Simón Bolívar, Venezuelan soldier, politician and one of the most prominent figures in the independence of many South American countries, married María Teresa del Toro y Aleyza in San José church in Madrid on 26 May 1802. Bolívar, who had come to Spain from South America to continue his studies, was just 19 when in 1800 he met his future wife, who was two years his senior.
With the permission of both families, each from the Spanish aristocracy and political classes, the two were married.
Bolívar described his bride as “A perfect jewel, priceless.”
However, the marriage was to last just eight months, as on 22 January 1803 María Teresa tragically died from yellow fever in Caracas where Bolívar had returned with his young bride shortly after their marriage. They had left Spain on 15 June 1802 and arrived in Caracas on 12 July.
Simón Bolívar promised that he would never marry again and despite allegedly having numerous lovers, he remained true to his word until his own death on 17 December 1830 in Santa Marta, Colombia.
The church, San José, on the corner of Calle Libertad and Calle de Gravina in Madrid is no longer standing and the parish of San José was moved to another part of the city in 1838. Yet a plaque in the new church, situated on Calle Alcalá, says that it is where the couple wed, which is, according to historians, technically incorrect.
Bolívar went on to become arguably the most significant figure in the history of many South American countries and in particular Bolivia (named after him), Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Venezuela and Peru, establishing them as sovereign states independent of Spanish rule.
His legacy as ‘El Libertador’ (The Liberator) lives on and is still often cited by Latin American leaders, most notably the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez until his death in 2013.
The Venezuelan film Libertador (The Liberator) was released in 2013, starring Edgar Ramírez as Simón Bolívar and Spanish actress, María Valverde as María Teresa del Toro y Aleyza. The biographical film follows the life of Bolívar and includes his short-lived relationship and marriage with María Teresa as well as his political and military career.