Happy 230th Birthday, Simón Bolívar!

Alí Primera’s classic ballad to the Liberator. Here are the lyrics:

Bolivarian Bolívar is not a dead idea,
Much less a saint to light candles to.
A boy from Venezuela met with him;
It may be imaginary, but it could happen.

And this is the conversation Bolívar and the boy had under a tree that was saved from a fire:

Boy: “Is it not true, Simón Bolívar, that when you made your historic vow on Monte Sacro, you never thought that today your arm would feel tired of all the things they hung on it to shield themselves in your name?”

Bolívar: “What you say is true. I, before Simón Rodríguez, swore to liberate my country and, perhaps in innocence, I never dreamed it would be governed by those unworthy of my inheritance.”

Boy: “They try to take away the people’s memory. For that reason, the gringo, Henry Clay, who insulted you in your life and death, is getting a statue in our country, and the Latin American doctrine, which you refined in Jamaica, they’ve reduced its patriotic and liberating essence. Ah! if you only saw the destiny of the people whom your sword liberated. Their greatest freedom is to die of hunger, trampled by the northern boot you warned us of.”

Bolívar: “The United States seem destined by Providence to plague America with miseries in the name of liberty.”

Boy: “Today we joined your visionary idea, your anti-imperialist thought. I am sorry that I call you ‘tú’*, but in order to be my Liberator you must first be my friend. Great captain sailing toward Angostura with your face wet from the Father River, never in the history of the land have there been so many blots on a written page and the love of the people brought to such heights…”

And Bolívar smiled, and full of understanding, his heart leapt at what he was hearing. And looking hard at the schoolboy without schooling, he said: Take my spurs, because you have to ride out again. You will see the people awakening in village after village, who will raise the front more and more to win the glory of making history again, liberating the oppressed. For if a people stay asleep, they will never gain glory.

Boy: “Bolívar, in Birongo, there by Barlovento, there is a little place with your name and they won’t let us visit it without a shirt, so you can see how our laws are dictated by those in frockcoats and tails against the shirtless.”

Bolívar: “And they forget that I wore a borrowed shirt when I was in Santa Marta?”

Boy: “And the worst is that my people are being left without a Bolívar.”**

Bolívar: “They are being left without money, lad?”

Boy: “Without awareness, Liberator, without awareness. The people, in their deception, believe that the haute bourgeoisie goes to bring you flowers in the National Pantheon on the anniversary of your death.”

Bolívar: “So why do they go, little compatriot?”

Boy: “To assure themselves that you are well and truly dead, Liberator. Well and truly dead.”

And Bolívar smiled, and full of understanding, his heart leapt at what he was hearing…

Bolívar: “The result is clear. The bourgeoisie is the child of the colony and likewise, oppression is met in the mace under a single flag. If the fight for freedom is dispersed, there will be no victory in the battle.”

Together: “If the fight for freedom is dispersed, there will be no victory in the battle.”

Bolivarian Bolívar is not a dead idea,
Much less a saint for lighting candles to.
A boy from Venezuela met with him,
You can hear his spurs as he rides again,
You can hear his spurs as he rides again.

Translation mine. Linkage added.

* is the familiar form of you in Spanish, and used among intimates and with younger people; the formal version is usted, used generally for elders and those whom one does not know very well. The boy is making clear that he cannot view Bolívar from a distance, as the bourgeois do (with the real objective of putting him to death in their minds, as the rest of the dialogue makes clear).

** “Without a Bolívar” is a pun. The Venezuelan national currency is the bolivar. Bolívar initially misunderstands, asking the boy if the people are penniless. Which, in fact, they also are, but the mental poverty of not knowing what Bolívar stood for (and therefore, not continuing his fight) is even worse.

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