Bolívar was born in Caracas into an aristocratic family. Following the death of his parents, he went to Spain in 1799 to complete his education. In Spain he married Maria Teresa Rodríguez del Toro y Alaysa in 1802. On a brief visit return to Venezuela in 1803 she succumbed to yellow fever. Bolívar returned to Europe in 1804 and was part of Napoleon's retinue for a time.
Bolívar returned to Venezuela in 1807 and, when Napoleon made Joseph King of Spain and its colonies in 1808, he participated in the resistance juntas in America. The Caracas junta declared its independence in 1810, and Bolívar was sent to England on a diplomatic mission.
Bolívar returned to Venezuela in 1811. In July 1812, junta leader Francisco de Miranda surrendered, and Bolívar had to flee to Cartagena de Indias. From there, Bolívar wrote his Cartagena Manifesto. In 1813 he led the invasion of Venezuela. He entered Merida on May 23 and was proclaimed El Libertador ("liberator"). Caracas was recaptured on August 6, and the second Venezuelan republic was proclaimed. He then commanded a Colombian nationalist force and captured Bogota in 1814. However, after a number of military setbacks, Bolívar fled in 1815 to Jamaica; there, he petitioned the Haitian leader Alexander Sabes Petión for aid. In 1816, with Haitian help, Bolívar returned to the fight, landing in Venezuela and capturing Angostura (now Ciudad Bolívar).
A victory at Boyacá in 1819 added Colombia to the territories free of Spanish control, and in December Bolívar created Gran Colombia (a federation covering much of Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, and Ecuador) with himself as president. Further victories at Carabobo in 1821 and Pichincha in 1822 consolidated his rule. In 1822 he took over Peru, which had been partially liberated from the Spanish by the Argentinian general José de San Martín in July 1821, after the latter's resignation from the title of Protector of Peruvian Freedom. Bolívar was named president on September 10. Bolívar, assisted by Antonio José de Sucre decisively defeated the Spanish in August 1824 at Junín. Sucre destroyed the remnants of the Spanish forces at Ayacucho in December.
In August 1825, at the Congress of Upper Peru the Republic of Bolivia was created in honour of Bolívar. But by 1827, internal divisions had sparked in wars, and the fragile South American coalition collapsed. Bolívar resigned his presidency in 1828 and died from tuberculosis on December 17, 1830.
It should be added that, at one period, Bolívar had a dream of uniting all South American, Central American and Caribbean countries and turning them into a single, economically independent country, which he had planned to name Estados Unidos de Latinoamérica, or The United States of Latin America. There was a meeting by Latin American presidents and governors to approve or disapprove of Bolívar's plan, but it was decided not to go through with the plan by only one vote.