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Sunday, August 14, 2011

El Libertador - Lima





One of my historical heroes is Argentine General Jose de San Martin. Not long ago I featured a park in Riobamba, Ecuador where Argentine troops fought to secure Ecuadorian freedom. Recently I had the opportunity to go with sumajhuarmi and see Plaza San Martin in the center of Lima, Peru. Why a big statue of Jose de San Martin in Lima? It's because San Martin, known as the Liberator or "El Libertador", played a key role in the independence of three South American countries: his native Argentina, Chile and Peru. After several failed attempts by Argentine liberation forces to defeat Royalist forces in the high plains of Bolivia, San Martin conceived the strategy of taking Lima, Peru from the Pacific Ocean instead of overland through Bolivia (then part of Peru). To do this required he secure Chile first. After several significant battles in Chile they succeeded in driving the Spanish Royalist out of Chile and moved north by sea to Peru. They landed in the southern coastal city of Pisco where they based for several months in early 1821. While there San Martin organized and recruited Peruvians to the cause of independence. Instead of marching on Lima he sough a diplomatic approach to establishing an independent Peru. The Vice Regent for Spain would not agree to San Martin's proposal of an independent Peru so after several months he began his move to take Lima. Liberation troops from several countries (Argentina, Chile, Venezuela, Colombia and Peru) established two fronts, one to the north of Lima and one to the south. Additionally they blockaded the port of Callao so that little to no supplies could enter the city. Soon the Spanish Royalist retreated into the mountains leaving Lima to the liberation forces of San Martin. On 28 July 1821 Peruvian independence was declared from the center of Lima by Jose de San Martin. Was it all over yet? No. Royalist forces moved into the Cusco area where they held out for a few years more. In the mean time liberation forces under the direction of Venezuelan General Simon Bolivar continued to fight for Ecuador's freedom. Both San Martin and Simon Bolivar met briefly in Guayaquil, Ecuador to discuss the path forward. A great mystery surrounds their meeting. It was evident that they did not see eye to eye but little more was ever said about their meeting. San Martin departed for Peru and soon returned to Argentina, leaving the final battles in the hands of Bolivar's generals. San Martin returned to Argentina but soon found that fighting among those who had fought for independence put Argentina in great turmoil. The political situation was such that he departed Argentina for France where he lived the rest of his life. With the exception of one short visit to Argentina he did not participate in the Argentine political or social life again. San Martin is a great hero, the George Washington figure of South America. In the plaza that bears his name you can find a geocache called El Libertador (GC31EJ6). It requires some stealth to find without being discovered. Be sure to check out the equestrian statue of Jose de San Martin in the center of the plaza. Congratulations to Funbiker for the FTF! Latin America needs some more quick FTF finders! This one only took a little under a week!
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