74 El Libertador 1821 LIKE MANY A WEALTHY KID before and after him, Venezuelan coffee scion Simóón Bolíívar took a trip to Europe. There, in 1799, inspired by Voltaire, Locke and Rousseau, the young idealist determined to liberate his homeland from 300 years of Spanish rule. His dream? A "society of brother nations . . . powerful to resist the aggressions of the foreigner." Spurred by Napolééon's invasion of Spain in 1810, Bolíívar--who would soon become known as the liberator of northern South America--embarked on a series of bloody campaigns. In 1821 he freed Venezuela and over the next four years banished the Spaniards from Ecuador, Peru, Colombia and Bolivia. Though his united "Gran Colombia" did not last--civil war erupted and Venezuela seceded in 1829--El Libertador left an indelible mark on the region and set a precedent (albeit sporadically followed) for modern Latin American democracies.