April 19-25, 2002
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Historic Bolivar artifacts donated in honor of Jefferson-era connection

Staff Report

In 1827, a young Venezuelan named Fernando Bolivar came to the newly opened University of Virginia to enroll in classes and began a long and still-growing link between Latin America and Jefferson’s university. Bolivar was the nephew and adoptive son of Simon Bolivar, the hero of South America’s wars of independence.

On April 13 — Jefferson’s birthday — a descendant of the illustrious Bolivar family returned to Grounds to donate historic family papers and artifacts to the University in a celebration of U.Va.’s venerable Latin American heritage. The manuscripts include important letters, journals and other documents of Fernando Bolivar, as well as volumes of published materials related to Simon Bolivar.

Luis Fernando Bolivar of Caracas, a great-great-grandson of U.Va.’s first Latin American student, presented the gift in an Alumni Hall luncheon sponsored by U.Va.’s Bolivar Network, an organization of alumni of Latin American origin.

The Bolivar nephew came all the way to Virginia because of his deep admiration for Jefferson, according to U.Va. Spanish professor Gustavo Pellon, who has researched U.Va.’s Bolivar connection. Because of financial difficulties Fernando Bolivar stayed only for a brief period, but he always treasured his days in Charlottesville and wrote about them in his memoirs.

The Fernando Bolivar manuscripts are especially important because he had a long diplomatic career after leaving U.Va. The gift also includes 14 bound volumes of published documents related to Gen. Simon Bolivar and South American independence, as well as silver service items.

The manuscripts will eventually be housed in U.Va.’s Special Collections Library. Portraits of Fernando Bolivar and his celebrated uncle hang in Casa Bolivar, U.Va.’s Spanish language house.


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