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Saint Martin: the guri of Yapeyú

The first Argentine years of the Liberator of America. Fathers warriors and religious, aboriginal friends who will never forget and an origin that is still debated

San Martín

 The San Martín's stay in the Rio de la Plata was not as expected.   The economic and social progress in the twenty years lived and suffered, between the Eastern Band, Corrientes and Buenos Aires, rusted the prestige dreams of the son of humble farmers from Palencia, in Castilla La Vieja,  Juan de San Martín, father of the Father of the Fatherland, Don Jos& eacute; from San Martin. Even though they did not return poorer, the little fortune obtained with efforts in these pampas quickly dissipated on the return to Cádiz in April 1784.   With a little more than six years he traveled to Europe, in the frigate “Santa Balbina”, and surrounded by military disenchanted with the New World  , Joseph Francis, who would make the reverse path in March 1812, both geographical and spiritual, as he always felt united to the red earth Correntina. The ideals of freedom and emancipation of his Latin American brothers, and also of order and sacrifice, could have sprouted from the evenings under the fig tree with the maid  Rosa Guarú, and playing in the company of little Guaraní, Creollos and mestizos friends . Although Saint Martin himself referred little to the early years, the subsequent libertarian gesture, and iron unity with his compatriots, demonstrate that “ instinct of race” praised Mitre. And it all began in a  humble house in Yapeyú on February 25, 1778.   

Arrived in Spanish America in the times of the violent expulsion of the Jesuits, and after a brief step in Buenos Aires training the Militia Battalion with the techniques of the Spanish grenadiers, standing out in the “instruction and discipline”, and promoted to lieutenant by the Viceroy Cevallos,  Juan de San Martín was destined in 1767 to Calera de las Vacas in the Oriental Band —present-day Uruguay, a thriving livestock enclave of Jesuit missions. There he performed a commendable work of administration and military defense in the face of the progress of the Portuguese.   At the age of three, he married Gregoria Matorras, also Palentiana, in October and cousin of the governor of Tucumán, in a ceremony held in the Buenos Aires Cathedral in absentia. Only a month later the husbands would join and Maria Elena, Manuel Tadeo and Juan Fermin would be born before the family was moved to a new pole of the expelled order, now on the other side of the Uruguay River, Yapeyú.

When we talk about Yapeyú (“ripe fruit” in Guaraní), the people founded as “Our Lady of the Three Magi” by the Jesuits Santa Cruz and Romero on February 4, 1627 is generally understood.  But it encompassed a huge territory of 5,000 leagues, one of the three provinces of the Rio de la Plata, comprising Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.   With enormous forest riches, strategically coveted by the Portuguese and smugglers,  the San Martín family arrives in 1775, with Juan under the post of lieutenant governor of the department that included the villages — or reductions, as they were called those that were inhabited by abor. iacute; genes - from La Cruz, San Francisco de Borja and Sao Tome — and eventually the father of San Martín would founded Paysandú.   During his tenure, the now captain San Martín installed furnaces, built bridges, opened schools and raised a Dominican chapel —along with Gregoria were strong devotes-, which would be José Francisco's baptismal site on March 1, 1778. And he developed a great civilizing task with 550 Guarani who personally instructed, both in letters and weapons, “to  egercite  with a skill that nothing  abentates  them to the arranged troop,” he forwarded the reports to Governor Vertiz the captain from “ Village of Yapey & uacute; de Indios dela Nación Guaraní  2, November 1777” In the nine-room L-shaped house, gable roof, stone and urunday, Dona Gregoria waited for Benjamin de los San Martín, Joseph — from which the ruins are preserved under a Temple.  

“We see, therefore, early riser Dona Gregoria in Yapeyú”, fictional sketch by Arturo Capdevila about the mother of the Libertador, daughter of a traditional Castilian family from the Villa de Paredes Nava, and of whom little is known, “early riser and vigilante, short bed and a lot of needle (before José Justo was born Rufino in 1776, five stems), looking through the house and the garden. His mass, perhaps the dawn, and his breakfast, then, with all his... hardworking and tireless, delighting in the glory of the morning, taking care of the plant and attending to the animal, the bird and the flower. We always imagine her of a kind presence and gentle treatment”, imagine who accompanied the advices, and serious diseases, of her husband in America and Europe. Gregoria who met her husband practically on his wedding day.

