Argentina & Jose de San Martin
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These episodes will focus on Argentina and their founding fathers. The first thing up is an interview with an Argentine on this topic.
The Google Earth Map of San Martin's journey's is here
Links to other resources as well as the transcript are below the pictures.
Map of South America
Public Domain, Link
San Martin wrapped in the Argentine Flag
By The exact author is disputed. Some sources attribute it to Jean Baptiste Madou, others to the art teacher of San Martin's daughter, and others suspect it to be the work of many different people. - Museo Histórico Nacional, Public Domain, Link
Manuel Belgrano and San Martin meet
By Augusto Ballerini (1857 - 1897) - <a rel="nofollow" class="external text" href="https://www.sanmartiniano.gov.ar/multimedia/pinacoteca/obj/ampliado/parteIV/parteIV_23.jpg">Instituto Nacional Sanmartiniano</a>, Public Domain, Link
Other Resources(Clickable links on the titles)
Vexed Flag Podcast tells colorful stories of history, statecraft, and culture through the flags of the world. We're interested in what flags have to say about the places they represent - and what they can tell us about ourselves. Listen to them on Apple Podcasts or all other major platforms, and follow them on Instagram and Facebook to view the flags we discuss and see other bonus content.
Why Do Countries Exist is a podcast we've mentioned a few times on here. It gives a nice concise summary of the history of the country in 20 minutes, including some extra time spent on more recent history, so if you want to know more about Argentina this is a great place to go
Revolutions Podcast creator Mike Duncan to you but if he's not you should give his "History Of Rome" Podcast a try, it's a classic. But for Argentina he covers the South American revolutions and starting at 5.13 he introduces San Martin and then talks more about him in 5.19, 5.20, 5.22.
Sleeping Through Class is a podcast where 3 History majors tell stories that are connected with US High School classes on US History and World History 2. This episode is about 20 minutes and touches a bit on Argentina but have a great look at other things happening around Latin America at the same times.
The Napoleon Bonaparte Podcast, Age of Napolean Podcast, and When Diplomacy Fails don't really talk about San Martin but they do both give a lot of excellent background on the wars that helped San Martin develop his military and leadership skills.
San Martin - Is the newest English language biography on San Martin, from 2009, and was the main book I used for my research on this episode. If you want more details that are well laid out I'd highly recommend it. It's not quite as cheap, at $60, as the book down below but it's very much worth it.
Captain of the Andes - Is an older biography from the 40s on San Martin but it's still very relevant as it was well done.
Hello and welcome back! I re-uploaded the Australia episode to fix some quality issues that were happening due to the birth of my child happening that week so if you skipped it or turned it off please give it another try and it should be better! Also a few new things this week. I'm going to start doing a google earth map of things that happen on each episode so I'll have a link to that in the podcast description as well as on the website for the podcast at lang4life.com/founders.
Argentina is the second largest country in South America and the 8th largest in the world, . It takes up basically all of the southern half of South America all the way to the Andes mountains in the west. From there Chile owns the rest of the southern part of South America. To the east is the South Atlantic Ocean. South is Antarctica, which Argentina claims a part of. The Northern Border gets busier sharing borders with Bolivia, Paraguay, Brazil, and Uruguay. Peru is just north of both Bolivia and Chile along the western coast of South America. It has the highest and lowest points in the southern hemisphere and has a varied climate as it is a large country. It's longest river is the Parano River which winds from Buenos Aires up into Brazil.
The founder we will talk about today is a man who is well known throughout most of South America. He was born in Argentina, left to Spain, then back to Argentina so technically he wasn't a foreign founder but for all intents and purposes he is our first founder who did not grow up in the country he helped found. He was a man that was both conservative and rational; not interested in politics yet ended up running a country, To this day he is possibly the most beloved character among all the revolutionaries of South America because of these qualities, during his day though, these qualities often caused him trouble because those around him were more focused on the things he thought of as fleeting. His name is José Francisco de San Martín y Matorras, but because I'm sure I'm offending you if you speak Spanish, I'll stick with San Martin.
