Photo: kienyke.com

The year 1830 started with Bolívar’s call for the Constituent Congress, in Bogota. The President Libertador was visibly ill when he appeared on January 15, as confirmed by several witnesses. He imposed Antonio José de Sucre as Congress Speaker and Santa Marta bishop, José María Estévez, as vice-president. Strangely, he called the event the “admirable Congress,” which was anything but, especially for him, who attended amidst the deepest of sorrows. Such is the tone of the speech with which he resigned the Presidency and abandoned public life. He appointed Domingo Caicedo as interim president and finished his speech by saying: “Fellow citizens! I blush when I say that independence is the only thing we’ve acquired at the expense of others.”

He had received a letter from Páez in December, saying it was impossible to stop Venezuela’s separatist will, something to be discussed at the Congress, which the Libertador obviously refused to do. He knew Colombia’s dissolution was inevitable; other assemblies were held in 1829, calling citizens to express themselves about the Constitution they wanted: most moved in favor of Colombia’s separation and against Bolívar. So it wasn’t Páez alone supporting this task, as toxic historiography claims, it was also the majority’s will. The Municipality of Valencia issued a resolution, on November 29, 1829, quietly expressing the will of the Congress: “Venezuela must not remain united to New Granada and Quito, because the laws that apply to those territories were not meant for this one, as it’s entirely different in customs, climate and productions, and because they lose validity and strength across such a large span.”

Bolívar had said his last farewell to the great love of his life, his “adorably mad” Manuela, in Bogota. In July, he received other fatal news, perhaps the worst of them: Sucre had been murdered.

On January 13, General Páez assumed the agreement’s mandate with the resolution of the Assembly of Valencia and called for a Constituent Congress, as well as an Executive Cabinet. The Congress was installed in La Casa de la Estrella, in Valencia, May 6, 1830. On May 13, Colombia’s southern department split and established the independent State of Ecuador, under the leadership of Venezuelan Juan José Flores. Bolívar received these news as he travelled to the Colombian coast, defeated and ill. He’d said his last farewell to the great love of his life, his “adorably mad” Manuela, in Bogota. In July, he received other fatal news, perhaps the worst of them: Sucre had been murdered.

Marshal Sucre understood that his work at Bolívar’s side was taking a dark turn and decided to go back to Quito with his wife, Mariana Carcelén, marchioness of Solanda, and their small daughter. He left Bogota for Quito avoiding the path of Buenaventura (that would take him through the Pacific Ocean to Guayaquil), instead choosing to travel by land, which forced him to cross Popayan and Pasto, a historically anti-bolivarian and pro-royalist area. He was murdered with four shots very near the Berruecos forest on the morning of June 4, 1830, when he was crossing the wilderness with a small entourage (less than ten companions).

There’s no doubt about who did it: Apolinar Morillo, José Erazo, Juan Gregorio Sarría, Juan Cuzco, Andrés Rodríguez and Juan Gregorio Rodríguez, a party of guerrilla men, mercenaries and brigands. As for the masterminds, in 1839, Erazo was imprisoned for other motives, and Morillo confessed they did it at the behest of general José María Obando, who was part of the Libertador’s political enemies. There are also letters incriminating general Juan José Flores, who had particular interest in preventing Sucre’s return to Ecuador, as he could challenge his leadership. Also, there’s evidence that general José Hilario López was part of the plot. In any case, it was clearly a politically-driven murder, committed by Bolívar’s enemies who saw Sucre as his legitimate successor.

Sucre was truly an exceptional character in many ways: his virtues were particularly highlighted by his civility.

Much has been written about this. Some try to put the blame on Flores, others on Obando. According to investigations, the person who directly hired the killers was Obando, but Flores and López were both in agreement. Morillo was executed in Bogota’s plaza mayor in 1842, while the other masterminds fared better or died before the trial. If Bolívar truly had a worthy successor, that scarcely 35-year-old prospect died on the forest road between Colombia and Ecuador. It was the last straw for Bolívar’s ailments, who was by then on the coast seeking to leave for Europe, but old and fighting a severe lung infection.

