Don José Francisco de San Martín Matorras (1778-1850)
One of the greatest heroes of South American independence was José Francisco de San Martín Matorras. He helped liberate Argentina, Chile, and Peru from Spanish rule. A proud ruler, at the height of his success he relinquished his power to Simon Bolivar after a historic meeting in 1822.
José Francisco de San Martín Matorras was born on Feb. 25, 1778 in Yapeyu, an Indian settlement in what is now northern Argentina. His father, a Spanish army captain, was administrator there. When Captain San Martin was called back to Spain, he enrolled his son in a Madrid school. When he was 11 years old, young San Martín became a cadet in the infantry. He was 13 when he fought his first battle in North Africa.
For the next 20 years he fought the Moors and Napoleon's forces where he rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel. San Martin's sympathies, however, were always with the mistreated colonials.
In 1812 he resigned and returned to Argentina to join the revolt there. In 1814, he had himself made governor of a district in the foothills of the Andes. After gathering and training an army, he led it across the Andes Mountains into Chile where his men routed the Spanish at Chacabuco in 1817 and entered Santiago unopposed. The next year, San Martin's decisive victory at Maipo set all of Chile free.
In 1820 his army landed on the southern coast of Peru and entered Lima in 1821. San Martin met with Bolivar in Guayaquil, Ecuador, in July 1822 and turned over the command to him.
On returning to Argentina, San Martín learned that his wife had died. He left for Europe with his daughter and spent the rest of his life in exile. San Martin lived in France and Belgium until his death in Boulogne-sur-Mer, France, on Aug. 17, 1850.