Simon Rodriguez

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Simon Rodriguez

Simón Narciso by Jesús Carreño Rodríguez (Caracas, Venezuela, October 28, 1769 – Amotape, Paita, Peru, February 28, 1854), known in his exile from Spanish America as < b> Samuel Robinsón , was a Venezuelan educator, writer, essayist and philosopher. Tutor and mentor of the Liberator Simón Bolívar, like Andrés Bello, was a visionary defender of public education.

Simon_Rodriguez’s Biography

First years

Simón Rodríguez was born in Caracas on October 28, 1769. This exposed child was named Simón Narciso de Jesús, from which his date of birth is inferred, if it is considered that October 28 is the day of San Simon the Apostle and the 29th, the day of Saint Narcissus of Jerusalem. It is assumed, then, that according to the tradition of naming the foundlings according to the saints, Simón Rodríguez was born the night of October 28 to 29, 1769. Regarding the family of Simón Rodríguez, wrote the Chilean historian Miguel Luis Amunátegui in 1854:

He had as his father a cleric named Carreño, whose surname Don Simon carried for some time; but that changed after that of Rodriguez. […] Don Simon was not an only child; he had a brother, called Cayetano, who became the best musician in Venezuela from a hobby.

Amunátegui, who was the first biographer of Simón Rodríguez, was probably based on the testimony of Andrés Bello, whom he met in Santiago de Chile. And it is that Andrés Bello and Simón Rodríguez had been neighbors in Caracas, living both in houses of the Callejón de la Merced, in front of the church of the same name. Andrés Bello grew up in the house of his grandfather, the great painter Juan Pedro López; Simón and Cayetano lived in the home of priest Alejandro Carreño.

Arturo Uslar Pietri and more recently Rafael Fernández Heres have rejected the idea that Simón Rodríguez was the natural son of a Catholic priest.

However, the tradition has taken for granted that Simón Rodríguez and Cayetano Carreño were natural children of the priest Alejandro Carreño and Rosalía Rodríguez, and that is how Arístides Rojas, who claims to have received his data of the last surviving son of Cayetano Carreño, recounts it. (also called Cayetano), Simón Rodríguez’s nephew – like Ramón de la Plaza, whatever it is, the fact is that Simón and Cayetano grew up together, and were known in Caracas as “the Carreño brothers.”

By comparing the censuses of the parish of Altagracia it is possible to throw light on the upbringing of Simón Rodríguez. In the license plates of the years 1774, 1775 and 1776 the foundlings Simón and Cayetano appear, registered in the house of Rosalía Rodríguez, a widow, who was the daughter of a landowner in the plains of Guárico, a descendant of canaries. It is preposterous to assume that around 1780, after the marriage of Rosalía Rodríguez with Ignacio Abay, the children Simón and Cayetano had to change their homes. And in fact, the registry of 1790 of the parish of Altagracia registers the young people in the house of the priest Alejandro Carreño.In 1791, after the death of Alejandro Carreño, the brothers were under the tutelage of their maternal uncle, the priest Juan Rafael Rodríguez, canon doctoral of the cathedral and brother of Rosalía Rodríguez. Simon and Cayetano occupied a house on the “second street from north to south … block of Our Lady of Health” (today corners of Ibarras to Madrices), house in which probably lived together until the marriage of Cayetano in 1794 .


In May 1791, when he was 21 years old, the Cabildo de Caracas gave him a position as a teacher at the Reading and Writing School for Children. In this school he had the opportunity to be the tutor of the future liberator Simón Bolívar.

Bolivar’s tutor, Carlos Palacios y Blanco, decided to send Bolívar to live with Simón Rodríguez because he could not attend him personally. Before the prospect of living with Rodriguez, on July 23, 1795 Bolivar escaped from the house of his uncle Carlos to take refuge in the house of his sister María Antonia, who exercised his temporary custody, until the Royal Court of Caracas resolved the litigation court and returned Carlos Palacios custody of Bolívar. He tried to resist but was taken by force from his sister’s house and carried away by a slave to the humble house of Rodriguez. Bolivar had to share the space with twenty other children in a house not suitable for it, and therefore escaped from there a couple of times, in which he ended up returning by order of the courts. In 1794, Simón Rodríguez presented a critical writing, Reflections on the defects that vitiate the school of first letters in Caracas and means of achieving its reform by a new establishment. Strongly influenced by the Emilio of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Simón Rodríguez developed a revolutionary conception of what the educational model of the American nations should be. In 1824, Bolívar himself-in a letter to General Santander-said that his teacher “taught amusing”. This spirit that tried to break with the rigid educational customs of Spanish colonialism would be reflected in all the work and thought of Simón Rodríguez.

His participation in the Conspiracy of Gual and Spain, discovered in July 1797, against the Spanish crown forced him to resign as a teacher and flee the Venezuelan territory, with 27 years old.

Samuel Robinsón

Simón Bolívar with 21 years old (in 1804).

In 1797, in the town of Kingston (on the island of Jamaica), it changed its name to Samuel Robinsón. After staying some years in the United States, in 1801 he traveled to France. In 1804, at 34 years old, he was in Paris with Simón Bolívar (21 years old), of whom he had been a teacher a little over ten years before.

The previous year (1803) Bolivar had traveled to Europe desolate because on January 22, 1803 his wife from Madrid had died in Caracas, with whom he was married just a few months.

The following year (1805) they traveled together to Italy. In Milan they were eyewitnesses to the coronation of Napoleon Bonaparte as king of Italy and of Rome. On August 15, 1805, Rodríguez witnessed Bolívar’s famous oath on the Monte Sacro (in Rome), where he undertook to liberate all of America from the Spanish crown, and Simón Rodríguez registered it for History. Bolivar returned to Venezuela the following year (1806).

Between 1806 and 1823, while a large part of the War of Independence was being fought in his native Venezuela, Rodríguez lived in Italy, Germany, Russia, Prussia and the Netherlands. Then he would give his opinion about this period of time saying:

I stayed in Europe for more than twenty years; I worked in an industrial chemistry lab […]; I attended secret meetings of a socialist nature […]. I studied a little literature, I learned languages ​​and I ran a school of first letters in a Russian village.

Return to America in 1823, using the name of Simón Rodríguez again. In 1824 he established the first “school-workshop” in Colombia. It responds to the call made by Bolívar from Peru, and is named “Director of Public Education, Sciences, Physical Arts and Mathematics” and “Director of Mines, Agriculture and Public Roads” of Bolivia.

In 1826, he established a second school-workshop as part of the project for the whole of Bolivia. But Marshal Antonio José de Sucre, president of Bolivia since October 1826, did not have a good relationship with him, so Rodriguez resigned the same year, working the rest of his life as an educator and writer, living alternately between Peru, Chile and Ecuador. Very important is his work entitled American Societies, divided into several editions published in Arequipa (1828), Concepción (1834), Valparaíso (1838), and Lima (1842). The text insists on the need to find solutions for the problems of Latin America, an idea that synthesizes his phrase:

Simón Rodríguez lived his last years in Ecuador.

Spanish America is original, original must be its institutions and government, and original means of founding both. Or we invented, or we err.

Another important work was El Libertador del Mediodía de América and his companions of Armas (from 1830), an allegation about the social struggle undertaken by Bolívar at that time.

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