Pasar al contenido principal
Museo Histórico Nacional

Revolution Time - English translations

A journey centered on the period between the May Revolution of 1810 and the consolidation of the South American independencies during the following decade. It displays outstanding objects of these defining years and concludes with General José de San Martín’s saber

<< back to menu <<

Revolution Time

[ EN 400 ]

The exile of San Martín

In 1824, a few months after the death of his wife Remedios de Escalada, San Martín and his daughter Mercedes left for Europe and settled in Brussels. He tried to return to Buenos Aires in 1829, but his arrival coincided with the civil war triggered by the execution of Governor Manuel Dorrego. 

San Martín was thus too upset to sail home from Montevideo. He then returned to Brussels, never to come back to South America.

In 1830 a revolution began to free Belgium from the Netherlands. The Belgian rebels offered San Martín the military command, but he refused it. He moved to France and settled in Grand Bourg, a quiet suburb of Paris. In 1848, due to the beginning of a revolution in Paris, he moved to the coastal town of Boulogne-sur-Mer, where he died on August 17, 1850.

San Martín’s remains were brought to the Cathedral of Buenos Aires in 1880. He came to be celebrated by the national State as the main hero of Argentine history. The National Museum of History has gathered an important collection of his personal belongings to be exhibited and preserved.

[ EN 402 ]

San Martín's room in Boulogne-sur-Mer

The furniture, objects and works of art exhibited here belonged to General San Martín.

His granddaughter Josefa Balcarce donated them to the museum in 1899 at the request of Adolfo Carranza, its first director. Josefa’s donation was made on condition that San Martín’s furniture should be exhibited exactly as it was laid out in his home, according to her own handmade sketch.

Federico Santa Coloma, director of the museum in the 1930s, replicated the room where San Martín died, with the collaboration of the Argentine consul in Boulogne-sur-Mer. The front door, the internal door, the windows, the marble stove, and the wood panelling of the walls were reproduced with “absolute fidelity.” The exhibition opened in 1935.

[ EN 404 ]

The room in Boulogne-sur-Mer

San Martín’s dream

Sofía Posadas was inspired by the personal belongings of San Martín exhibited in this museum and encouraged by director Adolfo P. Carranza for this painting.

San Martín is shown dreaming about leading a battle, surrounded by the Andes mountains. The artist used San Martín’s 1848 daguerreotype as a base, along with the bedroom furniture, the seascapes, and the inkwell from the Inquisition of Lima, also exhibited in the museum.

Posadas dared to address themes that gender conventions of her time assigned to male artists only, such as female nudes and the heroes’ stories.

Sofía Posadas. Oil on canvas, 1900.

[ EN 408 ]

Revolution time

After a long period of crisis, the year 1808 saw the start of the fall of the Spanish empire.

For decades, Europe and the Americas had been experiencing the "age of revolutions", which found a new fertile territory throughout the Spanish-American colonies.

Who should rule and why was open to debate. Traditional hierarchies were challenged. After years of war, several independent republics emerged, such as present-day Argentina.

[ EN 410 ]

History of a prisoner king

Discontent prevailed in Spain in 1808, as it became increasingly dependent on Bonaparte’s French Empire. An uprising in March made King Charles IV abdicate the throne in favour of his son, Ferdinand VII, who held different views. But Napoleon intervened and forced Ferdinand to restore his father to the throne. Charles, in turn, appointed Napoleon, who finally appointed his own brother, Joseph Bonaparte, as king of Spain. Ferdinand VII was then imprisoned by the French, who occupied part of Spain.

Many Spaniards rejected Joseph Bonaparte, arguing that the people would exercise the sovereignty they had given to their legitimate king, Ferdinand VII, until he regained the throne. Juntas, or boards (collective government organs formed by public servants and distinguished vecinos, local residents) were created in various cities in Ferdinand’s name. The Central Board of Seville led all the other boards against the French.

In Spanish America, the news awakened anti-French feelings and the will for autonomy. Some boards were created in the name of Ferdinand VII here too, but were rapidly repressed by the colonial authorities.

[ EN 411 ]

Allegorical portrait of Ferdinand VII

A Spanish lion bites a French eagle which spits soldiers into a bonfire fuelled by a man wearing majo clothes, a popular Spanish outfit contrary to the French style.

A parallel is drawn between Ferdinand VII and Ferdinand II, or Ferdinand the Catholic, the prestigious founder of the Spanish monarchy along with his wife Queen Isabella in the late 15th century.

The Napoleonic men were considered enemies of religion due to the measures taken by the French Revolution against the Church.

 Unknown author. Enlarged lithograph, 1808.

[ EN 412 ]

Allegorical portrait of Ferdinand VII (F855)

Portraits of the imprisoned king combined with battle allegories multiplied thanks to the new printing techniques. In this one, a soldier holds up the British flag, since the United Kingdom collaborated with Spain as from 1808. A Hispanic lion bites a Napoleonic eagle hovering over a woman wearing a chained liberty cap, a symbol of France.

The French authorities ordered these images to be confiscated to prevent their circulation.

Anonymous. Lithograph, 1808.

[ EN 413 ]

The eagle and the lion

The war in Spain was also a fight for symbols. Napoleon’s empire was represented by an eagle on banners and medals awarded for good performance, such as the one displayed below. When the Spanish defeated the French in the battle of Bailén, Spaniards who stood out in the fight were rewarded with a badge with an eagle placed upside down.

Due to its strength, speed and accuracy, the eagle had been a reference for the military since ancient history. The Roman Republic adopted the eagle for the standards of its legions during the 1st century BC. At the time of the empire, the Roman aquila expanded over Europe as the main symbol for imperial domination. In the Middle Ages, Charlemagne used the eagle as an emblem of his empire. Napoleon himself took it up when he became emperor in 1804.

The image of the lion representing sovereignty, strength, courage, and justice has also been employed by a number of cultures throughout history. In the 12th century it was adopted as a symbol by the Kingdom of León, one of the states on the Iberian Peninsula which later merged with the Kingdom of Castile, which went on to include the lion on its coat of arms. In the 19th century it was considered the oldest Spanish emblem.

[ EN 414 ]

Federico Brandsen’s Napoleonic Legion of Honour medal

Napoleon created the Legion of Honour, an order based on merit. His goal was to form a new elite according to "service to the country." One side of this medal shows the profile of Napoleon, and the other, an eagle.

Brandsen was a French military man who was awarded this medal. Later, in 1817, he moved to the River Plate area and fought in San Martín’s army.

Enamelled silver and gold.

[ EN 415 ]

Medal given to José de San Martín after the Battle of Bailén

In 1808 San Martín was a captain in the Spanish army. Because he excelled in the battle against the French army, he was awarded this medal with crowns and sabres over an inverted eagle, the symbol of the Napoleonic empire.

Enamelled gold.

[ EN 416 ]

Facing the crisis

Three choices emerged in the Viceroyalty of the River Plate when the crisis in the core of the Spanish Empire arose.

During the king’s absence, Manuel Belgrano and Hipólito Vieytes, among other personalities who had been pushing for reforms to develop the American territories, tried to form an autonomous government. They proposed to appoint Carlota Joaquina as regent. Carlota was Ferdinand VII’s sister, married to the prince regent of Portugal, who had fled to Brazil after Napoleon invaded Portugal. Nevertheless, the project failed because her connection to the Portuguese crown was rejected.

Another choice was to create boards in the name of Ferdinand, as was done in Spain. In 1808 a board was created in Montevideo disowning Buenos Aires, the Viceroyalty’s capital, but the Central Board of Seville ordered to close it. In 1809 members of the Buenos Aires Cabildo tried to create a new board to take power away from Viceroy Liniers. However, the Buenos Aires militias stood up for Liniers and the attempt failed. Two other boards were created in 1809 in the cities of Chuquisaca and La Paz (in Upper Perú, present-day Bolivia). They turned against the colonial authorities and Spain before they were repressed by troops sent from the viceroyalties of Peru and the River Plate.

The final option, to maintain the status quo, with the colonial authorities now obeying the Central Board of Spain, prevailed, but not for long.

[ EN 417 ]

Portrait of Ferdinand VII done in the River Plate

Since none of the Spanish monarchs had ever travelled to the Americas, they were only present in the colonies through their portraits. The engraving technique made the king’s image portable and brought it close.

This portrait of Ferdinand VII was done in Buenos Aires to celebrate his accession to the throne on August 21, 1808. The author was Juan de Dios Rivera, descendant of the Peruvian indigenous nobility, who would later design some of the symbols of the River Plate Revolution.

Juan de Dios Rivera. Engraving, 1808.

[ EN 418 ]

Mariano Moreno’s cigarette case with the inscription “Long live King Ferdinand VII”

As from 1808 Buenos Aires tended to support Ferdinand VII. So did Moreno, a lawyer in the Cabildo. He defended Martín de Álzaga, mayor and hero of the 1807 defence during the British invasion, after the failed uprising which Álzaga led in 1809 to replace Viceroy Liniers with a board under the slogan “Long live Ferdinand VII, down with bad government.” Moreno’s endorsement of the king can also be seen in this cigarette case. However, soon afterwards he would change his position.

Wooden structure covered with straw marquetry.

[ EN 419 ]

“From this day on, revolution.” May 1810.

The French army defeated the Spanish resistance in early 1810. The Central Board of Seville was dissolved and almost all of Spain remained in Napoleon’s hands.

When news of the collapse reached Buenos Aires, a cabildo abierto (open town council) gathered to discuss what to do. It was voted that since there was no government in Spain, the viceroy should be replaced by a local board. The viceroy tried to resist and stay as the board leader, but on May 25 a popular demonstration supported by the city militias forced him to resign. A board with no colonial officials was appointed.

The project of those who came to power was to elect their own authorities, manage their economy and no longer depend on Spain. They sought a federal monarchy in which locals and Europeans would be equal. They wanted to govern themselves until Ferdinand VII regained his throne, if he ever did, and then maintain their autonomy under the king's wing. In the words of a revolutionary, "To emancipate the colonies from the tyranny of the mother country and preserve them as a great and flourishing state for the legitimate representative of the Spanish monarchy."

