You see him everywhere in Argentina. On banknotes, statues around the country, and a national hero for many Argentinians. Why is José de San Martín in Argentina famous and why is he is so honored in the country?
Since my arrival in Argentina, it’s all about José de San Martín. I went to research why is he so famous but not in Peru where he also liberated the country from the Spanish colonization. A view from another perspective.
Who is José de San Martín?
Jose de San Martín – full name is José Francisco de San Martín Matorras – born on February 25th, 1778 in Yapeyú (Rio de la Plata, now Argentina). When he was six years old he moved with his family to Spain where is went to study at the Seminary of Nobles in Madrid. At that same institution he became friends with Bernardo O’Higgins.
Some time later he joined the Spanish army troops to fight against France. At that same moment he came in contact with people that wanted the liberate South-America.
A couple of years later in 1812, he sailed from the United Kingdom to Buenos Aires and offered his expertise to the United Provinces of the South. That’s two years after the May Revolution in Argentina. His first successful war was in 1813 in San Lorenzo. Afterwards, the became the leader of the Army of the North were he made the plans to liberate Lima. His most famous route was crossing the Andes towards Chile. An incredible undertaking. Together with Bernardo O’Higgins he liberated first Chile from of Spanish rule.
In 1822 liberated Lima and he became the Protector of Peru.
San Martin and Argentina
I suspect that José de San Martín became important in the Argentina because of his victories in South America and because he was born there after all. However, after his victories he was no longer allowed in Buenos Aires when he docked with his ship. He returned to Brussels with his daughter and then they moved to France where he eventually died.
In 1880 his body was transferred to Buenos Aires.
During conversations with Argentinian friends, it becomes clear that the man is almost holy seen in the country. There is also a national holiday named in his honor on August 17.
Where to find statues?
The most important thing to see is his tomb in the cathedral of Buenos Aires. This is freely accessible. There are San Martin guards at the gate and you can walk around the tomb.
Another important statue can be found in San Martin square in Recoleta. Not far from Retiro train station. A beautiful image with his horse. Also worth passing through.