12 julio, 2024

Liberating current of the south: background, development and characters

What was the liberating current of the south?

The liberating current of the south It was a military campaign led by General José de San Martín that sought to consolidate the independence of Argentina and Chile and achieve that of Peru, territories that were then under Spanish rule. This campaign took place between 1815 and 1822.

The Governing Board of Buenos Aires had proclaimed its independence in 1810, but during the following years the civil wars and the Spanish reaction did not allow its consolidation. Part of the danger came from the royalist troops located in Peru, so several expeditions were organized to try to defeat them, but without success.

José de San Martín devised a plan to defeat the Spanish. To begin with, they had to liberate Chile and, from that country, head to Peru by sea, avoiding clashes on land along the way. For this campaign, he counted on figures such as the Englishman Thomas Alexander Cochrane and Bernardo O’Higgins.

After managing to defeat the Spanish in the battle of Maipú and thus liberating Chile, San Martín undertook the second part of his strategy. After landing in Paracas, the campaign only lasted for a few more months. Once the capital, Lima, was taken, on July 28, 1821, the independence of Peru was declared.


The wars of independence against Spanish rule had achieved several of their objectives by the 1810s. New Granada and Venezuela had gained their independence after Simón Bolívar defeated the royalists, giving birth to Gran Colombia.

Further south, in Argentina, independence had also been proclaimed, although its consolidation was not yet a reality.

However, Peru lived a different situation. The rebellions in the provinces had been defeated and the territory was consolidated as the great Spanish military reserve in that part of the continent.

From Peru, the Spanish sent several expeditions to try to stop the liberation campaigns in other viceroyalties, for which reason it had become a threat to emancipatory movements throughout South America.

Argentine Independence

In May 1810, the Cabildo of Buenos Aires declared its independence from Spain. During the following years, the confrontations against the Spanish took place in the different Argentine provinces and, in addition, there were several civil wars that weakened the patriotic forces.

The Spaniards attacked the Argentine independentists on several occasions from the Viceroyalty of Peru. The patriots, for their part, organized three campaigns to try to end colonial rule in that territory, but each time they were defeated by the troops of Viceroy Abascal.

Finally, on July 9, 1816, at the Congress of Tucumán, the then United Provinces of the Río de la Plata declared their definitive independence from the Spanish monarchy.


General José de San Martín then proposed a new strategy to end Spanish rule in Peru. Thus, instead of trying to attack again from Upper Peru, where the Argentine expeditions had failed, he decided first to liberate Chile and, later, to reach Peruvian lands by sea.

The first step was to prepare an army capable of crossing the Andes to reach Chile. Despite the financing problems he encountered, the independence leader was able to gather some 4,000 regular soldiers and 1,200 militiamen.

Independence of Chile

The Crossing of the Andes began on January 12, 1817 and lasted for almost a month, until February 9.

Already in Chilean territory, the army of San Martín defeated the Spanish in the battle of Chacabuco, on February 12. However, on March 19, 1818, the patriots suffered a significant defeat in the battle of Cancha Rayada, near the city of Talca.

San Martín managed to recover his army and continue advancing. On April 5, 1818, they inflicted a decisive defeat on the Spanish at the Battle of Maipú, west of Santiago.

This victory ensured the independence of Chile and San Martín began to prepare his next move: the expedition to Peru.

Thomas Cochrane

Before the expedition began, San Martín commissioned Lord Thomas Cochrane to make two sea forays into Peru to reconnoiter the terrain, weaken the royalist forces, and try to rally supporters for the cause.

The British set out on his first expedition in January 1819. After blockading Callao, his men landed at Huacho and Huaura, attacking Spanish positions along the way.

In September 1819, Admiral Cochrane set sail again for the Peruvian coast. In addition to blocking Callao again, his troops landed in Pisco and then marched on Guayaquil.

liberating expedition

The expedition led by San Martín left the port of Valparaíso (Chile) on August 20, 1820. Some of the ships had been bought from the United States and Great Britain, while the rest were ships captured from the Spanish. In total, these ships carried 4,118 soldiers.

After a journey of more than two weeks, the expedition reached Paracas Bay on September 8. After disembarking, the liberating army occupied the towns of Pisco and Chincha with hardly any resistance.

During his tour, many black slaves joined the troops after fleeing the haciendas. San Martín established his headquarters in Pisco.

Miraflores Conferences

When the liberating army set foot in the Paracas, Viceroy Joaquín de la Pezuela requested to begin negotiations.

San Martín accepted the offer and envoys from both sides met in the so-called Miraflores Conferences. The talks lasted between September 30 and October 1.

The liberating representatives demanded the independence of Peru, to which the viceroyalty responded with the demand that San Martín swear allegiance to the Spanish Crown. Given the divergence of both positions, the fighting resumed.

Independence of Peru

San Martín moved his headquarters from Pisco to Huarua. Meanwhile, the independence leader sent part of his troops, commanded by Álvarez de Arenales, to the mountains to try to find more supporters for the cause. These forces faced the royalist army in Cerro del Pasco, which they managed to defeat.

At the beginning of 1821, the liberators saw how various towns in the north rose up and joined their ranks. The tension within the royalist side before the patriot advance led to a coup executed by General José de la Serna against Viceroy Pezuela, on January 29, 1821.

De la Serna tried to convince San Martín to withdraw at the Punchauca Conference on June 2, 1821. The liberating general refused and ordered his troops to lay siege to Lima.

Unable to withstand a long siege, De la Serna fled with his troops to Cuzco. San Martín, without resistance, entered Lima. The independence of Peru was proclaimed on July 28, 1821.


The popular. Current Libertadora del Sur: Liberation plan and battles. Obtained from elpopular.pe
Pedagogical Folder. South Libertadora Current. Retrieved from folderpedagogica.com
Paredes, Jorge G. San Martín, The liberating expedition of the south and the independence of the peoples of Peru (1819 – 1821). Recovered from er-saguier.org
Wallenfeldt, Jeff. When the “Hannibal of the Andes” Liberated Chile. Retrieved from britannica.com
History.com Editors. Revolutionary leader José de San Martín routes Spanish forces in Chile. Retrieved from history.com
Rodriguez Zaninovic, Paz. Chile and the Fight for Independence. Retrieved from chiletoday.cl
Cavendish, Richard. The Liberation of Peru. Retrieved from historytoday.com
Minster, Christopher. Biography of José Francisco de San Martín, Latin American Liberator. Retrieved from thoughtco.com

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