Simon Bolivar is a character who has captured the imaginations of the world. An idealistic human with strengths, flaws and dreams like all of us who did what he could to bring liberty to his continent.
I have written about him before, Bolivar: American Liberator by Marie Arana is a very well-rounded and dramatic book about him which I've reviewed here https://www.theodysseyonline.com/bolivar-american-liberator
I also made a dramatic retelling of Bolivar's story (starring: me as Bolivar) in my time travelling revolutionary series here
You are back my dear reader! Now I shall begin the task of reviewing Netflex's latest series "Bolivar: Una Lucha Admirable"
The series was one of the best TV shows I have seen, and I would highly recommend it. There were a few scenes I found relatively awkward but I shall get to those later.
It was relatively historically accurate, I would give it a 85% rating. I enjoyed how they captured the little details of Simon with his tutors growing up, Simon's defiant behavior and Simon's loneliness "everybody I always love leaves!" which leads to his clingy behavior.
I especially enjoyed Rodriguez (Bolivar's tutor)'s words of wisdom such as "always read before bed, that is my only rule." Rodriguez was also very patient and understanding to little defiant Simon. Years later Rodriguez meets a young Simon in Paris and has some serious heart to heart discussions with him.
Simon Bolivar himself was very captivating. Bolivar's life story was very melodramatic and full of amusing stories. I noticed the tennis match young Bolivar had with the future king of Spain, in which Bolivar accidentally hit the king in the head wasn't depicted. But I did enjoy the focus they made on Bolivar as a person with his strengths and his flaws. Bolivar's sisters Juana and Maria Antonia both were given distinct personalities, as was his wife Maria Teresa and her character was very well developed.
I appreciated the Bolivar moments such as his "coffee speech" and his oath on Monte Sacro.
"I swear before the God of my fathers, I swear before you, before my honor and before my Patria that I will not rest in body or spirit until I smash the chains that oppress us by will of the Spanish power." This vow he made, he kept his entire life.
Andres Bello, an old tutor of Bolivar's, made an interesting character as he defended Bolivar's character and urged the junta to accept Bolivar. Bolivar's character was very dynamic as the series showed him growing from spoiled defiant child to passionate young adult to determined liberator. I loved that they gave Manuela Saenz a big part in this, she was a great woman in her own right. I feel as though sometimes the series focused a bit much on her story line and while she was interesting that seemed to belong better in a "Manuela Saenz Movie."
Antonio Jose de Sucre! My favorite character in this series. Sucre, although younger than Bolivar, served as his voice of wisdom and stability at times. He was humble and did not seek attention for himself. This was contrasted with Cordova who although talented also was excessively proud.
Bolivar's opponents Santander and Paez were portrayed as complex and having differing views and stances. I enjoyed how they were developed as being vital parts of this story. The atrocities of every side of this messy time in history were portrayed, and no side was truly innocent. It showed the moral and ethical decisions that Bolivar had to face very clearly as he made painful decisions such as executing the army of a war criminal, debating whether he should (against his ideals) take more power to himself or remain a pure republican ruler but risk his country dissolving into anarchy.
As intense as some scenes were, humor was balanced very easily into this series. Bolivar daring an Irish general to swim with him in a "river full of piranhas!" Little Bolivar pranking his sisters and friends, and young Manuela making mischief around Quito offered laughter to the viewers.
The costuming and locations were beautiful. The props and clothes were all very close to reality. I enjoyed the musical soundtrack as well, it was very powerful and contributed well to the entire plot.
My main critique was too many bedroom scenes. While they were easy to skip over, I felt this distracted from the main story line and became very soap opera-esque. While I understand Bolivar had quite personal life, some of it seemed a little exaggerated or repetitive.
That was my only complaint about this series, much of it I enjoyed and I even watched a few episodes a day!
Bolivar's determination against all odds is admirable. Even before the revolution, he faced many people who did not want him to have an active role due to him being seen as "immature." He worked extra hard to prove himself. Bolivar was exposed to tuberculosis at a young age and probably had the disease in his body since he was 2, but it manifested when he was older- he still kept pushing forward for his goal. He brought his troops through the flooded mosquito ridden llanos, up the frozen Andes all for a goal- that of liberty. However we feel about him, his determination made a better a world.
I wrote down some of my favorite quotes from the series in my notebook such as when Rodriguez is encouraging Bolivar to read all he can and says "watch, read, learn and form your own opinion!" This quote was vital both to Bolivar and his understanding of the world- as well as us today. We should always be seeking new opportunities to grow and learn more about the world around us with an open mind.
Bolivar also offered an interesting French Revolution analysis "those theories were remote, perhaps this was the error of the French Revolution. They understood the theory perfectly, but they did not know how to convey it to the people." He said this in a Paris scene when he was around 22 years old. Later on in the series Bolivar learned this lesson about himself as well, he understood the theory of liberty but had trouble conveying it to the people at times. The French Revolution and Latin American Revolutions impacted different cultures, but both were driven by the same ideals of people having an innate desire for liberty and not stopping until they achieved it. Love of liberty will take you through the flooded plains of the llanos and up the frozen Andes until you achieve the glory that is found in liberty.
Overall I would rate this series as "very good" especially if you are trying to learn Spanish, or want to see a dramatization of one of the most eventful lives in history!