At the time of his birth, in 1778, South America was ruled almost entirely by Spain, it had broken up South America into 4 regions and the heart of Spanish military power on the continent was in Peru. At this time Spain was suffering from an economy that had failed to modernize and was now face to face with the Revolutionary armies of France which had basically mobilized it's entire nation(something totally unheard of up to this point). Needless to say things were not going well for the Spanish in Europe.
Part of this lack of modernization in Spain was a government that seemed bent on taking things back to the good ole days of Spanish dominion. One way they tried to do this was by repealing a bunch of reforms that had been put in place in the colonies, especially in South America. Those reforms had been repealed as a way of getting more gold and materials flowing back into the mother country and at this point Spain needed everything it could get.
The most unpopular of these repealings was the law that had allowed the creole population to hold high office in the colonial government. At this time there were two kinds of colonists, peninsulars and creoles. The peninsulars were born in Spain and moved to the colony. Creoles were spanish but had been born in the colonies. They were originally considered second class Spanish but had been slowly granted more and more rights moving towards equality with the peninsulars. But these reforms had basically swept all that away. There was a quote from a high-ranking Spanish officer at the time who was opposed to the repealings. He's quoted in John Lynch's book on San Martin as saying: "it was not feasible to turn back, even it might have been profitable to do so. People endure with patience the lack of benefits they have not yet enjoyed; but granted that they have acquired them as of right and enjoyed the taste, they are not going to agree to have them taken away "
Now this may not have mattered too much except the creole's were a much larger part of the population than the peninsulars and so all around Buenos Aires any disgruntlement that had once been felt was now much stronger. The event that really made clear a change was needed was the British invasion of Buenos Aires which happened in two waves over the course of 1806 and 1087. In 1806, a British force landed in Buenos Aires and caught the Spanish authorities with troops elsewhere. The Viceroy(spanish governor) of the area fled the city with the treasury and basically left the citizens to the British. Eventually some spanish and some milita troops were brought in from a nearby city, Montevideo, and effectively trapped the British in the city where they eventually had to surrender.
After the first invasion the Viceroy was deposed by the now-ruling town hall of Buenos Aires and another Viceroy was eventually appointed. Also after the first invasion militias were formed in much larger numbers for fear the British would invade again. Soon after all this, the British invaded a second time and the people of the city; slaves, creoles, and some peninsulars formed up into their militia units and defeated the British. From this point on basically the whole 75,000 strong city was militarized and many of the men lead these units were creoles getting their first taste of renewed power at the head of military units. One of these leaders would go on to fight throughout the independence war, create the national flag, and be considered one of the fathers of Argentina, his name was Manuel Belgrano. He was one of the options for this episode but San Martin had a bigger presence in my interviews and polls so San Martin it is.
There was some discussion as to rebelling at this point but cooler heads prevailed and the city was handed back over to the next appointed viceroy from Spain. It continued on as a colony until 1810 when the Spanish capital was taken by Napolean in those European wars we talked about earlier. The citizens of the city took this as the fall of the kingdom and proclaimed that the viceroy no longer had authority to control the area. A ruling party was formed, took over Buenos Aires, and proclaimed control over the other parts of the region that Buenos Aires had once been the capital of. The other big cities in the region were uninterested in this so they pretty much just did their own things, they would resist and finally 3 of those cities would become the capital cities of Paraguay, Uruguay, and Bolivia.
San Martin sailed into town on a British Merchant ship having heard about the revolution and hoping to be a part of it. Where had he been? Why was he back? Let's step back in time and see who he is before we start his revolutionary career.
Pre-ReturnSan Martin was born in 1778, the son of a Spanish soldier and a native Indian, that meant he was a "creole". His father had been sent to be part of the garrison in this part of Argentina. He served there until he requested and was transferred back to Spain. San Martin was only 6 or 7 years old at the time but having a mother that was native, and then being seen as a "creole" during his time in Spain reinforced where he was from to him. He joined the military as a recruit at the age of 11 and and by the time he was 15 he was a Sub-Lieutenant in his unit.