[ EN 420 ]

Baltasar Hidalgo de Cisneros sword

Cisneros, a prominent military man, was appointed as viceroy of the River Plate in 1809. In a critical economic situation, he lifted the ban on free trade with foreigners to obtain funds.

On May 18, 1810, Cisneros publicly confirmed the news brought to Buenos Aires by British ships: Spain had fallen. 

The year 1787 is engraved on the blade and a lion is carved on the hilt.

Double-edged steel blade and ebony wood handle with ivory inlays.

[ EN 421 ]

Seal of Benito Lué y Riega, bishop of Buenos Aires

In the open town council of May 22 the votes were publicly stated. The first to vote was Bishop Lué, who favoured the continuation of the Viceroy. Lué argued that Latin America should owe obedience to any Spaniard free from French domination. Other members of the Church, however, voted to remove the Viceroy.

After May 25 the board deprived Lué of his functions.

Carved in bronze.

[ EN 422 ]

Invitations to the open town council of May 22, 1810

More than 400 prominent neighbours were invited to the open cabildo [town council], all of them white male Spanish property owners born both in Europe and in Latin America.

Of the 251 men who attended, 162 voted to remove Cisneros and 64 voted to support him.

These invitations belonged to Diego Agüero and Pedro Díaz de Vivar. Both distrusted the movement against the Viceroy, so neither participated in the cabildo. Díaz de Vivar justified his absence on the grounds that it was raining. Agüero, a merchant, used the invitation paper to do sums.

Printed and manuscript paper.

[ EN 423 ]

Mariano Moreno’s inkwell

Mariano Moreno was secretary both of government and of war on the new board. Every initiative passed through his pen. He started an official newspaper, The Buenos-Ayres Gazette, and a library. He also published his own translation of Rousseau's Social Contract.

This planet-shaped inkwell, which Moreno used for his writings, was popular during the reign of George III of England.

Wrought laminated silver with glass jars, Roberts, Cadman & Co, Sheffield, England, about. 1810.

[ EN 424 ]

Popular petition

On the night of May 24, 1810, this petition circulated around Buenos Aires. It demanded, “in the name of the people,” that the cabildo should form a board of nine specific members and send a military expedition to the north so that the towns could elect their own representatives to the board.

The document carried 409 signatures. It was presented on May 25, accompanied by a demonstration. The cabildo had to agree to the requests in the petition.

[ EN 425 ]

The paper bears stamps which account for their manufacture between 1802 and 1803, and a stamp of the "reign of Ferdinand VII." The colonial administration collected taxes for this type of stamped paper used for official procedures. The sheets were made in Málaga, Barcelona, etc.

The signatures are written with different kinds of ink, indicating that the document circulated among different people.

[ EN 426 ]

The first to sign were leaders of the militias formed after the British invasions. Their support was critical, since they operated the only armed forces in town.

Alongside the signatures of prominent agitators Antonio French and Domingo Beruti, the phrase "On my name and on behalf of six hundred others" refers to the men from the lower classes and from the militias who could not sign because they were illiterate. Few people had access to education.

[ EN 427 ]

One native leader from Lima who had travelled to Buenos Aires to meet with the Viceroy and then to Spain signed in the manner of the authorities: "I, cacique Don José Minoyulle." On certain occasions, the leaders of the indigenous communities who were part of the colonial system travelled to the Viceroy’s seat to make their demands.

Sealed handwritten laid paper. A copy is exhibited for conservation reasons.

[ EN 428 ]

Board problems and decisions

As soon as it was created, the board took two main measures. First, it summoned the main cities of the Viceroyalty to join. Then, it turned the militias of Buenos Aires into a regular army and sent a military expedition to the North to guarantee adherence to the Revolution and to control the strategic mining region of Upper Peru (present-day Bolivia).

Most of the cities agreed to recognize the Buenos Aires board, except for Montevideo, Asunción, Córdoba, and several others in Upper Peru. The military expedition from Buenos Aires defeated the counterrevolutionaries in Córdoba and captured their leader, Liniers, a former hero of the British invasions. The board decided to execute him. That was a turning point. The Revolutionary army went on to achieve another victory and to occupy the whole of Upper Peru.

Meanwhile, two opposing movements emerged within the board: a moderate trend, around President Cornelio Saavedra, and one aiming for more profound changes, led by Secretary Mariano Moreno. The people loved Ferdinand VII, Moreno wrote, but he had no right to be their king because Spain had conquered the continent by force. The inhabitants of the Americas had not consented to domination, and violence gave Spain no rights. Moreno, therefore, already had the idea of complete independence.

[ EN 431 ]

Gervasio Antonio de Posadas’s cane

The Assembly of 1813 abolished the Triumvirate to centralize the executive power on a single person: the Supreme Director, equivalent to what would later be a president. Posadas was the first to hold that position, in January 1814. During his one-year term, he appointed San Martín as governor of Cuyo, promoted the creation of a fleet, and confronted the emerging federalism in the Littoral region. Posadas resigned in early 1815 and was replaced by his nephew Alvear.

Indian shot. Ivory handle.

[ EN 432 ]

Times of conflict

A civil war broke out in 1810 between the supporters of the board and its opponents. Only those who were already living in the American continent participated—Spain was not able send hardly any reinforcements as it was fighting against the French. Over the years, the conflict evolved into a long, harsh war for independence which devastated the economy and changed the lives of the entire population.

At first, both sides claimed that they were fighting for the king and the motherland. But in 1814 Ferdinand VII returned to the throne and the Revolutionaries began to fight against him. Now it was "Patriots" against "Royalists". Not only most Spaniards but also many Spanish Americans (criollos) fought for the king.

Between 1810 and 1815 the war was mainly fought on two fronts. In the North, the Revolutionaries unsuccessfully attempted to control Upper Peru on three occasions, although they succeeded in repulsing two Royalist offensives in Tucumán and Salta. The other front was in the Littoral, where they fought on both land and river. In this region, there were also fights inside the Revolutionary party when Artigas and his federalists followers challenged the central government.

[ EN 433 ]

Manuel Belgrano

Belgrano abandoned his prominent career in the colonial bureaucracy and became a member of the board in 1810. He soon commanded a small military force that marched towards Paraguay to force the region to accept the new government established in Buenos Aires. He failed and was defeated in 1811. Shortly after that, Paraguay displaced its colonial authorities and began a de facto independence, completely disconnected from the rest of the River Plate’s revolutionary movements.

In spite of the defeat, Belgrano created a flag in Rosario in 1812 to distinguish the Patriotic forces from the Spaniards. Later that year he led the Revolutionary army that had occupied Upper Peru in 1810 only to be defeated in 1811.

Belgrano led the army’s retreat to the south, urging the population of Jujuy to migrate with him, away from the enemies. When his army arrived in Tucumán, they fought the Royalists despite being inferior and won a decisive victory which saved the Revolution.

Belgrano emerged victorious again at the Battle of Salta, after which he launched another offensive against Upper Peru. After a successful advance, he was defeated in the battles of Vilcapugio and Ayohuma. Once again, the Revolutionaries lost the entire region.

In 1814 Belgrano left the army command and departed on a diplomatic mission to Europe. Upon returning, he rejoined the war for independence. Until his death in 1820, he devoted himself entirely to the Revolution.

[ EN 434 ]

Portrait of General Manuel Belgrano

Belgrano had his portrait painted in 1815 during a diplomatic visit in Europe. In the foreground he appears as a civil servant, wearing elegant civilian clothes and a fashionable hairstyle. In the background he reappears as a military leader on the Salta battlefield seen through a window.

This portrait is a copy commissioned by this museum. The original, located in Olavarría, Buenos Aires province, was painted by François Casimir Carbonnier.

 Fortunato Fontana. Oil on canvas, 1941.

[ EN 435 ]

General Manuel Belgrano’s campaign chair

Officers unfolded chairs, tables, and writing desks inside their tents. Belgrano wrote to San Martín in 1814, "I very much wish to talk with you from chair to chair so that we can take the most appropriate measures."

The backrest rods on this chair are slightly bowed, showing that it was used often. It was likely made in England.

Folding cedar chair.

[ EN 436 ]

Manuel Belgrano’s spyglass

The spyglass was a key instrument in both planning and fighting battles. The leaders used it to study the terrain, arrange the forces, spy on enemies, command movements and send messengers with orders to the officers on the battlefield.

Copper and wood structure, glass.

[ EN 437 ]

Battle of Tucumán badge

This badge commemorates the crucial Revolutionary victory in Tucumán on September 24, 1812. It was awarded to Rudecindo Alvarado, lieutenant of the cavalry volunteers. Badges were issued to officers to be sewn onto the left sleeve of their uniforms.

Wool cloth with metal and silk thread embroidery.

[ EN 438 ]

Manuel Belgrano's handgun

This was a self-defence pocket handgun with a safety mechanism preventing it from triggering itself. The words “General M.J. Belgrano” are engraved on it. It is supposed to have been a gift from the Cabildo of Buenos Aires.

Gunpowder, a piece of cloth and the bullet were placed inside from the front and compacted with the rod in the lower part. Pulling the trigger produced a spark which ignited the gunpowder and shot the bullet.

Wood, ferrous metal, bronze and silver, about 1814.

[ EN 439 ]

The colours of the flag

What inspired Belgrano to choose the colours of the flag is uncertain. The most widely accepted explanation is that he took them from the sash with which the Bourbon dynasty was usually portrayed. The sash was a symbol of the Order of Charles III, created by the King in 1771 to reward those who stood out in service to the crown. The Order, in turn, took the light blue and white colours from the cloak of its patron saint, the Virgin Mary.

Our museum also exhibits the Macha flag, the oldest flag preserved here, used by Belgrano during his campaign to Upper Peru.

[ EN 440 ]

Portrait of King Ferdinand VII

Wearing the Order of Charles III sash, similar to the sash worn by Argentinean presidents to this day. 

