José Francisco de San Martín (25 February 1778 – 17 August 1850), known simply as José de San Martín (Spanish pronunciation: [xoˈse ðe san marˈtin]), was an Argentine general and the prime leader of the southern part of South America’s successful struggle for independence from the Spanish Empire. Born in Yapeyú, Corrientes, in modern Argentina, he left his mother country at the early age of seven to study in Málaga, Spain.
In 1808, after taking part in the Peninsular War against France, San Martín contacted South American supporters of independence from Spain. In 1812, he set sail for Buenos Aires and offered his services to the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata, present-day Argentina. After the Battle of San Lorenzo and time commanding the Army of the North during 1814, he organized a plan to defeat the Spanish forces that menaced the United Provinces from the north, using an alternative path to the Viceroyalty of Peru. This objective first involved the establishment of a new army, the Army of the Andes, in Cuyo Province, Argentina. From there, he led the Crossing of the Andes to Chile, and triumphed at the Battle of Chacabuco and the Battle of Maipú (1818), thus liberating Chile from royalist rule. Then he sailed to attack the Spanish stronghold of Lima, Peru.
On 12 July 1821, after seizing partial control of Lima, San Martín was appointed Protector of Peru, and Peruvian independence was officially declared on 28 July. On 22 July 1822, after a closed-door meeting with fellow libertador Simón Bolívar at Guayaquil, Ecuador, Bolívar took over the task of fully liberating Peru. San Martín unexpectedly left the country and resigned the command of his army, excluding himself from politics and the military, and moved to France in 1824. The details of the 22 July meeting would be a subject of debate by later historians.
San Martín is regarded as a national hero of Argentina and Peru, and, together with Bolívar, one of the liberators of Spanish South America. The Order of the Liberator General San Martín (Orden del Libertador General San Martín), created in his honor, is the highest decoration conferred by the Argentine government.
José de San Martín died on 17 August 1850, in his house at Boulogne-sur-Mer, France. He requested in his will to be taken to the cemetery without any funeral, and to be moved to Buenos Aires thereafter. Balcarce informed Rosas and the foreign minister Felipe Arana of San Martín’s death. Balcarce oversaw the embalming of his remains and their temporary stay in a chapel of the city. He also sent San Martin’s saber to Rosas.
However, the rebellion of Justo José de Urquiza against Rosas in 1851, Rosas’ defeat at the battle of Caseros and the resulting chaos delayed the move of San Martín’s remains to Buenos Aires. Still, both Rosas and Urquiza organized public homages to San Martín, despite the conflict. Buenos Aires seceded from Argentina as the state of Buenos Aires, dominated by Unitarians who despised San Martín. Thus, the move of his remains was postponed indefinitely. Aware that there were no favorable conditions for the project, Balcarce arranged a creation of a tomb in the Boulogne-sur-Mer cemetery.
San Martín’s remains were finally repatriated on 29 May 1880, during the presidency of Nicolás Avellaneda. The mausoleum was placed inside the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral. As San Martín was suspected of being a freemason, the mausoleum was placed in an expanded wing of the Cathedral.