During the course of the Coalition Wars, the wars involving coalitions against Revolutionary France, the Spanish were often on the losing end of things, first fighting against the French, then as a French vassal against the British, and then finally as British Allies against the French. During the course of all this San Martin fought against the Moors, the British, the Portuguese and finally the French and was twice captured. He grew a reputation for being a masterful organizer of men. He was promoted to adjutant-general and he gained a lot of valuable fighting experience in the mountains, as a marine on the sea, and especially with light infantry units. All of these would be skills he would put to work once he moved into South America. On the positive side of being vassals of the French he was taught the most modern styles of fighting from Revolutionary France and this would also serve him well.
During this point in the Coalition Wars, around 1808, Spain was divided between being a French vassal state and guerrillas/mobs fighting the French. San Martin was serving as an officer on the staff of a General who taught San Martin many of the new forms of fighting that had come down from the French and had become a kind of father figure for San Martin. At one point the mobs suspected the General as he had not yet made a decision on fighting with the rebellion or sticking with the French. The mobs were not happy with this and formed up outside the General's compound. San Martin was unable to save the General from the mob and the General was killed by the mob. San Martin was strongly affected by this and for his entire career we would see him doing everything he could to keep mob rule and anarchy from taking over, even when that meant going against his enlightenment lead ideas for governance.
In spite of this he did join up with the rebellion and was put in charge of the Cavalry but in 1811 he asked to retire, after 20 years in the Spanish Army, and was granted that. He moved first to London and there met many other creole patriots who were in the midst of heading back to South America to join the revolutions that were underway there. Francisco de Miranda had a house there that many of the famous revolutionaries from South America stayed at and it was here that he was plugged into the revolution.
In March of 1812, San Martin arrived in Buenos Aires, he was 34 years old and without much in the way of connections. Many of the revolutionaries were coming back because their families owned large plots of land in the area or they had other connections to people in the country. But San Martin had left when he was very young and so he had only the short time he had spent at Miranda's house to connect him into the Revolution on top of that he was a former Spanish Army officer so there was some suspicion as to just what he was doing there in Buenos Aires.
This would be the beginning of his ongoing problems with the central government in Buenos Aires. Throughout the revolution and even after, during the Civil War, the government was a chaotic place with no one really being able to control the territory they claimed was their's and in-fighting in abundance. Because of all the complications there we are going to stay out of all that happened with that as it would take a few hours to explain and we are focused on San Martin. So I may mention when the government changes AGAIN but that will be about it because of the special road San Martin set himself on.
He did have one friend who had connections and those connections helped him get put in charge of creating a cavalry unit for the Revolutionary army there. He put all of his experience to the task and was able to create a strong cavalry corps. Among his men, he was known as an extreme disciplinarian but was loved because he made sure his men were taken care of.
The Spanish held some cities near the mouth of the Parano River, that river we mentioned way back in the beginning and had been riding boats up and down the river raiding the west side, which was revolution land. In February of 1813, San Martin and his cavalry were dispatched to try to put a stop to this but soon after being dispatched he found that those who dispatched him had not prepared what was needed to transport them along the way. This would becoming a running problem for most of the Argentine forces as the central government was just so chaotic and often lacked focus.
While they were waiting for everything to be prepared a royalist force was sailing towards the town of San Lorenzo to raid it. It seems they were headed to the convent there to nab the town treasury. San Martin's cavalry finally got their supplies and left out on a grueling charge across county, because of the speed of their movement they were able to surprise the raiders who were not expecting to find much in the way of resistance. The cavalry surrounded the raiders and took many of them prisoner. During the fighting San Martin's horse was shot out from under him and while he was trapped under his horse a royalist soldier tried to kill him but a few of his soldiers saved him. So his first battle in Argentina was very nearly his last. This was not a huge battle just fighting raiders but it was San Martin's first chance to show what his cavalry could do and they did not disappoint.
In later 1813 San Martin was ordered to take over command of the Army of the North which had just been beaten badly near what was called "Upper Peru" but we know today as Bolivia. This army had been lead by Manuel Belgrano who was really more of an intellectual than a soldier but had been thrust into leadership because of his popularity. Belgrano will go on to be one of the most beloved figures in Argentine history, the thing most people know him for was the creation of the Argentine flag which is still used today, but he did much more that we don't have time to go into(maybe if we get back around to a second episode on Argentina!).