Anonymous. Copper engraving, hand coloured print.

[ EN 442 ]

Naval Battle

When the Revolution began, Buenos Aires had no warships. Montevideo, which became a counterrevolutionary base, did have a fleet. Montevideo’s warships bombarded Buenos Aires and attacked the coasts of the Paraná and Uruguay rivers on several occasions. The board created a fleet to fight them in 1811 but was defeated.

In 1812 the Revolutionaries besieged Montevideo, a walled city. As Montevideo controlled the rivers, it was able to resist for a long time. The Revolutionary government created a new fleet in 1814, made up of sailors from different backgrounds: English, Scottish, French, American, Greek, Sardinian. The squad leader was Irish admiral William Brown.

In May 1814 Brown secured a decisive victory over the Royalist ships off the coast of Montevideo. Now surrounded also by water, the city had no choice but to surrender. The Royalist forces thus lost their main base of operations in the region.

After the success, the Revolutionary party decided to dismantle the fleet and grant their ships letters of marque. Privateers were given permission to attack enemy merchant ships and keep most of what they captured. The rest was to be given to the Revolution. Brown and other privateers acted in the Pacific Ocean. In 1816 they attacked the Port of Callao (Lima) and Guayaquil.

[ EN 444 ]

Azopardo in the Ceuta prison

Maltese sailor Juan Bautista Azopardo led the first Revolutionary fleet in 1811, which suffered a defeat. He was captured and transferred to Ceuta, a Spanish city in North Africa. He was set free in 1820 and returned to Buenos Aires. Five years later he made a report to the provincial legislature in which he described his sufferings in prison.

Juan Bautista Azopardo. Pencil drawing.

[ EN 444.1 ]

Portrait of navy officer Hippolyte Bouchard

French sailor Bouchard joined the first Revolutionary fleet in 1811. Later he was one of San Martín’s grenadiers and fought in the Battle of San Lorenzo in 1813. As from 1816 he sailed the seas as a corsair. On board La Argentina, he arrived in Hawaii, whose king was the first to officially recognize the United Provinces. He then attacked the Royalist forces on the coasts of California, Mexico, and Nicaragua. He later joined the Expedition for the Liberation of Peru.

José Gil de Castro. Oil on canvas, 1819.

[ EN 445 ]

Admiral William Brown’s tailcoat

Born in Ireland, Brown arrived in Buenos Aires in 1810 on business. After witnessing the May Revolution, he decided to stay in the city. In 1814 Supreme Director Posadas appointed him lieutenant colonel and chief of the Buenos Aires fleet. His success over the Royal fleet made him a very popular figure.

Rayon wool cloth with gold braids.

[ EN 446 ]

Royal banner of the Carabayllo Dragoon Regiment (Peru)

Cavalry forces in Spain and its colonies carried red banners showing the Crown’s Royal shield, and symbols identifying the regiment, either embroidered or painted, on the other side.

The enemy’s insignia were usually taken during battles and sent to the cities to be displayed in churches.

Silk, metal thread, chenille, sequins.

[ EN 447 ]


In 1811 the rural population of the Banda Oriental (present-day Uruguay) rose up in arms in favour of the Buenos Aires board and against the Royalists in Montevideo. A Revolutionary leader for the Orientales emerged: José Gervasio Artigas.

Artigas's supporters questioned the centralism of Buenos Aires, the capital city, where successive governments made decisions without consulting the rest of the provinces. The Artiguistas proposed declaring independence and embracing a federal system. Therefore, when deputies from the Banda Oriental were sent to Buenos Aires to join the pro-centralist Assembly of 1813, they were rejected. The central government declared Artigas a traitor, and the Revolutionaries split into two rival parties.

In 1814 the territories of Banda Oriental, Entre Ríos, Corrientes and Misiones refused to obey Buenos Aires and formed the Free Peoples League. It was a confederation without a capital city, which ran under the "protection" of Artigas. Santa Fe was added in 1815. The central government tried to subdue the provinces several times, but the League resisted every attempt.

The Artiguistas also fought for a more egalitarian society. In 1815 they began an agrarian reform in favour of the most disadvantaged. But the project was interrupted by a Portuguese invasion from Brazil in 1816.

[ EN 448 ]

Key to Montevideo

Montevideo surrendered to the Revolutionary forces in June 1814. This key to the city was given by Royal General Vigodet to Vicente Echevarría, who was part of the expedition commanded by Alvear.

Alvear's forces failed in their attempt to control the rest of the Banda Oriental, where Artiguism was strong. Eventually, Alvear had to leave the province and Artigas's men occupied Montevideo in 1815.


[ EN 449 ]

Key to the Cabildo of Montevideo

Powerful Portuguese Royalist forces invaded the Banda Oriental from Brazil in August 1816 and took control of Montevideo in January 1817. Several elite members from the Banda Oriental supported the invasion against the "anarchy" in the Artiguist movement. Supreme Director Pueyrredón promised help if Artigas accepted his authority, which did not occur. He then agreed to the occupation of the Banda Oriental and attacked the Artiguists of Entre Ríos and Santa Fe, but failed.


[ EN 450 ]

Independence on the firm coast

In 1816 this book was sold in Buenos Aires. It included the translations of some of Thomas Paine's writings, which had been very influential in justifying the independence of the United States of America.

Artigas sent a copy to Andresito saying, “I am sending you this work on the revolution of North America. You will see how much they toiled and sacrificed to achieve the republican and federal system which we defend."

Translation and excerpt from texts of Thomas Paine by Manuel García de Sena, TyJ Palmer Press, Philadelphia, 1811.

[ EN 451 ]

Portrait of soldier Santiago del Sar

Santiago del Sar was one of the black soldiers who participated in the siege of Montevideo in 1814. Many decades later, when photography was developed, some of the old soldiers were portrayed.

Del Sar appears in the Buenos Aires census of 1855 at the age of 66 as a Buenos Aires-born boot maker and owner of a humble dwelling. In the 1869 census he is at the same address at 79 years old, now a shoemaker, but states that he was born in Africa.

Albumin, Cella & Guerra Studio, Buenos Aires.

[ EN 452 ]

Soldiers from the east bank of the River Plate

Artiguists fought for access to land and for their right to use natural resources such as grass, water or firewood, as was customary. Their egalitarian position worried those in power. In 1815 Artigas distributed the enemy's lands among "the black freemen, the zambos, the Indians, and the poor people born in the River Plate area."

Engraving by Nasi, 1821, based on a work by Emerick Essex Vidal, 1817.

[ EN 453 ]

Portrait of General José Gervasio Artigas

This is the only portrait of Artigas. It was painted when he was 83 years old and had been in exile in Paraguay for 27 years.

He was defeated by the Portuguese Royal Forces in 1820 and had to leave the Banda Oriental. His former lieutenant from Entre Ríos, Francisco Ramírez, turned against and defeated him. Artigas went into exile, never to return.

Drawing by Alfredo Demersay, 1847. Lithograph by Sauvageot Willems, 1860.

[ EN 454 ]

The Guaraní Revolution

After the Jesuits were expelled from Spanish America, the thirty Guaraní towns which had been missions were separated: eight remained in Paraguay, seven in Portuguese Brazil, and fifteen, dependent on Buenos Aires, supported the Revolution in 1810. Some of them later joined the Free Peoples League.

The Guaraní claimed a new role in society. Indigenous leader Domingo Manduré broke off relations with the central government. "Brothers, we are certain that God endowed us with freedom when He created us,” he stated in 1813. “And we know that, for Him, we are equal before the law." Since the entire colonial system was based on the idea that indigenous people were inferior to Spaniards and their descendants, Manduré’s speech was revolutionary at the time.

In 1815 Guaraní leader Andresito Guacurarí, Artigas’s godson, led the project to reunite the former Jesuit province without the Jesuits or any other external control, only with indigenous self-government. “May each people govern itself, with no more attempts from Spain, Portugal or any other province to govern it,” he said. After years of fighting, Andresito was defeated by the Portuguese during the 1816 invasion.

[ EN 455 ]

Carved hand

No images of the Guaraní leaders or of the peoples of Misiones during the Revolutionary years are preserved. There are many valuable pieces from the previous period, when the Jesuits controlled this vast region. The indigenous people in the missions worked in crafts workshops where religious images and wood carvings such as this hand were produced.

Cedar wood, 18th century.

[ EN 456 ]

The Assembly of 1813

A new revolutionary group seized power in October 1812: the Lautaro Lodge. They planned to declare the independence of the United Provinces and to enact a constitution. To that end, their government, the Second Triumvirate, summoned deputies from the provinces to a congress to be held in Buenos Aires. Known as the Assembly, the congress began its sessions in January 1813.

The Assembly acted against the core of hierarchical colonial society. It put an end to the personal services to which indigenous people were subjected, passed the Law of Wombs for the children of slaves, banned torture, abolished nobility titles, and stopped the Inquisition. The Assembly also abandoned all Spanish monarchy emblems and created new symbols.

The initial enthusiasm wore off over the next few months. News arrived: Napoleon had been defeated by an alliance of European monarchies. Ferdinand VII recovered the Spanish throne in 1814.

Meanwhile, the centralist government of the Lautaro Lodge started to arouse opposition within the provinces. An alternative federal revolutionary project arose in the Littoral region which ended up splitting from the central government. Due to this complex situation, the Assembly did not declare independence.

[ EN 457 ]

The Lautaro Lodge

A group of officers who had fought in the Napoleonic wars arrived in Buenos Aires in March 1812. They were well trained in the latest military tactics and techniques and offered their services to the Revolution. The central government at the time, the Triumvirate, enlisted them in its forces. Among them were Carlos de Alvear and José de San Martín, who had fought against the French in the Spanish army.

The newcomers also formed a secret masonic-like political organization—the Lautaro Lodge. The name referred to a Mapuche chief who had fought the Spanish in the 16th century. The Lodge sought to leave behind the Triumvirate’s self-government within the Spanish monarchical system and to declare full independence. Also, to relaunch the liberation war to expel the Spanish from the whole continent.

