Simon Bolivar was a brilliant general. He was the most important leader in South America's war to become independent from Spain. Outside Latin America, where he is worshipped, not much is known about this amazing man. The country Bolivia is named after him. Tomorrow is his birthday, so it seems a good time to find out more about this freedom fighter. Early life Simon Bolivar was born on July 24, 1783, in Caracas, Venezuela. He was too young to remember the death of his father, and his mother died when he was nine years old. He was raised by his grandfather and a loving nurse, Hipolita, who was like a mother to him. He went to the best schools and was a strong and clever student. He went on to study at a military academy. Venezuela and independence In 1807, Bolivar saw that the people of Venezuela were divided. Some wanted to be ruled by Spain, while others wanted to be free and independent. On April 19, 1810, the people decided to be partly independent of Spain. Bolivar was unhappy and called for full independence. He was sent to England to ask the British for support. When he returned, he found the people still divided between Spain and Venezuela. But on July 5, 1811, the people voted for full independence. However, Venezuela once again fell under the control of Spain when the people rose up to fight against Bolivar's wishes. The great man Bolivar became an officer in the army of Colombia and won many battles against Spanish forces in that country. He then attacked Spanish forces in Venezuela and won. He rode into Venezuela at the head of his army on August 7, 1813. This amazing march became known as the Admirable Campaign. Bolivar was put in charge of Venezuela, but was beaten by the Spanish forces in June, 1814. Again he went into exile. He returned, but was unable to stop civil war during 1814-1819. After many bloody battles, he finally defeated the Spanish forces in 1821 and was made president of a free Venezuela. Bolivar continued to free northern and western South America, and by 1824, ruled over Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela and Panama. It was his dream to unite them all, but he died of tuberculosis, a lung disease, in 1830. Natural leader Bolivar was a natural leader and had great energy. He often challenged his officers in swimming and horse-riding. He would also drink, sing and play cards all night with his men. He married early in life, but his wife died shortly afterwards. He is as popular as ever now, and his dreams about Latin America have come true. Many wonder how different things would be today if Bolivar had united northern and western South America into one nation instead of the fighting republics it is now.