It’s well known that Bolívar held Sucre in extremely high regard. In a letter of February 9, 1825, to Francisco de Paula Santander, he said: “The more I know about your government, the more I realize that you are the hero of American administration, your glory and Sucre’s are unparalleled. If I knew envy, I would envy you both. I am a man of hardships; you are the man of laws and Sucre is the man of war.” Indeed, Sucre’s military accomplishments were undeniable and Bolívar held his magnanimity with his defeated enemies, his charisma and his considerable modesty in great esteem. Sucre was truly an exceptional character in many ways: his virtues were particularly highlighted by his civility.

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29 COMMENTS

  1. Probably one of the best books on the history of Venezuelan independence is contained in a biography of Bolivar written in english by modern British historian John Lynch. He is a modern professional historian specialzing in south american history and benefits from the wealth of findings and sources discovered in the last 50 years ……

    Mr Doucray Holsteins account is marred by the deep personal resentment which he felt against Bolivar and Venezuelans for not recognizing his ‘superior european’ credentials from having participated in the napoleonic wars by naming him to head the patriot armies……..an example of this is his stating that ‘Caraquin’ ladies were charming whores while waxing sweet on the sober decency of neo granadin gentlemen…he had a big ax to grind as he wrote his biography and must be read with a large amount of skeptical caution.

    • I read some of the Amazon reviews. It certainly goes with the territory. I have a minor in modern Chinese history (!) and I can’t think of a single author who doesn’t have an agenda one way or the other. (John King Fairbank comes to mind)

      That’s the problem with history… the winners write it. I am certainly attuned to the fact that the world history we get in the United States isn’t the same history that the rest of the world is taught. It is an eye opener.

      • While visiting in Great Britain, I happened to see a high school level British history text book. Curious, I perused it to find out what it said about the American Revolution. Guess what? The only thing I could find was a passing reference to “the trouble with the colonies”.

        It’s not just that winners write it… its that the governments write them. Or, at least, approve them. And worse, the “history” is constantly being revised. The history that you learned is not what your parents learned, and theirs was not what your grandparents learned.

        • Its funny when you think about it. I don’t think I was taught a thing about pre-Pearl Harbor Hawaii, Puerto Rico or Alaska despite it being a part of US history. I don’t begrudge the Brits not knowing/caring about our war for independence or civil war… I certainly don’t know that much about Cromwell, et alli.

          When I graduated from high school, what I knew about Mexico was limited to tequila and rumors about “donkey shows” in Tiajuana. I knew less the further south you went… my knowledge of South America was limited to conspiracy theories about Hitler being alive in Argentina! Only after marrying a Venezuelan gal did I even start learning about Venezuela. Back then, to me Bolivar was another in a long line of high collared Spaniards looking to start their own countries.

          I’ll give the books a read. If anything, I can impress the Mrs. with my newly acquired knowledge of Venezuela’s history. Though she’ll still swear at me in colloquial, vulgar Venezuelan under her breath when she’s mad. THAT is what I’d REALLY love to learn!

          • @ElGuapo…my experience regarding the history of central and south America was very similar to yours. I enjoyed learning about history but very little was covered once you get past the southern border of the U.S. …or the northern border for that matter.
            I felt the same as you in that since I am married to a woman from South America I should know at least some basic history of her country (Colombia).
            I started by googling “history of Colombia” and reading the wikipedia articles that appeared. One article would reference and include links to other pertinent articles. Over the course of a few weeks I was able to gain at least a basic understanding of their history including Bolivar and Gran Colombia. I was also able to learn about the history of her city (Medellin) and her state of Antioquia (they call states departments).
            My spanish, like yours is “passable” . I mostly learned so that I would know if she was talking bad about me when she called her mother in Medellin! Lol. Just kidding…I enjoy being able to converse with my wife in Spanish although, like you mentioned, I am sure I miss a lot of nuance.

          • Oh, both my high school and college experiences totally excluded 99% of world history.

            Of course, in college, those classes were available as electives. But forgive me that as an 18-year-old pot-smoking pisher, I chose easier, and at the time more interesting to me, electives.

            But in high school, forget it. And us kids weren’t complaining about it.

            From what I see, it seems the Brits are 10 times more educated in this regard, at least regarding their own history.

          • @ElGuapo…my knowledge of Mexico was about the same as yours. A road trip with a buddy to El Paso / Juarez a few months after graduating high school was an eye opener to me. It was like travelling to a different planet for me! Lol. I had no idea back then that Juarez, being a border town, was not typical of the towns found further into the interior. Juarez was more a mix of Sodom and Gomorrah at least in the part of town we were hanging around in. I don’t know about Tijuana but in Juarez the rumors you spoke of were more than rumors. Lol

          • @ElGuapo you should watch Johanna Haussmann’s rants on YouTube.
            Also @Emiduarte could teach you some of our swearing words.
            I’ll bet you already know the basics… Coño de la madre/coñoe’tumadre y mamaguevo are at the top.

