San Martin, the father of Merceditas

San Martin, the father of Merceditas

Mercedes and her father, the Liberator. Illustration by Osvaldo Révora.

“The constant affection and dedication that he has always shown me, have rewarded all my efforts with usury, making my old age happy.”

Simple words from a man proud of his daughter; a father, a warrior. José de San Martín, the “Father of the Nation”. And father of Mercedes Tomasa San Martín and Climbing. Merceditas.

Merceditas was born in Mendoza on August 24, 1816, when his father governed that province and was about to start the liberating campaign. She was only four months old when San Martín began the crossing of the Andes and she moved with her sick mother, Remedios de Escalada, to her grandparents’ house in Buenos Aires.

Merceditas would only see her father again seven years laterwhen after Guayaquil San Martín decides to step aside in the struggle for the liberation of America, leaving it in the hands of Simón Bolívar, and return to his homeland.

The obstacles to the reunion were not few. San Martín, already in Chile, wanted to return to Buenos Aires to accompany his wife on her deathbed. But his enemies, with Bernardino Rivadavia at their head, governed Buenos Aires and the return was fraught with difficulties. So much so that when she finally arrived, Remedios was already dead.

Two strangers

A daguerreotype of Saint Martin taken at Boulognesurmer a few years before his death
A daguerreotype of Saint Martin, taken at Boulogne-sur-mer, a few years before his death.

When on December 4, 1823, San Martín showed up at the house of his in-laws in Buenos Aires, he found Tomasa de Escalada a strong opposition to Merceditas living with her father.

Her mother-in-law had clung to Merceditas since Remedios’s death and was not going to let her go. Besides, she had never loved him. Ever since she met him, when San Martín participated in a gathering organized by the Escaladas shortly after arriving in Buenos Aires, it seemed to him that it was little for his daughter. He had no lineage, he said.

But San Martin was stubborn. And strong. The fight against the Spanish had given him the perseverance and courage that he now needed to get his daughter back. And that he did, even though they were two strangers.

Father and daughter will undertake a long journey and definitive to the old continent. San Martin loved his daughter and was willing to make up for lost time. He awaited exile and the possibility of a new life. His days would be unbearable and dangerous if they stayed in Buenos Aires.

maxims for my daughter

In 1825 José de San Martín wrote “Maxims for my daughter”, a list of advice that Merceditas had to take into account in her life and where the Liberator also expressed his ideals for the education of boys and girls. Below is the complete list.

1. Humanize the character and make it sensitive even with the insects that harm us. Stern has said to a fly opening the window for him to come out: “Come on, poor animal, the world is too big for the two of us.”

two. Inspire her love for the truth and hatred for lies.

3. Inspire great confidence and friendship but uniting respect.

Four. Encourage charity with the poor in Mercedes.

5. Respect for other people’s property.

6. Get her used to keeping a secret.

7. Inspire her feelings of indulgence towards all religions.

8. Sweetness with servants, poor and old.

9. Speak a little and precise.

10. Accustom to be formally on the table.

eleven. Love to cleanliness and contempt for luxury.

12. Inspire her love for the country and for freedom.

books and night

Father and daughter try to settle in London, but the cost of living there is very high and neither the Buenos Aires nor the Peruvian government pays San Martín his pension. Because he lacked a fortune (his only income from him was the rent from a house he had in Buenos Aires) decides to cross the English Channel to settle in Brusselswhere they will live for six years.

It was only in 1830 that the Liberator began to receive what he owed and settled in France, leaving behind economic hardship. “He had a very nice life in France, very interestingwhere he met the great figures of the culture of the time at the hands of his dear friend Alejandro Aguado”, highlights the historian Philip Pigna.

And he adds: “It was also a time when he enjoyed his granddaughters, the daughters of Mercedes (she had married Mariano Severo Balcarce in September 1832), Merceditas and Pepita.” But San Martin suffered from health problems. Although these were relieved when he settled in France, he was still affected by rheumatism, osteoarthritis and asthma.

Mercdes Tomasa de San Martín Escalada died in 1875, twenty-five years after her father
Mercdes Tomasa de San Martín Escalada died in 1875, twenty-five years after her father.

“After the events of 1848 in Paris he decides to travel to England and when he is about to cross the English Channel meets the director of the Boulogne Sur Mer Public Library, who offers to rent his house at a very low price, which is on the top of the Public Library. As San Martín was a great reader, the proposal convinced him and he would spend the last years of his life there, ”says Pigna.

However, the night will fall on the books. “San Martín suffered from cataracts, they operated on him and due to bad practice he became blind,” says the historian, detailing that “he will spend the last two years of his life in a state of blindness, with his daughter Mercedes reading newspapers and books in that house of Boulogne Sur Mer.

San Martín died on August 17, 1850, at the age of 72. Merceditas was at his side at all times. As he dreamed of since that reunion in Buenos Aires. As he wanted it before each of his battles. Those in which he dreamed of winning. And spend the rest of her days with his daughter.

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