Fernando Simón Bolívar Tinoco was the natural (i.e., illegitimate) son of Juan Vicente Bolívar y Palacios (1781-1811) — the brother of Simón Bolívar, the Liberator of Hispanic America — and Josefa María Tinoco del Castillo. The couple had three children together, Felicia, Juan, and Fernando, but never married. After Juan Vicente’s death, his brother, Simón, provided for the family; Simón was especially close to Fernando, whose education he guided.
In 1822, when Fernando was 12 years old, Simón Bolívar sent him to the United States to be educated at Germantown Academy in Philadelphia, PA. In 1826, ready for advanced education, Fernando had to choose between attending West Point Military Academy in New York, or the University of Virginia. Both Fernando and his uncle admired Thomas Jefferson and his ideals, and so decided upon U.Va., “Jefferson College.” Fernando attended U.Va. for most of session 3 (1827), but had to leave early because the financial house which managed his money had gone bankrupt.
Upon his return to Venezuela, the young man became his uncle’s private secretary, and served in that position until Simón Bolívar’s death on 17 Dec. 1830. Among Fernando’s notable achievements are serving as a member of the Venezuelan Congress in 1847-1850, and as the governor of the province of Caracas, Venezuela in 1853-54. In 1859, Fernando left Venezuela, spending most of his time in Paris, France and Barcelona, Spain, where he enjoyed a long career as a diplomat.
Fernando Bolívar married Altagracia Gautier Báez, with whom he had one son, Benjamín Bolívar Gautier. He also fathered two natural sons, Santiago Hernández Bolívar and Claudio Bolívar Taraja. Returning to Venezuela shortly before his death, Fernando died in Caracas in 1898.
He is still honored at the University of Virginia. In 1996, Casa Bolívar, the Spanish language-and-culture residential house at the University, was named in honor of Fernando Bolívar, and in 2002, his descendants donated a collection of historic family papers and other items to the University of Virginia.
- Bolívar, Fernando Simon. Recuerdos y reminiscencias del primer tercio de la vida de Rivolba. Paris, 1873.
- “Historic Bolivar materials to be donated to U.Va. in honor of Jefferson-era connection.” University of Virginia News, April 11, 2002. http://www.virginia.edu/topnews/releases2002/bolivar-april-11-2002.html (Accessed 4/12/2011)
- Landaeta Rosales, Manuel. A la memoria de D. Fernando S. Bolívar. Caracas, 1898.
- Suarez, Ramon Dario. Genealogia del Libertador. 2. ed. Merida, Venezuela, 1983.
- “U.Va. names its Spanish House in honor of alumnus Fernando Bolivar …” Press release. Charlottesville, VA, Nov. 8, 1996. http://www.virginia.edu/topnews/textonlyarchive/November_1996/bolivar.txt (Accessed 4/12/2011)