 Indian Aires in the largest Creole in the New World  

 “ Yapeyú was a true city with five thousand inhabitants ,” says French geographic Martín de Moussy in the mid-nineteenth century, during the period that began its repopulation due to the abandonment after the Portuguese looting of 1817, “capital that was of all the Missions in the time of the fathers of the Society of Jesus... the walls of the church, those of the school, the walls of the fathers room and of the warehouses and warehouses can be recognized. The row of houses that formed the square, was sheltered by a double gallery supported by urunday wooden pillars, the best that can be found in the region. These pillars settled on very well worked red stone cubes (sprinkling) and some pillars are still standing - still several are perfect in archaeological searches... the trees -planted by the Jesuits - gave shade to the maneuver square, where the Indians developed their games and exercises”, in a bucolic postcard that little José traveled by the hand of his brothers, parents and the Guaraní maid Rosa  - although the time San Martín remained in Corrientes is under discussion, some point a little more than three years, others place Gregoria and her children in Buenos Aires in mid-1780, anticipating Juan's arrival in Buenos Aires in 1781 “His childhood companions were the little Indians and mestizos on whose side he began to decipher the alphabet in the democratic school of the people of Yapeyú” sketches Bartolomé ; Mitre of the subtropical hours of Guri José, under the historic fig tree that unfortunately collapsed in 1986.

 The above-mentioned figure of the maid also opens one of the most tricky national discussions: the mestizo or Spanish origin of San Martín . A dispute that is nothing new, already in life San Martín was called “tape (aindiado) of Yapeyú” and the realists “Indian missionary”, then Vicente Fidel López slips his “notorious” Guarani features, and closer, Hugo Chumbita and José Ignacio García Hamilton reafimated the mestizo hypothesis and were aggressively attacked.

On the one hand are the records of the children of marriage to incorporate the exclusionary and racist Spanish militia, the men of the San Martín family continued their arms, where it is stated that “ all ascendants and descendants have been old Christians, clean of all bad race of Moors, heretics and Judges. iacute; again converted to our Catholic faith and who have not been prosecuted by the Holy Office of the Inquisition” It is pertinent that the father of San Martín must sign this affidavit for the entry of Joseph less than eleven years into the Regiment of Murcia,  giving the possibility of a brilliant military career that in 33 years would fight for land and sea, and emancipate half the continent.

 The other version is on paper early in the first biography that would transform Saint Martin into bronze . Mitre in 1887 claims that Saint Martin's mother allegedly claimed that John's widow (died in 1796) that “Joseph was the son who had brought him the least cost” and adds with a little malice, “Cheap son, as later was a cheap hero, his natural mother like his mother ci Vica, they only gave her breast the milk needed to nourish her heroic fiber! “  There was already rumour that San Martín was the bastard son of Diego de Alvear, a rich sailor from the Crown and father of the Liberator's intimate enemy, Carlos María de Alvear, and a Guarani, conceived during a brief stay of Spaniard in Yapeyú. Many even argue that the famous Rosa was actually her birth mother  and that the San Martín had promised to look for her to stay in Buenos Aires. Something that never happened. Elderly and centenary learned of the Liberator's death by a soldier from the War against Paraguay, according to Adrián Pignatelli, and  asked to be buried with a reliquary with the image allegedly of her son, José de San Martín.  

