San Martín, the Argentine liberator

San Martín, the Argentine liberator

Argentina was not liberated from three centuries of Spanish colonization in only one day but thanks to general San Martín and Simón Bolivar.

Portrait of San Martin

Argentina was not liberated from three centuries of Spanish colonization in only one day. Between the revolution of May 25, 1810 and the declaration of independence on July 9, 1816: six years of battles in the Río de la Plata Vice-Royalty…and a hero: José de San Martín, the great Latin American liberator together with Simón Bolívar.

José Francisco de San Martín was born in 1778 in Yapeyú, today province of Corrientes, son of a Spanish (not Creole) father. In those times, Argentina didn’t exist, its territory was part of Río de la Plata Vice-Royalty.. In 1783 his family went back to Spain and San Martín started a brilliant military career.


In 1808, Napoleón invaded Spain and took King Fernando VII as a prisoner. San Martín was part of the troops that defended the country from French imperialism and was promoted Coronel Lieutenant. In those times in his home country, a governing board left the viceroy at the end of the May revolution but was still faithful to the king of Spain that was held prisoner. Liberal ideas, that are pro-independence ideas, arose and San Martín could not ignore them.

In 1811, he gave up his military career in Spain and after spending some time in London, he arrived in Buenos Aires at the beginning of 1812. He was recognized his military rank and the government entrusted him with the cavalry body. The Vice-Royalty was divided between: “the realistic ones”, faithful to the Spanish crown and the revolutionaries, pro-independence. San Martín chose his way: Independence.

Painting of San Martín

The pro-Spanish power was in Lima, in Perú Vice-Royalty. He left General Güemes in charge to defend the territory of the North, in Salta, and prepared a strategy: to go through the Andes mountain range, get to Chile and attack Lima from the sea. In charge of the Andes army, his company was unbelievable (thousands of men and mules necessary to transport the weapons at more than 3,000 meters high), he departed from Mendoza towards Chile at the beginning of 1817. The independence of the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata was proclaimed on July 9, 1816, but the war continued. After years of battles, Chile and Perú were liberated.

San Martín's bedroom

San Martín went back to Buenos Aires in 1824. Young Argentine Republic was weakened by the battles between the federal and unitary bands. In the middle of so much confusion, San Martín was accused of conspiring for the unitary side. The great liberator, tired and at the age of 45, decided to exile to France, the same as Bolívar. He followed the situation of the country, first from his exile in Brussels and then from Paris. 1848 revolution took him to Boulogne-sur-mer where he died in 1850 at the age of 72.

In Argentina, San Martín is considered the Father of the Country. In 1878, the great square of Retiro neighborhood in Buenos Aires was named General San Martín Square. You can see the statue of the Liberator on his horse in the middle of hundred-year-old trees. At the corner of the square and Arenales street you can find Anchorena Palace, one of the most beautiful French architectural pieces of the city.

In 1936 it was renamed San Martín Palace when it was purchased by the government as the building for the Department of Foreign Affairs. San Martín rests in the City Cathedral at the end of Florida street, at Plaza de Mayo. His mausoleum is surrounded by three sculptures of women representing the three countries liberated by him: Argentina, Chile and Perú.

What to read
The website of the Instituto Nacional Sanmartiniano dedicated to the memory of San Martín.