on Mar 1, 2013 • by Richard Emblin

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There is one landmark which has withstood the passing of time. The Quinta de Bolívar is a must-see for anyone interested in the independence struggle and catching a glimpse into the life of the Liberator, Simón Bolívar.

Within walking distance of the cable car to Monserrate, surrounded by lush gardens, stands the Quinta de Bolívar, the home Bolívar resided in from 1820 to 1830, until he abandoned it in order to begin a return trip to Spain, and after a bout of illness met his demise in another stately residence, the San Pedro Alejandrino, near Santa Marta on the coast.

As you enter the Quinta, walking through its metal gates and up a cobblestone path, you’ll find yourself in a quiet part of the city, removed from the noise and frenzy of the centro, an oasis where one can wander at leisure through a courtyard and the rooms of the home decorated with 19th century furnishings.

Although the Quinta dates back to 1670, its place in history begins when Bolívar returned to Bogotá in 1820, after successfully leading military campaigns throughout the region. The house was a gift from the new Republican government for his efforts in securing Colombia’s independence from Spain. But Bolívar never stayed in the house for long. Always on the move with his men and armies, Bolívar returned to the Quinta in 1826 to assume the Presidency of the new Republic. The house was his refuge from the everyday pressures of politics and intrigue.

“Never luxurious, but comfortable” wrote General Francisco de Paula Santander to Bolívar in a letter. The Quinta was also the house where the ‘Liberator’ could nurture an affair with Manuela Sáenz, one of the great political women of the moment. Having met her during his time in Ecuador, Manuela spent many days at the Quinta and used the house to entertain the General and his closest advisors.

Although Bolívar only resided some 423 days at the Quinta, the house reveals intimate aspects of the man and the legend which surrounds him. Guided tours are available in English and one can appreciate through the numerous paintings hanging on the walls, the different stages and conquests in the life of this enigmatic General. In several paintings, Bolívar and Manuela are posed together like the royalty he fought so hard to defeat.

When Bolívar abandoned the house in 1830, the Quinta fell into less illustrious hands. A liquor factory invaded the premises and then the estate became a private girl’s school. But it wasn’t until 1918 that the Academy of History and the Embellishment Society of Bogotá decided to restore the Quinta to its former glory.

The nation took control of the house and turned it into a museum, recuperating some of the Liberator’s personal possessions including his famous sword, which was subsequently stolen in 1974 by a daring raid of the M-19 guerillas and then returned in 1991 after a the rebels signed a peace treaty with the government. The sword is now housed in the Banco de la República’s main vault and a replica was sent to the Quinta.

 

Calle 20 No.2-91


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