Quinta San Pedro Alejandrino

I know, i know… I can hear the questions from here.

Quinta… what? P1070659

P1070663The Simon Bolivar equivalent of a Jefferson Memorial

Quinta San Pedro Alejandrino is the place where ‘El Libertador’ breathed his last. It is in the medium sized city of Santa Marta which sits on the Eastern Colombian Caribbean coastline.

Ever hear of a guy named Simon Bolivar ?  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sim%C3%B3n_Bol%C3%ADvar)

For many citizens of South America, Simon Bolivar is their equivalent of North American’s George Washington.  Simon Bolivar’s vision was to achieve complete independence from Spain (which his efforts accomplished) and to see a South American version of ‘united states’.  His ‘united states’ of South America idea never caught on. There were too many factions to allow that kind of unity.

The facts of history and the writings of men who knew Simon Bolivar all point to this man as being in the forefront of the effort to end Spanish domination in the South American colonies.  He is by all accounts the man responsible for spearheading the South American independence movement.  P1070615Bolivars last words

Here are some of Bolivar’s more famous memorable quotes:http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Sim%C3%B3n_Bol%C3%ADvar

The Bolivar family had been ‘aristocrats’ in the Basque region of Spain. I remember meeting a young Basque in a hostel in Panama city, Panama.  I remember asking him to describe to me what part of Spain he came from. He said he did not come from Spain. He insisted that he was Basque.  And that Basques were not ‘Spanish’.  Apparently, Simon Bolivar did not identify as being a ‘Spaniard’ either.

Simon Bolivar was born in what is now Venezuela. As a young man, he had a mentor and private tutor, Simon Rodriguez, who had been accused of being a traitor of the Spanish ruling class in Caracas. Rodriguez had to leave the country. Bolivar never forgot. The young Bolivar was then enrolled in the military academy of Milicias de Veraguas where he showed great promise as a cadet.


To gain the support for independence from a majority of South Americans, Bolivar wrote a decree stating in no uncertain terms that if you were not FOR independence then you were de facto AGAINST independence. If you did not agree with those fighting for independence against Spain, you were to die.  It was that simple. His rallying treatise is called simply: Decree of War to the Death. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decree_of_War_to_the_Death

‘El Libertador’ is what he is known as throughout South America. He led many campaigns and was victorious more often than not. The battles of Boyaca, Carabobo , Pichincha secured the independence of Venezuela and Ecuador. Afterwards the federation of independent states was given the name ‘Gran Colombia’.  At the overwhelming support of those who followed him, he was named president of Gran Colombia.  The ‘union’ was short lived.

He wrote a constitution for Gran Colombia. Not everyone wanted to play that game. So… like so many well intentioned ‘revolutionaries’… he first declared himself ‘president for life’. When the bickering would not stop and it was clear that no political group was interested in living the ‘Gran Colombia’ dream.

P1070654A real life denizen of the Quinta today. Iguanas are pretty hardy critters if not hunted to extinction.

(Directly from Wikipedia:  Bolívar proclaimed himself dictator on 27 August 1828 through the Decree of Dictatorship. He considered this as a temporary measure, as a means to reestablish his authority and save the republic, although it increased dissatisfaction and anger among his political opponents.)

Factions formed and made it clear that they wanted out of the Gran Colombia plan.  There was at least one attempt on Bolivar’s life. In some reports his live in lover was complicit in an assassination attempt and in another report she tipped him off and averted one.

However it really happened, we will probably never know. What we are pretty sure of is that his last ride in a carriage and the place where he breathed his last breath was the estate of Joaquín de Mier. It name is: Quinta San Pedro Alejandrino.  ‘Quinta’ in Spanish means: a country house or a rural estate.P1070629Bolivar’s last carriage ride

Simon Bolivar had had enough of South American politics and was intending to sail to Europe where he hoped to stay. What his exact intentions might have been after arriving in Europe we shall never know.

What we know is that ‘El Libertador’ died at the Quinta.

It is here, where Simon Bolivar’s memory is kept alive. In addition to restoring the condition of the Quinta to what it might have been when Bolivar died, other monuments were built in homage to this important figure who earned his place at the forefront of  the South American Independence movement.

If we say we are interested in ‘Independence’ and ‘Liberty’ and ‘Freedom’ then we must include Simon Bolivar in our historical inquiry.  Perhaps some of his ideas are odd to the more ‘protestant’ mind. We must be careful to not judge anyone ‘out of context’. If I was not raised in his place and time, the best I can do is to exercise my imagination.  In so doing, my impression of historical figures and times and places is broadened.  What at first may seem backward, brutal, or ill conceived, when viewed from their own specific context(s) are in fact leaps forward for those times and places.

P1070606A Statue of Simon Bolivar, ‘El Libertador’