. He never married again.
Being the son of well-to-do patricians - immensely rich by the standards of the time, owning from sugar plantations to gold, silver and copper mines - he received the benefits of wealth and high level of education.
At an early age he was introduced to the classics of ancient Rome and Greece as well as to the neo-classic thoughts widely spread in Europe at the time, particularly Jean Jacques Rousseau.
Raised by his maternal uncles, he travelled to Europe at age sixteen, where his revolutionary spirit and fierce love for freedom and the "free-market" was further enhanced by readings of Montesquieu, Voltaire, Thomas Jefferson and Adan Smith's "The Wealth of Nations".
He was a great admirer of Jefferson and the American revolution.
To enlarge in detail on Bolivar's political and military career would go well beyond the reach of this article. It's been very well documented already.
However, you could attain a more thorough recount by reading Simon Bolivar: Liberator of Latin America.
Simon Bolivar is by all accounts the greatest freedom fighter, decisive to the independence of Latin America, whichever degree of independence each and every country in the region has managed to acquire so far - whether from Spain or otherwise - as sovereign States.
Simon Bolivar died in Santa Marta, Colombia, on December 17th, 1830.