Other indications of the mestizo and Creole blood of San Martín are found in the chronology of the ancestors left by Joaquina de Alvear in 1877 and where he claims that his grandfather, Diego, had a son with a native Correntina, and that he was General San Martín.  More background means the famous dialogue with the Pehuenche Indians before the Andes Cross, for some a brilliant intelligence maneuver, for others a failed deal, and where the Liberator told them that he was Indian like them and that he fought against the Spaniards for the lands they had stolen. Let us not forget that Saint Martin promoted the Quechua translation of the Independence Act.   Chapters that are added to a never ending dispute, even came to request a DNA from the remains of the patriot that rest in the  Metropolitan Cathedral .  Whatever the origin, a mestizo and Creole cradle, mixed breed (mestizo) was contemptuously told in Santiago de Chile, would undoubtedly give greater vergardura to the sanmartinian gesture because it also had to overcome the prejudices of the time. By the way they would consolidate its roots and American projection.   And they would bring him closer to the human being, one who threw up hours before epic battles and consumed narcotics for his pains, perhaps to the horror of the usual reactionaries.

Returning to the San Martín family, in particular Juan's management was brilliant in Yapeyú, a flourishing economic center of leathers, yerbatero and cotton, until at the end of 1778 an indigenous rebellion occurred and several cattle were lost.  Although the insurgents were prosecuted, Viceroy Vertiz displaced Captain San Martín and entrusted him with the militias in Buenos Aires in the face of an eventual English attack in 1781.   He barely survives in February of that same year from a sudden illness and moves the family to a large house on Calle Piedras, between Moreno and Belgrano - it is hardly known that the servant was a black man named José. They also own a small house in Venezuela, between Tacuarí and Bernardo de Yrigoyen. Both would be missold in 1791 already in Spain when family accounts were pressed; and a modest position of supernumerary assistant to Malaga square end with Juan's dreams for an appointment of lieutenant colonel - and his wishes to return to America. From the Buenos Aires years, it is known that he began his instruction with Nicolás Rodríguez Peña, a Mayo patriot who would collaborate with the Army of the Andes, and Gregorio Gómez Orchejo, who brought revolutionary dreams in  chasqui  to Chile. And not much more,  with Viceroy Vertiz's relay, his father would be out of work and the San Martín embark to Europe.   There, the first pages of sanmartinian glory still blank.

 Yapeyu in the sanmartinian soul 

It is difficult to know the memories that the Liberator had about the heroic 550 Guaraní that Juan de San Martín had instructed to defend himself from the hardened terrauas and minuans, armed by the Portuguese imperials, and estimated to exceed ten thousand in the region. What he sure knew about his father were the anecdotes of a thousand burdens and skirmishes, in a family with a long military tradition that went back to grandparents, and recognized the bravery of his countrymen. That is why it is not surprising that on August 18, 1812, the commander of the brand new Argentine Grenaderos asked the  government of the United Provinces of Rio de la Plata  to  recruit 300 Guaraní with the called of a “countryman of his terroir”, “because of his confidence in them, in order to provide them with glory; that, like all other Americans, they contribute weapons to the attainment of freedom of the Fatherland ”, transported the signature of Bernardino Rivadavia the Sanmartinian wishes.

 And the Guarani Grenadiers did not disappoint the Grand Captain from Salta to Ayacucho, even stood out in the War against Brazil, and were decisive in the battle of Ituzaingó. Santiago Guaichá, Lorenzo Napurey, Serapio Taperovy (born in Yapeyú and who avoided a realistic uprising in Rancagua) and Miguel Chepoyá, the Guaraní Trumpet of Freedom who fought with San Martín, Belgrano, Rondeau, Bolivar and Sucre throughout Hispanoamerica,  are some of the courageous children of the original peoples who dreamed of the Fatherland Grande, free, sovereign, incorruptible and fraternal. And they never failed the  Father of the Fatherland,  did you?


Sources:  The Glory of Yapeyú.   Sanmartinian National Institute. Buenos Aires. 1978; Busaniche, J. L.  Saint Martin alive.   Buenos Aires: Eudeba. 1963;ÍA%20BAZÁN%20.pdf ;

Publication Date: 25/02/2021

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We suggest you continue reading the following notes:

San martín Saint Martin, the military of peace
¿Por qué San Martín es nuestro héroe máximo? Why is Saint Martin our ultimate hero?



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