This project was shared by the Patriotic Society, headed by Bernardo de Monteagudo, who followed the ideas of the late Mariano Moreno. Both groups merged into the Lodge, overthrew the Triumvirate and established a new one controlled by the Lodge, which summoned the Assembly. They later centralized all power in one person, the Supreme Director.

[ EN 458 ]

Carlos de Alvear’s sabre

Alvear became the main leader of the Lautaro Lodge. He led the army which achieved a fundamental success: the surrender of Montevideo in June 1814. He then tried to defeat Artigas and his supporters on the Littoral region but failed. In January 1815 he was named supreme director but lasted only a few months in office. His authoritarian style and the general crisis led to an uprising which brought on his downfall.

Steel blade, slightly curved. Wooden grip wrapped in dogfish skin.

[ EN 459 ]

Regulation for the education and exercise of freed people, March 6, 1813

The Law of Wombs passed by the Assembly of 1813 meant that those born to enslaved women after January 31, 1813 would be automatically free. However, when the regulation was enacted a month later, the terms were changed: the children would not be free but freed. They had to stay in the house of their mother’s employers and serve them without pay until they were 15 years old to compensate for the cost of their upbringing.

Manuscript paper.

[ EN 460 ]

The Patriotic March

On May 11, 1813 the Assembly decreed that the song composed by Vicente López (words) and Blas Parera (music) would be “in the United Provinces the only Patriotic March”. The words celebrated freedom and equality and mentioned some of the milestones of the war throughout Latin America: Mexico, Caracas, Quito, Upper Peru, along with the battles won by the United Provinces. A shortened version with new arrangements is the current national anthem of Argentina.

Made at the Foundling Children's Printing House.

[ EN 461 ]

Assembly of 1813 badge

This new Revolutionary badge was painted over a King Charles III badge. Infrared photography shows the previous design underneath.

The symbols seem to have been taken from the badge of a political group in the French Revolution, except for the sun, which the Assembly made after the South American style.

The design features two hands holding a liberty cap over a spear or pike, a symbol of the union of the provinces and their determination to defend themselves. The hat is also a statement of republicanism.

The initials on the badge, A.G.C.D.L.P.U.D.R.D.L.P., may refer either to the General Constitutional Assembly of the United Provinces of the River Plate (Asamblea General Constituyente de las Provincias Unidas del Río de la Plata) or to the General Post Office (Administración General de Correos de las Provincias Unidas del Río de la Plata), where the badge was found.

Oil painting on copper plate.

[ EN 462 ]

The liberty cap

The people of the River Plate took a powerful symbol from the French Revolution—the "liberty cap". The cap, however, had its origin in ancient times. The pileus hat given to emancipated slaves in ancient Rome was still taken as a symbol of freedom all over Europe even after the fall of the Roman Empire. Previously, a Phrygian cap had been used by the Greeks to represent the inhabitants of Phrygia (present-day Turkey). The Phrygian cap, a symbol of foreigners rather than freedom, was often shown on the heads of captives. The similarity between both caps in addition to their connection with slavery might have resulted in the French Revolution’s cap of liberty being called Phrygian.

Although this symbol had already appeared during the United States Revolution of the 1770s, it was France that spread it worldwide, adding its characteristic red colour. The cap also became a symbol of the republic against the monarchy.

[ EN 463 ]

Battle of Salta badge

The gold badge exhibits a sword holding a liberty cap and the legend "The country to the victors of Salta."

The Assembly of 1813 gave a gold badge to the high command of the army, a silver one to sergeants and a cloth one to soldiers to celebrate the important victory of the Revolutionary party in the battle of Salta, on February 20, 1813. This badge was given to Colonel Jorge Velazco.


[ EN 464 ]

Vilcapugio badge

Two bayonets go through a freedom cap to celebrate a counter-revolutionary triumph. On October 1, 1813, the Auxiliary Army of Peru under the command of Belgrano suffered a disastrous defeat in Vilcapugio. The victorious officers were awarded this badge: "He washed out the shame of Tucumán and Salta in the plains of Vilcapugio,” in reference to the two battles won by Belgrano a few months before.

Cloth embroidered with silk threads.

[ EN 467 ]

Battle of Salta badge

This badge shows a sabre holding a liberty cap. The Assembly of 1813 gave it to sergeants after the victory of the Revolutionary party in the Battle of Salta.


[ EN 468 ]

8th Regiment badge

A liberty cap held by two hands is displayed on this badge created in Tucumán in December 1812 for the 8th Regiment of the Auxiliary Army of Peru, also known as the Army of the North.


[ EN 470 ]

The sun

The image of the sun was widely used in the new emblems created by the Spanish American revolutions. It represented social and political renewal after the darkness of tyranny, in the same way as the French Revolution had used it before.

But for those who lived in South America, the image also referred to the Inca Empire and its solar deity, Inti. The sun of the Revolutionaries therefore had an Americanist meaning too, linking the new reality with a glorious past.

The Assembly of 1813 placed the image of the sun on different symbols. In 1818 it was added to the light blue and white flag created by Belgrano.

Monteagudo would later say that the sun was "the historic expression of the country of the Incas."

[ EN 471 ]

Medal for the indigenous people fighting for the Revolution

This medal was awarded to the indigenous people participating in the war. It reads, "From the grateful Homeland to its natural worthy sons." Natural was one of the ways to refer to the “Indians.” Sixteenth-century Spanish conquistadors regarded themselves as worthy. Calling the naturals worthy thus involved a change of concept.


[ EN 472 ]

Sun of the United Provinces

Chiselled, embossed silver plate depicting the sun, 1812.

[ EN 473 ]

1813 coins

Pieces of eight. The Assembly of 1813 established the minting of coins bearing the new Revolutionary symbols in Potosí. One side bears a shield with the phrase "In Union and Freedom." On the other side, we can see a large radiant sun and the legend “United Provinces of the River Plate.” 


[ EN 475 ]

Indigenous America

The Revolutionary leaders, mostly white men of European descent, claimed America's indigenous past as their own. On May 25, 1811, Juan José Castelli celebrated the first anniversary of the Revolution by gathering several indigenous groups in the ruins of Tiahuanaco (present-day Bolivia) to deliver an egalitarian message. In another celebration in Buenos Aires on the same day, an indigenous monarch “laden with shackles and chains” was represented as freeing himself. In 1813 the coat of arms of Salta was changed: the image of a Spaniard resisting a hostile Indian was replaced by that of an Indian shooting an arrow at a defeated Spaniard.

For the most part, they celebrated Inca culture. The Patriotic March stated in 1813: "The Inca rises from the grave and fire is rekindled in his bones on seeing his sons renewing his homeland’s former splendour." As from 1815 the Spaniards sent to fight against the American revolutions came to be called "modern Pizarros", referring to the conqueror of Peru. In 1816 Manuel Belgrano stated that the United Provinces should be organized as a constitutional monarchy and name an Inca descendant as the new king. This idea was supported by several members of his party.

The Revolutionaries made a large number of changes seeking egalitarian laws for the indigenous people in the old viceroyalty. The tribute which the natives were required to pay to the king was abolished. But this left the indigenous people with no rights over their communal lands, which they finally lost, lacking resources to purchase them.

[ EN 476 ]

Illustration from the book Royal Commentaries of the Incas

In 1609 Inca Garcilaso, son of a Spanish conquistador and an Inca princess, published in Europe a history of the Inca Empire, which he considered an example of good government. The author proposed an integration between Spaniards and indigenous people.

Later, Garcilaso’s work served as support for the eighteenth-century indigenous nobility in Peru to maintain their identity. Tupac Amaru II also read Garcilaso, and when his rebellion was suppressed, the book was banned for being the source "where those naturals have learned many harmful mistakes." But the South American Revolutionaries rescued Garcilaso's work. In 1814 San Martín encouraged a subscription in Córdoba to reprint it and make South American history known.

This enlargement shows an engraving in a 1737 edition of the book: The first Inca Manco Capac and Queen Coya Mama Ocllo, the mythical founding couple of the Inca Empire. They appear showing a crowd of naked, savage indigenous people the construction of Cuzco, the future capital city.

Drawing by Debrie, transferred to copper plate by Folkema. Printed in Amsterdam.

[ EN 477 ]

Atahualpa cannon

This cannon was made in Buenos Aires between 1815 and 1816. It was named after the last Inca emperor. By vindicating that past the Revolutionaries were creating a new South American identity and seeking the support of the indigenous population, who were the majority in Upper Peru. The earliest cannons, built a few years before, had already been named after Tupac Amaru and Mangoré, a legendary chief who led an attack against the first Spanish fort in the Paraná River, Sancti Spiritu, in the sixteenth century. 

Muzzle-loading. Bronze. 

[ EN 478 ]

Inca and Tiwanaku objects

The Revolutionary leaders did not know that significant indigenous cultures, such as the Tiwanaku, had existed before the Inca empire. When Castelli celebrated the first anniversary of the Revolution in the ruins of Tiwanaku, he believed that it was an Inca place. They used representations of the natives from the colonial period rather than resorting to forms and themes from pre-Hispanic art.

Metal model and painted ceramic vessel (Inca). 

Kero (ceremonial vessel) of painted ceramic (Tiwanaku).

[ EN 479 ]

The Tarja [shield] of Potosí

The Army of the North led by Belgrano entered the mining city of Potosí in June 1813. There he was presented with this remarkable ornamental work of silver and gold by a group of Patriotic ladies. It is a unique, complex jewel with a legend in the form of a poem celebrating both Belgrano and Latin American freedom. Belgrano sent it dismantled from Upper Peru to Buenos Aires.

On the top there is an Indian, probably an Inca, taking a step forward. He is represented as was done in Europe, with his naked torso and feather ornaments. He holds a spear with the liberty cap on top, symbolizing the beginning of a new era for Latin America. A barefoot female figure, perhaps a symbol of freedom, is about to break the chains of domination. In the centre is the shape of South America (including the Malvinas Islands) and Central America. There were no national identities yet. Instead, the independence of all Latin America was sought.

