Franciscan friar, collaborator of José de san martÍn and Bolívar; b. Mendoza, Argentina, Sept. 8, 1784; d. Buenos Aires, Dec. 8, 1827. In the course of his studies as a Franciscan, he became interested in mathematics, physics, and mechanics. He was at the motherhouse of the order in Santiago, Chile, when the revolution against Spain erupted. He volunteered in the Chilean army and served as chaplain under General Carrera. His interest in ordnance stood him in good stead, and when the Chilean army had to flee to Argentina in 1814, he was asked by San Martín to take charge of assembling cannon and munitions for the march across the Andes. An indefatigable worker, Beltrán worked near miracles with practically no resources. After the victory of the Army of the Andes over the Spaniards at Maipú in 1818, O'Higgins and San Martín gave Beltrán carte blanche to create the largest and best ordnance establishment in America and to assemble matériel for an army of 4,000 men. Beltrán accompanied the Argentine-Chilean expedition to Peru in 1820, supervising the loading of all military supplies on the ships. He served as arms director of the entire artillery in the Peruvian campaign, 1820 to 1824, gaining the rank of lieutenant colonel. After San Martín's withdrawal from Peru, Beltrán served under Bolívar for two years. He returned to Argentina in 1824 but soon left for the front along the Uruguay River, serving in the war against Brazil as chief of munitions under Gen. Martín Rodríguez. His rank of lieutenant colonel was recognized by the government of Buenos Aires in 1826, and to this honor was soon added the rank of sergeant major. He also supervised the provisioning of Admiral Brown's navy. With the victory over Brazil at Ituzaingó, in which Beltrán participated, he retired from the army for reasons of health and returned to Buenos Aires. He was buried in his friar's habit. Beltrán's services to his country can hardly be overestimated. An Argentine historian has said that "he knew how to convert into forge and anvil the very bosom of the Cordillera itself to assure the independence and liberty of the Continent … [making] possible, with Franciscan self-abnegation, the liberating movement of San Martín."
Bibliography: l. cÓrdoba, Fray Luis Beltrán: Reivindicación histórica del prócer (Mendoza 1938). f. l. hoffmann, "A Franciscan Fighter for South American Independence," Americas 10 (1954) 289–300.
[f. l. hoffman]