          • @Leona: Yeah, got the basics. Learned that early on from her uncles. Mrs. Guapo’s Modus Operandi is to mumble just quiet enough that I can hear her mumble (and the tone of the mumble), but not loud enough to allow me to hear what she is actually saying. Sneaky gal. Her sisters are that way too.

            I am the opposite. I let it out. Big and loud and angry. No mincing words. Nothing lost in translation. No one wonders, “Golly… what did he mean by that?” I don’t do that with the Mrs. (anymore). Works great for the guys in the construction trades, though.

      • Yeah, and that’s why Oliver Stone gets to produce these ridulous movies which are always FURTHER from the truth.

        That’s why we have to choose to believe in the “best” history available, and it ain’t Stone.

    • I have a number of “History of Venezuela” books that I purchased while living in country in the early 1980’s. Most in Spanish and a few written in English.

      They all tell a story highlighting the same “big events” but provide different interpretations of those events and presentation of details based on the point of view of the author and the time period in which they were written. It is no surprise given the oscillations that Venezuela has gone thru over the last 200 years. Each government in charge putting it’s own imprint (interpret as rewrite) on Venezuelan History.

      The reason that I enjoyed Mr Doucray Holstein’s book is that it was written very near to the time of the actual events. If you can get past his obvious bias against Bolivar and his self aggrandizing. it still provides and interesting presentation of events and details from that period in Venezuela’s history.

      Not very different than reading about the history of almost any country you choose.

  2. También podéis leer en línea en inglés “A narrative of the expedition to the rivers Orinoco and Apuré, in South America” de Hippisley, un británico. Aunque no solo trata de Bolívar, da bastante detalles interesantes del caudillo, al menos desde el punto de vista de un británico.
    El libro de Ducoudray Holstein se puede leer en Google books, al menos en su versión alemana. Creo haberlo visto antes en inglés allí pero ahora no lo hallo.

    • Gracias Kepler por el dato sobre el texto de Hippisley , lo buscare , el de Ducoudray lo encontre en ingles gracias a una generosa indicacion suya ……tiene el relato de cosas curiosas (desde luego tras el oscuro lente de sus resentimientos) . Un libro que vale leer por que compendia los relatos de Hippisley y otros legionarios europeos es ‘El Lado Oscuro de la Epopeya’ del historiador Mondolfi Gudat, hay muchos otros , se de uno que llego a comprar un amigo en Londres pero que al divorciarse perdio para siempre (su mujer le impidio acceso a su libreria historica) …….tenia un relato interesantisimo sobre como el medico ingles de Bolivar casi es degollado por este cuando en el viaje por los llanos de casanare solto en una reunion intima que Bolivar padecia de tuberculosis…!! Un secreto que Bolivar queria conservar bien guardado.

  3. I found the posting interesting since I know little of Venezuela’s history but is there any significance beyond the anniversary date explaining why the story was published now. Just curious.

    • I am interested in the answer to your question. But in a real sense all of the early history of independence has relevance to what is happening now, not just because of the precedents in terms of revolution and power plays, but because Chavez specifically chose to set up Bolivar as a “model” in certain respects.
      When a plane arrived in Belfast in Northern Ireland many years ago, when violence between Catholic and Protestant tribes was still an everyday occurrence, the pilot would often repeat the same old joke. “We are arriving in Belfast. The local time here is 08:30. If you want the political time, then set your watch back 400 years.”

  4. Im currently reading a very interesting book attempting to explain Venezuelan fascination for Bolivar and the early caudillos who made our independence : Maria Teresa Torres ‘La Herencia de la Tribu’…., dont think there is an english translation ……but it reminds one of the background to Hobbes De Cives and Leviathan on what happens when war returns a country to ‘state of nature’ , were armed violence becomes the norm to settle all collective disputes . Seem to remember someone telling me that Sucres widow later married one of those accused of plotting Sucres murder who accidentally caused Sucres daughters death , threw her high up in the air next to a balcony and them missed catching her as she fell to the pavement below !! She was 2 years old.

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