[ EN 480 ]

A revolutionized society

Many things changed with the Revolution. Although it originally fought for local autonomy, it eventually pursued absolute independence. The Revolution also started questioning who should rule and why. Many Revolutionaries went from initially confronting the king to opposing monarchy itself and aiming at founding a new republic.

The Spanish trade monopoly was ended, and free trade was embraced. Important tradesmen lost their entire fortunes. The Revolutionary government forced some of them to finance the war effort.

The officers from the Revolutionary army and militias came to have broad social participation and to be potential political leaders. They were involved in a broader movement: upper class men in the “revolution career” formed a new type of political leadership. Women in the social elites also engaged in politics.

Not only them, but the whole society was involved in the Revolution. Men and women of the lower classes had a prominent political role in the city of Buenos Aires, in the Banda Oriental and in Entre Ríos, in the Missions, Salta and Jujuy. They fought for freedom as well as for social and racial equality.

[ EN 481 ]

Portrait of José Ildefonso de las Muñecas

Muñecas was a Revolutionary priest and a guerrilla leader. He was born in Tucumán and became the rector of the Cuzco Cathedral. In 1809 he supported the failed board of La Paz, which was crushed by the Royalists. He then directed the Larecaja Revolutionary guerrilla of Upper Peru, near La Paz, but was defeated in 1816. While he was being taken prisoner to Lima he was murdered under the claim that he intended to escape. 

Anonymous. Oil on canvas.

[ EN 482 ]

Pedro Ignacio de Castro Barros’s cane

Bell from Justo Santa María de Oro’s private chapel

Oro and Castro Barros joined the Revolution from the beginning. Both were deputies in the Congress of Tucumán, the former for San Juan and the latter for La Rioja, which he had already represented in the Assembly of 1813. They both played an important role in the Congress and were among the eleven priests that declared independence. Castro Barros subscribed to the creation of a constitutional monarchy with a descendant of the Incas as a king, but Oro claimed that the people should be consulted first. 

Carved bronze.

Polished wood with a silver head.

[ EN 483 ]

Soldier José Pérez’s service record

The backgrounds of most of the people who fought in the war are difficult to trace. They were generally illiterate people who left no written evidence. A document such as this sheds some light: it depicts a Chilean soldier who joined San Martín’s army after the crossing of the Andes. It points out that he was trigueño [dark-skinned]—a widely used category at the time along with negro [black-skinned], pardo [brown-skinned] and blanco [white-skinned]. Pérez could not write, so he signed a cross. 

Written document, 1818.

[ EN 484 ]


Most soldiers had humble origins. Some volunteered for the army and others were drafted. Foot soldiers used bayonets in hand-to-hand combat and to stop the enemy cavalry. Bayonets are bladed weapons attached to the end of the barrel of a rifle. This one was found in an archaeological excavation in the place where the Patricios barracks were located. 

Iron with flat base and rounded tip. Leather scabbard with an iron hook.

[ EN 485 ]

Trarilonko or Mapuche headband

Mapuche silversmiths made the silver jewellery used by the chiefs, their wives and their horses to show prestige. The trarilonko was worn by the women to hold their hair. 

Chain with hanging polished white metal discs.

[ EN 486 ]


Women played a key role in the times of the Revolution. They participated in political demonstrations, openly discussed public affairs, spied, marched with the armies as assistants and, in some cases, even got to fight. Some upper-class women organized social gatherings which became centres for political participation.

Some men were deeply concerned about those actions, which challenged the subordinate place reserved for women in colonial society. In 1813 an anonymous pamphlet in Buenos Aires denounced the "scandalous free manners in which a relevant number of young aristocratic women express themselves in political affairs” and openly called for their punishment. However, female participation did not stop.

[ EN 487 ]

Catholic priests

Members of the Catholic Church in the Viceroyalty of the River Plate were divided over the Revolution. Many of them supported it, and some even became prominent political figures.

Both sides claimed to stand for religion and tried to use it for their own benefit. Manuel Belgrano proclaimed the Virgin of Mercy general of his Army of the North, as did José de San Martín with the Virgen del Carmen in the Andes Army. The Royalists did likewise with other Virgins.

The Revolutionary priests used their speeches to defend the cause they championed, quoting the Old Testament to justify the separation from Spain. For example, they identified the Spanish Americans who were fighting Spanish despotism with the people of Israel leaving Egypt in the Exodus.

[ EN 488 ]

The lower classes

The participation of the lower classes was decisive for the Revolutionaries. Both male and female commoners in the city and in the countryside rallied against their governments, denounced their enemies, and discussed public affairs in markets and stores. Since most of them were illiterate, someone would read the newspaper aloud in public places, so that everyone could hear the news.

Many of the soldiers who fought the Revolutionary war belonged to the lower classes. Life was hard for the men who fought on the battlefield as well as for the women who stayed at home, whose husbands and sons went off, most often to faraway places.

Identification with the Revolution was a symbolic equalizer for the lower classes: by supporting the cause, they were more "worthy" than those who opposed it, even if they had a higher social position. In addition, the Revolution put an end to the caste system. Differences based on skin colour continued in fact, but no longer in law.

The hope for further changes was not fulfilled. After years of struggle, there was much discontent.

[ EN 489 ]

Sovereign indigenous peoples

The indigenous peoples in the regions of Chaco and Pampa-Patagonia, who had maintained their sovereignty, their religious cults and their languages, were also affected by the Revolution. The treaties signed with the colonial authorities that had ensured peace in the late 18th century were broken. Trade continued, but in some regions there was conflict over borders, as well as clashes between indigenous groups.

Some of the indigenous peoples from Chaco and Pampa forged alliances with the Artiguistas for certain common actions. In the complex Mapuche reality there were some who fought alongside the Revolutionaries in the late 1810s, and others who fought against them, in favour of the Royalists.

[ EN 490 ]

Enslaved people

The Revolutionary leaders wanted to end slavery gradually, without affecting slave owners. In 1812 they banned the slave trade—whoever arrived on a slave ship would become free upon entering the United Provinces. The Law of Wombs passed in 1813 meant that slavery would disappear when the last slave died.

Such measures gave the Revolution strong support from the enslaved people. But they wanted immediate freedom and exerted pressure in several ways. Enslaved men had an opportunity: if they joined the Revolutionary army, they would become freemen once the war ended. Many of them pressured their masters to donate or sell them to the State to go to war. The Revolutionary leaders hesitated at first, but faced with the need for men, they finally "rescued" many slaves for war.

Even though slavery was greatly weakened by the Revolution, it persisted for several more decades. 

[ EN 491 ]

Revolutionary literature

The Revolution brought to life a new literary genre which later came to be called gauchesca. Some poets, such as Bartolomé Hidalgo, from the Banda Oriental, spoke for country people putting the tone of rural culture in black and white. Hidalgo’s poems reached not only the literate minority but also those who could not read.

In addition to speaking the language of country people, gauchesca placed them as leading historic characters. It also expressed strong political ideas. Some of Hidalgo’s lines show his support for republicanism: "Men do not need monarchs to govern them. They need beneficial laws," and his defence of egalitarianism: “Why should no-one be more superior than no-one else?”

[ EN 492 ]

Lassoing cattle in Buenos Aires

During the Revolutionary period, the population of the River Plate resided mostly in the countryside. Many lived in small farms where they grew agricultural crops and raised livestock. The men took seasonal jobs in larger farms to supplement their income. The women took care of the children and cooked but also participated actively in the other productive tasks.

Pochoir coloured engraving

Based on a watercolour painting by Emeric Essex Vidal, c. 1829.

[ EN 493 ]

Water cart 

Although a few families owned cisterns, during this period most of Buenos Aires' water supply depended on the water carriers. They went into the river to look for purer water, and avoided the places where the washerwomen cleaned their clothes.

Pochoir coloured engraving by Jean Saudé, 1931

Based on a watercolour painting by Emeric Essex Vidal, 1818

[ EN 494 ]

Indiani Pampa

The indigenous peoples used to come to Buenos Aires to trade ostrich feathers, ponchos and other products. This image shows them at the door of a shop in the so-called Indian market, in Plaza Lorea. The author refers to them as Pampas, unifying the Mapuche and Pehuenche peoples. 

Engraving by Nasi, 1821. Based on a painting by Emeric Essex Vidal, 1817.

[ EN 495 ]

The market

Thirty percent of the Buenos Aires population were of African origin in 1810, most of them slaves. Here we can see one of them in the market on the east side of present-day Plaza de Mayo. The painting was done by Vidal, an English traveller who created the few existing images of Buenos Aires in that decade. 

Drawing by Emeric Essex Vidal, engraving by D. Havell. 

[ EN 497 ]

Portrait of Guadalupe Cuenca

Guadalupe Cuenca was born in Chuquisaca and raised in a convent. She married Mariano Moreno, who studied in that city. Together they went to live in Buenos Aires. When her husband quit the government board and was sent on a diplomatic mission to London, Guadalupe sent him many letters about local politics which never reached Moreno, who died during the voyage.

Oil miniature on copper sheet.

[ EN 500 ]

Empire-style dress

The Empire style prevailed in the early nineteenth century. Inspired by the simplicity of classical Antiquity, it was disseminated by the Napoleonic court. Lacking corsets, it allowed the female body more freedom. The ladies of the elite used this kind of dress with the waistband just under the bust. 

This is a replica of Bernardina Chavarría de Viamonte's dress, kept in the museum. 

Original: silk satin, cotton, silk and tulle embroidered with cotton. Replica: polyester satin ribbons made by Fernanda Martínez Díaz, Museo Nacional de la Historia del Traje. 

[ EN 501 ]

Santo Domingo Church

Buenos Aires women drawn by Vidal, an English traveller, in 1817. Due to Spanish influence, the Empire-style dresses of French origin worn here were combined with a comb and a shawl. 

