General Jose de San Martin Memorial

This monument honors General José de San Martín, known as the liberator of Argentina, Chile, and Peru.

Now located at 20th Street NW along Virginia Avenue, the General José de San Martín Memorial celebrates the military official as a liberator of Argentina and Chile, as well as his attempt to do the same for Peru. As the first statue gifted to Washington, DC from a foreign country — the original, designed by Alexandre Dumont, is located in Buenos Aires, Argentina— the horse-mounted San Martín represents the pursuit of freedom and democracy in South America, with the one in DC being a replica. Dumont, a French sculptor, has multiple well-known sculptures throughout Paris, including one at the Place de la Bastille.

Born 1778 in Argentina to Spanish parents, San Martín only spent six years in South America before moving back to Spain, where he became a Spanish military officer, fighting in numerous battles and wars. However, after meeting some fellow South Americans in London, San Martín decided to travel back to Argentina in 1812. While there, San Martín transformed the volunteer armies in the country into formal and distinguished troops, leading soldiers in the fight for independence from Spain, which they achieved. After this success, San Martín continued onto Chile, where he once again successfully aided in the country’s liberation from Spanish rule. Attempting to continue his success, San Martín captured Lima, Peru in hopes of again liberating a nation; however, his failure to negotiate help from General Simon Bolivar led to his eventual departure from the country.

After leaving Peru, San Martín resigned his military position, and moved to Belgium where he had been offered a position to liberate the country from Dutch rule. Despite his return to Europe, he did not end up leading Belgian forces. San Martín spent the remainder of his years in France, dying in poverty in 1850. Despite these later failures, the general’s lasting impact on the independence of Argentina and Chile made him the subject of great adoration, especially alongside the earlier legacy of George Washington and the other Founding Fathers of the United States. In order to celebrate their shared values of democracy and freedom, the statue’s erection in 1925 tied the nations together in their pursuit of independence.

While originally located in Judiciary Square, the General José de San Martín Memorial was relocated to its current location due to Metro construction in the 1970s. Its original base was replaced upon its move, and plaques commemorating visits by Argentinian presidents Raul Alfonsin and Dr. Carlos Saul Menem in 1985 and 1991, respectively, were added. The memorial is also part of a larger tour along Virginia Avenue honoring Latin American liberators.

DC Inventory: February 22, 2007
National Register: October 12, 2007



Virginia Avenue and 20th Street NW