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13: The Bolívar of José Galvez

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On July 28, 1821, Argentine General José de San Martín proclaimed the independence of Peru upon his victorious arrival in Lima, at the head of a liberating army of Argentine and Chilean troops. Two years later, having been unable to effect the complete independence of the country by a decisive victory over the Spaniards, San Martín returned to Argentina, leaving the nation his genius created weakened by political and military dissension, and threatened by the powerful Spanish armies entrenched in the high valleys of the Peruvian Andes.

It was after San Martín had left Peru-never to return -that the Government of the dying republic requested and obtained the help of Bolívar. In less than sixteen months the Colombian Liberator, fighting against almost insurmountable obstacles, was successful in freeing Peru forever from the Spanish yoke.

With this preamble we come to the purpose of our chronicle. One hundred years later, on July 28, 1921, Peru celebrated the centennial of its independence with great splendor. The entire nation expressed its gratitude to the memory of its first liberator, José de San Martín, and the Peruvian press was full of articles praising his heroic deeds.

But, possibly because the Argentine general was the outstanding hero of the celebration, a beautiful essay on Bolívar, published at the time by the magazine Mundial in its special centennial issue, went unnoticed. Written by the Peruvian poet Don José Galvez, this eulogy to the Colombian Libera for is so masterful that we thought it fitting to quote it here:


"There is muted sorrow and a deep melancholy when San Martín leaves. Desertions are rampant. Spirits are low. And ominous forebodings fill the mind with dark visions of disaster and defeat, like sinister vultures circling over the dying spoils of the first crusade of liberation.

"But from the north comes a ray of hope. A resounding clarion announces the resurrection, and a gleam of light appears on the dark horizon-a harbinger of the dawn of deliverance. It brings inspiration and joy. Under the tropical American sun a new Quixote emulates the gaunt hero of Cervantes in his burning zeal to "fight injustices and succour the aggrieved."

"But his summons to glory transcends the Quixotic dream, because he defends peoples and liberates races. Also gaunt, with an intense countenance and frail in appearance, he performs the miracle-he conquers defeat and bears in his hands the divine torch of his exploits. On Peruvian soil he sounds his immortal call to Victory-which Destiny heard and acknowledged, when no one heeded it, when everyone in the timidity of doubt had let the weakness of the flesh overcome the nobler forces of the spirit.

"He is Bolívar! With him come the echoes of the oath of Monte Sacro, the invocation of Tequendama, the supernatural vision of Chimborazo, and the epics of Boyacá and of the meeting at Guayaquil, where over two giants hovered the twin tongues of Pentecostal fire: Destiny and Mystery!

"He is Bolívar! Nothing perturbs him! Nothing stops him! Accustomed to mastering men and events with his eagle's gaze and his lion's heart, he organizes victory, uplifts the downhearted, and with his tread arouses echoes of the oldest and most fabulous triumphs, creating heroes, writing constitutions, welding peoples

together. And when Destiny signals the decisive hour, he alone hears the call-at Junin and Ayacucho he breaks forever the centuries-old bonds of the Spanish yoke.

"Great for his deeds, for his military genius and for his amazing capacity to scale all summits: those of nature, of' the mind, of the will, and of the gift of expression. He is able to confront volcanoes; to change the march of time; to fight against destiny and to be greater than his victories. Everything he strove for he achieved. His stature grows with the passing of time. We are astonished by his audacity and amazed by his feverish activity; overcome by his eloquence and bedazzled by his genius; and even his human failings by their very intensity are endowed with greatness.

"Great even in grief and disillusionment! While other men are forgotten and in darkness, Bolívar's immortal essence remains transcendent! No more fitting commendation could have been composed in his honor than that addressed to him by a humble village priest on Peruvian soil:

"Your fame will grow with the centuries as the shadows grow with the setting sun!"

José Gálvez

When this essay of Galvez becomes better known in our Americas, it will occupy a prominent place among the literary gems on Simón Bolívar by those other giants of Castilian letters--Rodo, Unamuno, Garcia Calderon, Martí, Montalvo.

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