Latin American independence hero Simón Bolívar would have turned 229 this week, and Venezuela is celebrating. On Tuesday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez unveiled a new 3-D portrait of El Libertador, based on cranial scans and other high-tech forensic work.
You may recall that Chávez had Bolívar exhumed in July of 2010, in part to pursue his pet theory that the El Libertador was murdered by his enemies and didn’t die of tuberculosis, as the history books claim.
On Tuesday, the medical team that has been analyzing Bolivar’s remains said they did not find proof of tuberculosis. However, they did find traces of arsenic and cantharides, which is an extract produced by the blister beetle. The doctor said that both arsenic and cantharides were commonly used to treat respiratory illnesses, which leaves the tuberculosis theory open.
On a side note, the blister beetle is sometimes known as Spanish fly – a pre-Viagra aphrodisiac. Here’s what the Encyclopedia Britannica has to say about the blister beetle / Spanish fly. And here’s how I first learned about Spanish fly.