Just about every town you visit in Argentina (and many in Peru) has a main drag called Avenida San Martín or a plaza of the same name. Probably both. But who was this guy, and was he even a saint?
First up, he wasn’t a saint (although many Argentines would disagree), San Martin was just his surname. José Francisco de San Martín was born in the sleepy town of Yapeyú (I’ve been there – believe me, ‘sleepy’ is the understatement of the century) in 1778 to a Spanish soldier and a local woman.
When José was five, his family relocated to Spain where he followed in his father’s footsteps and trained as a solider - with far greater success than his old man. In 1812 he returned to the country of his birth to take part in the independence movement and – thanks to his glowing military record in Europe – was immediately given a commanding role in the movement.
Armies under General San Martín’s command liberated the cities of Buenos Aires and Lima as well as large swathes of Argentina and Peru and he is a national hero in both countries and one of the great liberators of South America.
For most of you, this tiny blog post will probably have provided all you need to know about the great man. But if, like me, you’re fascinated by history, then John Lynch’s 2009 biography is the definitive work.