José Francisco de San Martín y Matorras (25 February 1778 – 17 August 1850), known simply as José de San Martín (Spanish: ) or El Libertador of Argentina, Chile and Peru, was an Argentine general and the prime leader of the southern part of South America's successful struggle for independence from the Spanish Empire who served as the Protector of Peru. Born in Yapeyú, Corrientes, in modern-day 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 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 was the fifth and last son of Juan de San Martín, an unsuccessful Spanish soldier, and Gregoria Matorras del Ser. He was born in Yapeyú, Corrientes, an Indian reduction of Guaraní people. The exact year of his birth is disputed, as there are no records of his baptism. Later documents formulated during his life, such as passports, military career records and wedding documentation, gave him varying ages. Most of these documents point to his year of birth as either 1777 or 1778. The family moved to Buenos Aires in 1781, when San Martín was three or four years old.
Juan requested to be transferred to Spain, leaving the Americas in 1783. The family settled in Madrid, but as Juan was unable to earn a promotion, they moved to Málaga. Once in the city, San Martín enrolled in Málaga's school of temporalities, beginning his studies in 1785. It is unlikely that he finished the six-year-long elementary education, before he enrolled in the Regiment of Murcia in 1789, when he reached the required age of 11. He began his military career as a cadet in the Murcian Infantry Unit.