The featured stamp was issued by the Netherlands Antilles in 1987 and clearly features portraits of three gentlemen, perhaps most recognisable being that of Simón Bolívar whose image appears on the stamps of many South American countries. The stamp is one of four in an issue commemorating the 175th anniversary of Simón Bolívar’s exile and the 50th anniversary of the Bolivarian Society. However, what may not be immediately evident in the significance of the other gentlemen or indeed, the link between Bolívar and the Netherlands Antilles.
Simón Bolívar is credited with leading Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Panama and Bolivia to independence from the Spanish Empire – Bolivia even taking its name after the Venezuelan military and political leader. Bolívar was born into a wealthy family in 1783 but lost both of his parents to tuberculosis before the age of ten. Bolívar was educated abroad, conducted a grand tour of Europe and lived in Spain for much of his young adult life. In 1807, Bolívar returned to Venezuela vowing to end Spanish rule in the Americas.
Exploiting a Spain weakened by the Napoleonic wars in Europe, Bolívar began his military career in the Venezuelan War of Independence. Venezuela declared independence on July 1811 but the resulting republic was weak and by July the following year, Bolívar was forced to hide from arrest in Caracas, the Venezuelan capital. He sought the help of a family friend to escape from Venezuela and on 27 August 1812, he sailed into exile on the island of Curaçao, one of the islands comprising the Netherlands Antilles.
The postal issue of 1987 commemorates that event and include four denominated stamps:
- 60c: Octagon, Curaçao
- 70c: Bolivian Society headquarters in Willemstad, Curaçao
- 80c: Room at the Octagon, Curaçao
- 90c: Portraits of Manuel Carlos Piar, Simón Bolívar and Pedro Luis Brion
Notably, the Octagon building that features in two of the stamps is the house where Bolívar spent time before he set out to assemble the forces that eventually put an end to Spanish colonial rule in South America – today the Octagon is a Museum in memory of Curaçao’s connection to Simón Bolívar. Manuel Carlos Piar whose portrait appears on the left of the 90c stamp, was a Dutch mulatta native of Curaçao who joined Simón Bolívar in Haiti and collaborated in the wars of independence. Sadly, Piar chose to challenge Bolívar’s leadership and in 1817, Bolívar had Piar arrested, tried and executed for desertion, insubordination and conspiring against the government. It is said that Bolívar heard the firing squad from his nearby office, and tearfully exclaimed “He derramado mi sangre” (I have spilled my blood). The portrait on the right is that of Pedro Luis Brion, also a native of Curaçao and who fought in the Venezuelan War of Independence and rose the the rank of admiral in the navies of both Venezuela and the old Republic of Colombia.
To view postal issues of the Netherlands Antilles, please visit the M&S Philately HipStamp store.