In the twentieth century, the period costume worn in Argentinean patriotic school assemblies commemorating the period of the May Revolution and the Independence was inaccurate, since it was not an Empire-style dress but a model adopted much later.

[ EN 502 ]

To end the violent bonds. The independence.

A major crisis began in 1815. An uprising overthrew the Assembly and its director, Alvear. The economy was ruined by the war. Throughout America, the revolutionary movements were defeated by the Royalist forces. Only the revolutionary movement of the River Plate resisted, albeit divided into the United Provinces, the Free Peoples League, and Paraguay.

In such a threatening context, the United Provinces put their faith in a new congress. Widespread resentment against Buenos Aires resulted in the congress being convened in Tucumán. Even so, neither the Free Peoples League nor Paraguay sent representatives. However, there were deputies from the provinces of Upper Peru, under Royalist control.

The Congress of Tucumán began its sessions in March 1816. It agreed with the provinces to appoint a new supreme director, Juan Martín de Pueyrredón. It also proclaimed "the end of the Revolution and the beginning of order," seeking to strengthen obedience to the central government.

The fundamental action of the Congress took place on July 9, when it stated that "it is the unanimous and unquestionable will of these provinces to end the violent bonds that linked them to the Spanish monarchs." These provinces would now be "a free and independent nation." Thus, a new country was born, the United Provinces in South America.

[ EN 503 ]

Inkwell used to sign our Declaration of Independence

This is the inkwell used on July 9, 1816 by the 29 deputies of the Congress to sign the declaration of independence “from the king of Spain Ferdinand VII, his successors and metropolis.” (A few days later, the phrase “and from any other foreign domination” was added.) The Declaration was recorded in the book of the Congress, communicated through the newspapers, and reproduced in three languages: 1,500 copies in Spanish, 1,000 copies in Quechua, and 500 copies in Aymara. The original copy of the agreement was lost that same year. 

The inkwell belonged to the deputy from Jujuy, Teodoro Sánchez de Bustamante. 

Carved in silver.

[ EN 504 ]

Essay on the Civil History of Paraguay, Buenos Aires and Tucumán, by Dean Funes

The first volume of the history of the territories of the River Plate was published in 1816, written by Gregorio Funes, a member of the church from Córdoba and a Revolutionary leader. It depicted a colonial past fraught with abuse and condemned exploitation by corrupt Spanish authorities. It was published at the right moment, after the Declaration of Independence: a new history was needed in order to create a new country. 

Edited by Manuel Gandarilla and Associates’ printing house. Volume 1, Buenos Aires, 1816.

[ EN 505 ]

Armchair used by the deputies of the Congress of Tucumán 

The provinces elected one deputy every 15,000 inhabitants. Buenos Aires had the largest number. The congressmen of 1816 were more politically moderate than the previous Revolutionaries. They wished to put an end to the Revolution so that there would be order, and many preferred a monarchy over a republic. But they knew that the autonomy project was already impossible because Ferdinand VII would only agree to the old system. There was only one solution left: independence.

Wood and metal. The textile is not original.

[ EN 506 ]

A long-lasting war: the North

The North of the Viceroyalty of the River Plate became a war zone at the very beginning of the Revolution, changing hands between the Royalists and the Revolutionaries on several occasions.

In 1814 the Royalist forces occupied Salta. To supply their army, they seized cattle and other products in the city surroundings. This triggered a revolt by rural residents. A military leader, Martín Miguel de Güemes, led the gauchos and cornered the Royalists, forcing them to leave Salta. After his victory, he was elected governor of the province by the people of Salta.

In 1815 the Revolutionary army moved forward over Upper Peru but was finally defeated. On their retreat, the Revolutionaries organized various guerrilla groups to harass the Royalist forces. But most of them were defeated, and the king’s army advanced towards the south, seizing Salta once again in 1817. Güemes managed to expel them one more time by means of guerrilla warfare.

With this method, the gaucho militias managed to stop any further attacks from Upper Peru. The clashes against the Royalists continued until 1825 in Salta and Jujuy.

[ EN 507 ]

Martín Miguel de Güemes’s sabre

Rudecindo Alvarado’s daughter donated this sabre stating that it was a gift from Belgrano to Güemes, who then gave it to Alvarado. Although it is uncertain whether it was owned by Belgrano before, the sabre undoubtedly belonged to Güemes. 

When Güemes became governor of Salta without the authorization of Buenos Aires, some people thought that he would become the new Artigas. However, Güemes built a good relationship with the central government. The stiffest opposition he faced came from the Salta elite. 

Single-edged curved steel blade. Bronze golden scabbard with war scenes.

[ EN 508 ]

Photographic portrait of José Manuel Mamani, sergeant of the Humahuaca gauchos

Mamani served in Güemes’s forces. A few decades later, as an old man, his photograph was taken in Salta. He is dressed in the indigenous peasant style: he wears a poncho and ushutas [sandals], and carries a wide-brimmed hat. 

Güemes gave his men the right not to pay the rent for their land while they were at war. For many gauchos, to fight for their country was to seek social justice. When Güemes died in 1821, they stormed Salta and attacked their enemies’ houses shouting, “Down with white-faced men!” 

Photography, about 1880.

[ EN 509 ]

Photographic portrait of María Loreto Sánchez Peón y Ávila de Frías at seventy five years of age 

A legendary aura of espionage surrounded Sánchez Peón y Ávila. She was said to exchange messages left in a tree hollow and to disguise herself as a country saleswoman in order to get inside enemy camps and gather information. Pezuela, a Royalist general, stated that “women even offered themselves to my officers and troops as long as they managed to seduce them, which resulted in high rates of desertion.”


[ EN 510 ]

Portrait of José Antonio Álvarez de Arenales

Arenales was born in Spain. He was a militia captain in Upper Peru and supported the failed attempts to form a local board in 1809. He was made prisoner but managed to escape before being executed. He arrived in Salta and joined Begranos’s army. He was governor of Cochabamba in 1813 until Belgrano was defeated in Upper Peru. Arenales stayed in the area leading the Vallegrande guerrilla and attacked the Royalists. He was forced by the enemies to retreat to Jujuy in 1816.

Pedro Otero. Oil on metal, about 1825.

[ EN 511 ]

Portrait of Juana Azurduy

Azurduy played an unusual military role for a woman. Along with her husband Manuel Padilla, she led one of the guerrillas of Upper Peru. She captured a flag in the Battle of Villar and the central government appointed "Amazon Juana Azurduy" as lieutenant colonel of the militias. The guerrilla was defeated by the Royalists in 1816 and Padilla died, but Azurduy managed to flee. In this portrait painted decades later she appears in a military uniform.

Anonymous. Oil on canvas.

[ EN 512 ]

Portrait of General Francisco Antonio Ortiz de Ocampo

Officer Ortiz de Ocampo, from La Rioja, commanded the first expedition to the North in 1810. He captured Liniers and the rest of the Córdoba counter-revolutionaries but refused to shoot them, and the government board replaced him with Castelli.

After the Battle of Salta, Ortiz de Ocampo was put in charge of Charcas, in Upper Peru, where this portrait was done. The legend, “The colonel citizen President of La Plata,” refers to the capital of the province. The hat bears one of the earliest representations of the white and light blue national badge. 

Unidentified author. Oil on canvas, about 1813.

[ EN 513 ]

Through the Andes

After the declaration of independence, San Martín gained the support of the new supreme director, Pueyrredón, for his plan to win the war. Rather than to advance though Upper Peru, where the Revolutionaries had suffered several defeats, he intended to attack the Royalist forces in Chile and continue to Peru. San Martín had been the governor of Cuyo since 1814, and his project had been carefully planned.

Uniforms, blankets, food, mules, weapons need to be either collected or made. Such hard effort was mainly put in by the population of Cuyo, who also provided most of the troops. Chilean exiles also enrolled, and the central government sent men and resources from Buenos Aires. Most of the infantry was made up of former slaves, many of whom were African. San Martín trained his men at El Plumerillo, in the outskirts of Mendoza. In the meantime, he had false information spread in order to confuse the Royalist forces.

In January 1817 the Andes Army began the arduous crossing of the Andes mountain range along six different paths. Once in Chile, they clashed with Royalist troops and defeated them at the Battle of Chacabuco. It was the beginning of the liberation of Chile and Peru.

[ EN 514 ]

Crucifix from the main altar of El Plumerillo camp chapel

In the first campaign to Upper Peru in 1810, the Revolutionaries were accused of being impious and heretical. Fearing that this might weaken the cause, Belgrano and San Martín took care to reaffirm their religious beliefs. Before the Andes Army departed, their flags were blessed, the Virgen del Carmen was appointed patron saint and general, and reliquaries were distributed among the soldiers. 

Portable altars were carried for the campaign. 

Polychrome wood.

[ EN 515 ]

General José de San Martín’s cot trunk

San Martín slept on this folding cot during the campaign of the Andes Army. A cot was a privilege for high-ranking officers, whereas soldiers slept on blankets.

The cot was abandoned the night when the Royalist attack caught the Patriotic camp by surprise in Cancha Rayada. It was later recovered after the Patriotic victory in Maipú.

The mattress and pillow were stuffed with wool or straw.

Trunk containing a collapsible bronze structure with mounted canvas, 1.85 x 0.70 m.

[ EN 516 ]

Battle of Chacabuco

Chacabuco was a very important victory for the Patriots. Ambrosio Cramer was an officer of Napoleon's armies who travelled to the American continent after the defeat of the French emperor, served in the Andes Army and fought in this battle. 

Cramer returned to France after the Chilean campaign and entrusted Géricault, a renowned artist, with the task of printing battle scenes and portraits of heroes of the war for independence. Cramer returned to Buenos Aires in 1820 to sell them. 

Théodore Géricault. Lithography, Paris, 1819.

[ EN 517 ]

Laureana Ferrari’s fan

Some sequins were unstitched from this fan belonging to Laureana Ferrari in order to embroider the main flag of the Andes Army. 