Anyways back to our story, Martin was tasked with taking over the army from him but was loathe to do so for many reasons, one of which was San Martin's respect for the man's focus on fighting for the good of his country rather than the bickering going on back in Buenos Aires. Eventually he was forced to do so by the higher-ups but Belgrano would continue to be his close counsel while Martin was in the area and they would be allies from this point on. Belgrano even submitted himself to San Martin's officer training program with the other officers although this must have been very difficult personally. But his desire to help his country outweighed his pride, which must have been wounded by all of this. While this was going on, there were other problems brewing in the south at the capital.
Buenos Aires is situated on the south side of the "Rio De La Plata" which is basically a large bay. On the north side of this was Montevideo, that royalist city that had been sending raiding parties up the Parano River, which empties out into the Rio De La Plata. Well, fighting had gotten pretty intense around the bay and so most of the resources that Buenos Aires had were flowing into that region instead of elsewhere.
Because of this, San Martin had to began re-appropriating the taxes from the northern regions that were meant for Buenos Aires in order to pay his army. He called it "obey but not fulfill" as he felt he had to do this to keep his army in the field to be able to defend the north. The leader of the current 3rd government in Buenos Aires wrote him a letter back that said "let us overlook for now the obey but not comply, for if obeying means leaving you in trouble, the not complying leaves me looking like a stupid swine here."
The Army of the North was facing a Spanish army that was well able to defend Upper Peru from any attack and was threatening to invade into Argentine territory. Even with the extra money that was being redirected things were stretched thin. Thankfully for the Argentines, Belgrano helped San Martin understand the locals in the area and was able to bring the much more conservative northern civilians into agreement with Buenos Aires enough to where they were willing to become more integrated into the military and civilian apparatus coming out of Buenos Aires.
With this situation improving, San Martin began grooming Martin Miguel de Guemes, the leader of the local guerrilla forces, to take over the defense of the north. Guemes had a sweet beard and a heroic story of defending his home province. He fought as a guerrilla for from 1815-1820 in the province. Repelling the Spanish, pushing back 3 invasions, sometimes with help from Buenos Aires and sometimes without. He fought against aggressors from other regions during the Argentine Civil War as well. Eventually a Spanish agent subverted some of the upperclass into accepting Spanish rule again. As Guemes fled the capital city he was shot in the back but he still managed to make it to his guerrilla camp before dying and issued a dying order to take the capital city back. And just like in braveheart, they threw the remains of his manly beard into the middle of the city and his men fought like warrior poets and won back their province from the Spanish. Well they did take back the province from the Spanish maybe it didn't happen exactly like Braveheart..anyways...... FREEEDOOOOMMMMMM
Back to the present, eventually Guemes took over the defenses and San Martin asked for and was granted a post as governor of Cuyo. This was a kind of out of the way province in the far west of the region and seemed like a move in the wrong direction for someone looking to make an impact in the revolution. But it was the beginnings of San Martin's moves on a strategic level. San Martin had made a plan that he hoped would result in freedom of all South America from Spanish control and being the governor of Cuyo was the first big step.
And that's my first cliff-hanger, I hope you enjoy it. With some of these founders there is just a lot more information available to where 30-minutes is really pushing it to do a decent job of telling the story. So I may be doing more and more of these double episodes as resources dictate. I'm not actually having to invest much extra time into making them as resources are so abundant that I am just spending less time on finding them and more time reading, writing and recording. If you think the double episodes are just a little too much for you and you prefer 30-minute versions shoot me a message and let me know, if that seems like a better way I'll probably create a separate podcast feed with the longer double-episodes for people who want that.
If you are enjoying the show please feel free to message me on twitter, facebook, tiktok, reddit, email, the website at lang4life.com/founders, or just send me a carrier pigeon. The website as usual will have some visuals as well as information about other things going on. I look forward to speaking to you again next time, which should be sometime before next Tuesday to finish off Argentina and San Martin.