The victory of Simon Bolivar (1783-1830) over Spanish royalists at the Battle of Carabobo sealed the independence of Venezuela - after two failed attempts and ten years of war, during which between 80,000 and 100,000 Venezuelans either died or emigrated.
In a letter to Bolivar, Daniel Webster (whose statue stands on the 72nd St. traverse in Central Park) hailed him as “the image of our venerated Washington.” What intrigues me is how unlike Washington Bolivar was. He professed to admire the American constitution, but served in several of the countries he liberated as absolute ruler; and he died at age 47, in exile, with barely the shirt on his back. A month before he died he wrote bitterly to a friend, “America is ungovernable. Those who serve the revolution plough the sea. The only thing to do in America is to emigrate.”
By 1949, Sixth Avenue had been renamed “Avenue of the Americas,” and the City was collecting statues of South American heroes to adorn it. The Parks Department wanted to move Bolivar from West 82nd St. down to Central Park South. City elections that year brought a vituperative exchange over funding for a new Bolivar site and pedestal between a candidate for Manhattan borough president and Parks Commissioner Robert Moses (“Ignorance could rise to no dizzier heights … There isn’t one iota of accuracy or decency in your comments”). In the end, the government of Venezuela stepped in with funds to have the piece moved to its present location, where it faces San Martin and Jose Marti.