The sewing work for the flag fell on the women of Cuyo, both from the elite and from the lower classes. San Martín asked the Cabildo of Mendoza to encourage "the worthy ladies of this town" to help "repair the soldiers’ nakedness." The women made hundreds of trousers, shirts and cartridge bags.

Printed cotton. Bone rods with lace and embroidery.

[ EN 518 ]

Officer of the Regiment of Mounted Grenadiers Manuel de Escalada’s morrión

The creation of a corps of light cavalry grenadiers was a novelty of the Napoleonic wars that San Martín presented when he arrived from Europe in 1812. They had their baptism of fire in the Battle of San Lorenzo, in 1813. Then some squads were sent to fight in the North. For the Andes campaign, San Martín managed to gather them all.

The clothing for the army was made locally. 2,500 caps like this one, known as morrión, were made. 

Metal, silk, wool, glass beads and imitation fur.

[ EN 520 ]

José de San Martín’s box containing a mate, a portable coal stove and a tinderbox 

For a hot, stimulating beverage, San Martín used to drink coffee. His accounts record expenses for the purchase, grinding and roasting of coffee. But several people saw him make his coffee in his mate with a bombilla [straw]. 

Gourd mate. Gold tinderbox and silver coal stove with wooden handles. Oak, ebony, bronze and velvet box. "Taulin - Palais Royal" engraved on the lock, Paris.

[ EN 521 ]

Glass set given to San Martín

This set of glasses in decreasing size belonged to Chilean Chief of Artillery Lucas Garay. The lid reads "Defender of sovereignty." Garay gave it to San Martín, who gave it to Las Heras in turn. 

Cow horn.

[ EN 522 ]

José de San Martín’s chifles [canteens]

In 1816 San Martín ordered that cow horns be collected from all the butcher’s shops in Mendoza. They were used to make 4,000 chifles [canteens] for the Andes Army.

Engraved cow horns. Silver base and mouth.

[ EN 524 ]

José de San Martín’s spyglass

Spyglasses were crucial for generals, who usually commanded but did not go into combat. 

Wood, bronze, lenses.

[ EN 523 ]

Portrait of José de San Martín

This is the first portrait of San Martín which circulated in the River Plate. After he returned to Buenos Aires to celebrate the victory of Chacabuco and the Patriots’ entry into Santiago de Chile, the Congress of the United Provinces proposed that a portrait of him should be done and distributed throughout the territory. The work, by Núñez de Ibarra, shows San Martín with all the features of a general, riding his horse with its mane in the wind on a mountainous terrain.

Manuel Pablo Núñez de Ibarra. Engraving, 1818.

[ EN 525 ]

San Martín’s spurs

This luxurious pair of spurs is a typical handmade product of the Pampean and Chilean frontier with the Mapuche indigenous people. 

Iron and silver.

[ EN 526 ]

José de San Martín’s box of compasses and rulers

These instruments can be used to draw maps and plans of attack to scale. Antonio Álvarez Condarco, one of the Andes Army’s engineers, was sent on a mission to bring the Declaration of Independence of the United Provinces to Royalist Captain Marcó del Pont in Chile. But the trip was an excuse for Álvarez Condarco to make a final inspection of the terrain before the crossing of the Andes.

Wooden box covered with enamelled metal, ivory rulers and brass compasses.

[ EN 527 ]

Medal awarded to General San Martín

After the Battle of Chacabuco, Chile abolished nobility titles and coats of arms. The Legion of Merit was created to reward "brilliant actions."

Silver, gold, diamond.

[ EN 528 ]

San Martín's duelling pistol set 

Set of two percussion pistols with a carved walnut grip and a silver butt, manufactured in Liege and given to San Martín in Lima in 1822. "Gral. J. de San Martín" is engraved on the barrel.

Case with loading instruments.

[ EN 529 ]

Caricature of San Martín and O'Higgins

The Chilean Revolutionaries were defeated by the Royalists in 1814 and several took refuge in Mendoza. There were two opposing groups, one led by Bernardo O'Higgins and the other by José Miguel Carrera. San Martín allied himself with O'Higgins. Carrera, exiled in Montevideo, used the press to attack his rivals, accusing them of tyrants.

In the drawing, San Martín is half animal and steps on human heads next to a throne. While O'Higgins offers him the crown of Chile, San Martín promises to make O'Higgins a prince. A Patriot wearing a liberty cap calls on the people to take off their blindfolds.

Manuel Gandarillas. Engraving, Montevideo, 1819.

[ EN 530 ]

Mounted grenadier morrión badge

The infantry was crucial for an army to win a battle in this period of history. It was the branch with the largest number of soldiers. The cavalry was in charge of exploring the terrain, protecting other units, charging the enemies to scare them off and pursuing fleeing soldiers. Finally, the artillery was essential as support.

Among San Martín's forces, the Regiment of Mounted Grenadiers created by him played a central role. It excelled in the Chilean and Peruvian campaigns. Several of its members continued their service in Peru after San Martín left that country in 1822. Dissatisfied with the lack of pay and denied the possibility to return to their homeland, some grenadiers revolted in 1824 and went over to the Royalist side. The rest of the grenadiers remained on the Patriotic side and fought in all the final battles until the definitive victory. They finally returned to the River Plate in 1826.


[ EN 531 ]

Eustoquio Díaz Vélez’s biscuit grater 

The food for the crossing of the Andes was composed of two basic ingredients: meat and rancho [wheat or corn flour]. Biscuits were one way to preserve the flour. Because biscuits were hard, a grater like this one was sometimes used, possibly to add them to broths, stews or soups. 

During the crossing there were two meals—one at dawn, before starting the walk, and another at dusk, when camping. On the coldest, most exhausting days, extra portions were distributed: cold meat or cheese, and wine or brandy.


[ EN 541 ]

General Juan Gregorio Lemos’s trunk 

Lemos was the officer in charge of keeping accounts in the Andes Army. He made a great effort to provide for the troops through taxes, contributions and debts. The strict payment of salaries was considered essential to maintain the soldiers’ discipline and adherence, keeping desertion levels low.

Wood covered with rawhide, ironwork.

[ EN 546 ]

The Rancagua Agreement

San Martín was called by the central government of the River Plate in 1819 to fight the Artiguists in the Littoral, but he refused to enter a civil war and did not follow the order.

On February 1, 1820 the last supreme director fell and the central government created in 1810 ceased to exist. Without the authority which had designated him, San Martín asked his officers to elect a new leader. Gathered in Rancagua, Chile, the officers refused. They signed this document stating that San Martín should continue in command “for the good of the people.”

Manuscript, April 2, 1820.

[ EN 547 ]

The United Liberating Army’s seal

After the victory of Chacabuco, the Andes Army merged with the Chilean Army. The United Liberating Army was thus created. This is its seal.

The Spanish coat of arms showed two mythological columns guarding the gate to Europe. Two globes represented the old and the new worlds. The motto Plus Ultra [further beyond] referred to the overseas exploration which led to the Spanish conquest s in the Americas. This seal got rid of the European column and globes. Only the new, independent world remained.

Engraved silver.

[ EN 549 ]

Pehuenche poncho given to General José de San Martín

The organization for crossing the Andes included a meeting between San Martín and his officers and the Pehuenches who controlled the mountain passes of current-day Mendoza. 

San Martín asked them permission to move troops through their territories and the southernmost pass, Planchón. The Pehuenches were already on good terms with the Revolutionary governments, so the mission was accomplished.

As part of the usual diplomatic exchange of gifts, San Martín received this poncho. 

Loom-woven wool fabric.

[ EN 550 ]

General Martín Miguel de Güemes’s jacket 

The success of the campaign to Chile rested largely on the efficacy of the guerrilla war led by Güemes in the north. The provinces of Jujuy and Salta were facing a Royalist expedition from Upper Peru while the Andes Army was crossing the Andes Mountains.

This jacket, which belonged to Güemes, was probably part of the suit ordered for him by Belgrano when he was informed that Güemes did not own a suitable uniform for his position. 

Wool cloth decorated with gold threads.

[ EN 551 ]

Portrait of Colonel Nicolás Rodríguez Peña

Rodríguez Peña was one of the protagonists of the May Revolution of 1810 and later a prominent member of the Lautaro Lodge. 

He was not a military man, but Gil de Castro portrayed him in a uniform as a tribute to his contribution to the Patriotic cause, the military profession having great prestige during the war.

He wears the River Plate emblem on his belt buckle, the national badge on his hat, and the Chilean star on his sabre.

José Gil de Castro. Oil on canvas, 1817.

[ EN 552 ]

Portrait of Colonel José Antonio Melián 

José Gil de Castro was a painter from Lima who joined the Revolution. He was the son of a former slave woman and a pardo freeman. He moved to Santiago de Chile to develop his career and was chosen to paint the portraits of San Martín and the other generals and officers of the Andes Army.

This is a portrait of Melián, who fought for the Revolution as from 1810 and led a squad of mounted grenadiers in Chile. He is portrayed here without his uniform, but written on the canvas is his promise to wear it again if need be.

José Gil de Castro. Oil on canvas, 1819.

[ EN 553 ]

The expedition to Peru

In September 1820 the United Provinces-Chilean expedition disembarked in the south of Peru. The Royalists abandoned Lima and moved to the highlands as a defence strategy. The Lima elite, fearful of social upheaval in the absence of authorities, invited San Martín into the city. He thus entered the capital city as a liberator, not as a conqueror. On July 28, 1821 the independence of Peru was proclaimed.

General José de San Martín's sextant

Sextants are navigation instruments for calculating locations by measuring angles between the horizon and stars.

Made by Nairne & Blunt, London, about 1780.

Drawing of the flag of Peru as designed by San Martín 

Possibly painted by English painter Charles Wood, who was part of the Expedition.

Watercolour on paper. For conservation reasons, a copy is exhibited.

[ EN 554 ]


Lances and sabres were key for the cavalry, and rifles with bayonets for the infantry.

Lance of Grenadier Juan Pascual Pringles

Born in San Luis, Pringles played an important role in the campaign to Peru.

Wood and metal.

