Jan. 22 (Wednesday)

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 Simón  Bolívar
Full Name: Simón Bolívar
Born: July 24, 1783 in Caracas, Venezuela
Died: Dec. 17, 1830 in near Santa Marta, Colombia

Simón Bolívar may be the most important Latin American political figure ever, playing a key role in the struggle for independence from Spain. The son of a Venezuelan aristocrat of Spanish descent, Bolívar led Venezuela, Colombia (including Panama at the time), Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia to freedom. He helped establish the first union of independent nations in Hispanic-America, Gran Colombia, serving as president from 1819 to 1830.

Still regarded as a visionary and liberator, Bolívar’s most passionate fans included Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. In fact, there is speculation that Chavez may join Bolívar as a member of the jungle goddess Maria Lionza’s political court.