Born in 1778, José de San Martín was an Argentine general and one of the most important leaders of southern South America's struggle for independence from Spanish rule.
Born in Argentina, he spent much of his childhood in Spain, where he studied. It was in Madrid that he met and befriended Chilean Bernardo O'Higgins. At the age of 11, José de San Martín began his military career in the Regiment of Murcia, in Spain. From there he demonstrated his talents and quickly moved up the ranks. His first military campaigns were in Africa, and his success led to promotions. He participated in the Peninsular War, in which Spain was fighting against Napoleon's forces for Spanish independence from France. It was after this time that he began getting in contact with people supporting independence from Spain in South America.
He set off for Buenos Aires and offered his expertise to the cause, and he quickly found himself in a leadership role. He would go on to inspire widespread independence movements, garner support from the people, raise large armies, lead successful campaigns and win battles against the Spanish in Argentina, Chile and Peru. For his efforts, he is not only Argentina's national hero but is considered, along with Simón Bolívar, one of the liberators of South America.