The history of cigars extends back centuries –– to the ancient Mayans who first rolled and smoked tobacco –– and it encompasses thousands of larger-than-life historical figures and events. One such figure may not have been a cigar smoker himself but has nonetheless had a massive impact on both the cigar industry and world history. This is the story of Simón Bolívar: the liberator of South America and the inspiration behind one of the most respected cigar lines in the world.

Early Life & Travels

Bolívar was born in 1783 to a wealthy family in Caracas, New Granada (now Venezuela) –– a Spanish colony encompassing most of northwestern South America plus Panama. While his family was rich, Bolívar’s parents died before he was ten. He inherited a large amount of wealth, and at age 16, he was encouraged by his tutors to visit Europe to further his education. There, he met and married the daughter of a Spanish nobleman, who then died very quickly upon their return to Venezuela. 

Bolívar returned to Europe again in 1804 –– just in time for the coronation of Napoleon I –– a figure whom he both admired for his military prowess and governing capabilities and reviled for his rebuke of the liberal ideals of the French Revolution. On these trips to Europe, Bolívar encountered enlightenment philosophies like those espoused by John Locke. Bolívar became convinced when talking with friends that the South American Spanish colonies could and should gain their independence.

Setbacks & Liberation

Upon his return to New Granada, Bolívar joined other revolutionaries to form the first Venezuelan Republic. While this revolt experienced early success, it ultimately failed. In 1812, Bolívar wrote the Cartagena Manifesto advocating for united revolutionary action. He tried again to retake Venezuela and succeeded, but again, only for a time. After expelling the Spanish and being named dictator, Bolívar’s Venezuela erupted into civil war, and he was forced to flee to Jamaica. 

After years of exile, Bolívar returned to New Granada in 1817. Having failed to attract international backing from Great Britain or the United States, Bolívar launched a daring military campaign to liberate New Granada. Despite long odds and a treacherous journey, it worked. Bolívar and his men marched on Bogotá, won the battle of Boyacá and established a new state known as the Republic of Colombia –– or Gran Colombia. In addition to Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, and Panama, Bolívar and his followers would eventually liberate Peru. It was then in 1825, that a constitutional congress declared Bolivia an independent republic in honor of Bolívar. He remained the leader of Gran Colombia until he resigned from the presidency and shortly thereafter died of tuberculosis in 1830 at age 47.


Bolívar was and is seen as a revolutionary hero across Latin America. Though he sometimes used brutally violent tactics, and though he clung to power in his later life, he also fought for the freedoms of millions of oppressed people. He also was an ardent critic of slavery and liberated slaves in South America during his struggle against the Spanish Royalists. 

Today, the cigar line that bears his name strives to carry on his legacy with products of the highest quality. The newest offering from Bolivar, called “Gran Republic,” pays homage to the legacy of Simón Bolívar and features some of the finest tobacco sourced across Latin America. 

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