English Tower Rifle

This rifle was captured from the British infantry during the 1806-1807 invasions and reused in the Revolutionary wars.

Muzzle-loading, flintlock, smoothbore. Wood and metal.

Sabre of the Hunter Regiment of the Andes Army

Light cavalry corps, such as grenadiers and hunters, were an innovation brought to Latin America by officers who had fought in the Napoleonic wars.

Iron cannonball

Found at the campsite of the Andes Army in Mendoza, this cannonball may have come from the workshop directed by Fray Luis Beltrán.

[ EN 555 ]

Portrait of General Tomás Guido

Guido was a close collaborator of San Martín and played a key role in formulating the continental plan to attack the Royalists in Chile and in Peru. In the Chilean and Peruvian campaigns he fulfilled military, political and diplomatic duties.

Gil de Castro’s portrait shows a hat with the national badge and a silver inkstand.

José Gil de Castro. Oil on canvas, 1820.

[ EN 556 ]

Portrait of General Guillermo Miller

Miller was a Briton who fought against Napoleon's armies and in the War of 1812 between the United Kingdom and the United States. 

After Napoleon’s defeat he moved to the American continent to continue his military career, as did other officers. He joined the Andes Army. In this portrait he wears its uniform and his medals. He later fought throughout the Peruvian campaign commanded by Bolívar, including the decisive Battle of Ayacucho.

José Gil de Castro. Oil on canvas, 1820.

[ EN 557 ]

Bernardo de Monteagudo's desk

 Monteagudo was born in Tucumán and studied law in Upper Peru. He was one of the most radical Revolutionaries. He joined San Martín in the Expedition to Peru and became his Minister of Government, War and Foreign Affairs. He drove out many Royalist Spaniards from Lima. 

When in 1822 San Martín left to meet with Bolívar, there was a rebellion against Monteagudo, who had numerous enemies. He had to resign and go into exile. He returned to Lima with Bolívar in 1825, but was soon assassinated.

Cedar wood, 18th century.

[ EN 558 ]


Decree on "slaves belonging to the foreigners [Royalists]”

Enslaved men who volunteered to join the Army were offered freedom.

Printed paper. For conservation reasons, a copy is exhibited.

Inkstand and seal of the Peruvian Inquisition

San Martín received these pieces as "war trophies," symbols of the fallen colonial system.

Inkstand, inkwells, pounce pot and bell on a silver tray. Silver engraved seal.

Coins of the Protectorate of Peru and the Peruvian Republic

In 1822 coins were minted without the royal symbols, with the sun instead.


Wax seal of the Protectorate of Peru

The emblem on this seal was designed by San Martín. Its motto is "The sun of Peru has been reborn.” 

Carved carnelian stone set in gold.

Serafina Hoyos’s Order of the Sun badge The Order of the Sun was created in 1821 to form a new ruling elite of military origin. It was also awarded to around 200 women.

Chiselled gold brooch.

[ EN 559 ]

Portrait of Marquis Bernardo de Torre Tagle

Marquis Torre Tagle was a Lima nobleman who became a collaborator of San Martín in Peru. San Martín left him in charge of the government when he travelled to Guayaquil to meet Bolívar in 1822. 

Torre Tagle went on to become president of Peru, but clashed with Bolívar and made a pact with the Royalists. He died imprisoned in the fortress of Callao, near Lima. 

In the portrait he bears the Order of the Sun badge and a medal given to the participants of the liberating expedition.

José Gil de Castro. Oil on canvas, 1823.

[ EN 560 ]

Portrait of General Simón Bolívar

Bolívar, born in Caracas, led several Revolutionary campaigns in northern South America during the 1810s. By 1822 he was the leader of a victorious army ready to advance southward to beat the Royalists in Latin America. 

Bolívar’s greatest ambition was to form a union of Latin American republics that would function under the coordination of a congress.

He was portrayed by Gil de Castro, who moved back to his native Lima and painted the Bolivarian officers.

José Gil de Castro. Oil on canvas, 1825.

[ EN 561 ]

Protector of Peru José de San Martín’s tailcoat

On August 3, 1821, San Martín was appointed to the provisional position of Protector of Peru, with both political and military command. He was to hold this position until a congress convened to discuss the form of government. San Martín believed that Peru should have a constitutional monarchy. 

He wore this tailcoat on special occasions. It is in the colours chosen by him for the Peruvian flag—white and red. The brightness of the embroidery represented the sun. 

Wool cloth embroidered with metal threads.

[ EN 562 ]

General Simón Bolívar's vest

In 1822, when he met San Martín, Bolívar was the president of a new country, Colombia. It brought together the territories of the former Viceroyalty of New Granada, the Captaincy of Venezuela and the Presidency of Quito.

Bolívar was widely respected by by his contemporaries throughout Latin America for his victories. One of the main streets in Buenos Aires was named after him in 1822 and bears that name to this day. When Upper Peru declared its independence in 1825, it paid tribute to him by choosing the name of Bolivia.

Wool cloth embroidered with golden threads.

[ EN 563 ]

San Martín and South American independence

Between 1817 and 1821 San Martín led the Revolutionary forces that defeated the Royalist army in Chile and on the coast of Peru. The last phase of the war for independence began in 1822, when the Revolutionaries from southern and northern South America merged together. San Martín and Simón Bolívar, the president of a new republic called Colombia (which included present-day Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, and Venezuela), met in Guayaquil to agree on how to defeat the last stronghold of colonial power.

San Martín decided to resign from the government of Peru and left the scene. It was Bolívar and his collaborator Antonio José de Sucre, in command of a large army, who launched the final offensive in the Peruvian highlands. In December 1824 Sucre won a decisive victory over the Royalist forces at the Battle of Ayacucho (Peru). One of the squads of the Regiment of Mounted Grenadiers created by San Martín fought there. It was the last episode of a very long war. Shortly afterwards the few remaining Royalist strongholds in South America fell.

San Martín returned to the River Plate and then left for Europe, where he lived for the rest of his life, constantly aware of the affairs of the continent that he had helped to liberate.


[ EN 564 ]

Portrait of General José de San Martín

After the victory of Chacabuco and the triumphal entry of the Andes Army into Santiago de Chile, San Martín posed for Gil de Castro. Although Castro made no copies of the officers’ portraits, which were only used privately, he replicated San Martín’s image. San Martín commissioned some copies to send to his allies.

José Gil de Castro. Oil on canvas, 1818.

[ EN 565 ]

Triumph of Latin American Independence 

This work celebrates the battle of Ayacucho, which marked the end of Spanish rule in Latin America. The "genius" of independence depicted as a woman "takes her triumphant path." She both wears and carries liberty caps, symbols of the new republics, each represented by a horse: México, Guatemala, Colombia, Buenos Aires (the Viceroyalty of the River Plate), Peru and Chile. 

Enlargement of a lithograph from the museum's collection. Original printed by Rudolph Ackermann’s publishing house, London, 1825.

[ EN 566 ]

General Gregorio Las Heras's ceremonial sword

Las Heras commanded one of the main columns of the Army in the crossing of the Andes. He had an outstanding performance in Chile, particularly in the Battle of Cancha Rayada, where he saved the Patriotic army from complete disaster. He participated in the campaign to Peru, where he ended up distancing himself from San Martín. He would later become governor of Buenos Aires.

Steel, bronze and leather.

[ EN 567 ]

General Miguel Estanislao Soler’s sword

Soler fought for the Revolution as from 1810. He led one of the main columns in the crossing of the Andes and played a key role in the Battle of Chacabuco. He later returned to Buenos Aires, where the Cabildo awarded him with this sword, commissioned in London.

Steel, silver, velvet.

[ EN 568 ]

General Matías Zapiola's ceremonial sword

Zapiola was one of the military men who arrived from Spain and England along with San Martín in 1812. Together they created the Regiment of Mounted Grenadiers. Zapiola led the grenadiers in the crossing of the Andes and in the Chilean campaign.

Steel, bronze, mother-of-pearl.

[ EN 569 ]

General José de San Martín’s sabre

San Martín arrived in the River Plate in 1812 carrying this cavalry curved sabre bought in London. It was the model weapon of the Regiment of Mounted Grenadiers created by San Martín. He carried it throughout the Chile and Peru campaigns.

Damascus steel blade. Black grained leather scabbard.

[ EN 570 ]

General José Antonio Álvarez de Arenales’s sabre

While the largest part of the army stayed on the coast with San Martín during the Peruvian campaign, Arenales was sent on a key mission: to climb the highlands in order to surround Lima. He secured a remarkable victory over the Royalists in the battle of Cerro de Pasco. Several years later he was governor of Salta.

Steel, wood, fish skin and brass.

[ EN 571 ]

General Lucio Norberto Mansilla's sword

Mansilla fought for the Revolution as from 1810. This young porteño participated in the organization of the Andes Army training recruits and volunteers in San Juan. He then fought in Chacabuco and Maipú. 

Decades later he would lead the defence of the Paraná River in Vuelta de Obligado, as well as other battles against the French and British fleets.

Steel and fish skin.

[ EN 572 ]

General Eustoquio Frías’s sabre

Frías, born in the province of Salta, was one of the mounted grenadiers. He participated in the Expedition for the Liberation of Peru and in the highlands campaign with Arenales. He was later part of the contingent sent by San Martín to help Bolívar in present-day Ecuador and fought in the Battle of Riobamba. He was also one of the grenadiers who took part in the decisive battles of Junín and Ayacucho. 

Steel, bronze and fish skin.

[ EN 573 ]

General Enrique Martínez’s ceremonial sword 

Martínez, born in Montevideo, played an important role in the streets of Buenos Aires in the May Revolution. He then stood out in the Andes Army. When the central government of the United Provinces fell in 1820, he proposed that San Martín should continue in command of the Army in Rancagua. He took part in the Peruvian campaign and led the last troops of San Martín's army back to the River Plate.

Steel, bronze and mother-of-pearl.


All the pieces exhibited belong to the museum’s collection.

For conservation reasons, some are replicas.