Writer travels from Venezuela for Bolivar's 150th anniversary

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When Alvaro E. Munoz heard that Bolivar was to celebrate the 150th anniversary of its founding, he knew he would have to travel thousands of miles to partake in the celebration.

"I just had to come," said Mr. Munoz, who flew from his home in Venezuela for the borough's sesquicentennial last weekend.

For the past 20 years, Mr. Munoz has been trekking throughout the world to learn about the places and venues that are named after Venezuela's national hero, Simon Bolivar.

Born in 1783, Simon Bolivar played a key role in Latin America's successful struggle for independence from the Spanish Empire, and today is considered one of the most influential politicians in the history of the Americas.

Known as "El Libertador" (The Liberator), Simon Bolivar is often compared to George Washington. Many towns, buildings and monuments at locations all over the world are named for him.

According to Mr. Munoz, at one time, there were 10 communities in the U.S. that were named Bolivar. Only eight, including Bolivar Borough in Westmoreland County, remain. There was also an opera named after Simon Bolivar and a U.S. Navy submarine. And, in 1958, the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp in his honor.

These are all mentioned in Mr. Munoz's book, which he expects to release by year's end.

A civil engineer for refinery projects in his homeland, Mr. Munoz, 69, said the purpose of his book is to "spread information" about Simon Bolivar and his many namesakes.

As for the small borough, Mr. Munoz said it was named Bolivar only after the name Washington was turned down by state officials because there were already too many other towns with the name.

"Instead, they chose to name the borough after the George Washington of the South Americas. They chose Bolivar," he said.

Mr. Munoz said it was very important for him to visit the community, not only because it was celebrating such a milestone but because it was the last site he needed to visit to complete his research.

"Meeting the people is very important to me," he said. "The people here are so wonderful and the location is beautiful."

neigh_east - neigh_westmoreland

Linda Metz, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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