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December 11, 2009

According a man who offered to take my picture (in return for a small donation) in front of José San Martín’s statue in Buenos Aires, San Martín is the Argentine equivalent of George Washington.

Plaza San Martín, Buenos Aires

He liberated, in fact, much of South America from Spanish rule, a very complex history that I don’t fully understand, but his efforts were enough to warrant him a bust in Colonia, Uruguay.

Plaza San Martín, Colonia, Uruguay

I learned of a particularly interesting moment in his life, one that makes him a unique figure historically, through Jorge Luis Borges’ story “Guayaquil.” On July 22, 1822, after great successes for both men across South America San Martín met with his fellow liberator Simon Bolivar in the Ecuadorean port city of Guayaquil, to discuss their further efforts to liberate the continent.

Plaza San Martín, Posadas, Argentina

While the specifics of the meeting are unknown, it resulted in San Martín’s retirement which left Bolivar to lead the anti-royalist forces and become known as the single great liberator of the continent. No longer welcome in Argentina, San Martín moved to Europe. He was buried there but later disinterred and brought to the Metropolitan Cathedral here in Buenos Aires.
San Martín's tomb

San Martín's tomb

In Borges’ story, two professors contend for the honor of examining a newly discovered (fictional) letter written by San Martín that could contain new information pertinent to the famous meeting, with similar results.

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