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Son of Antonio Zenteno Bustamante and Victoria Pozo y Silva, Jose Ignacio was born in Santiago on July 28th, 1786. He studied at the Carolino school, but in 1806 he left this institution and joined a notary as an apprentice.

From a young age he expressed his adherence to revolutionary ideals, reason for which he soon quit his job and 1813 he held the position of secretary of the army of the south. The following year he was named secretary of supreme director Francisco de la Lastra, until he was overthrown by Jose Miguel Carrera, having to go to Argentina in exile.

In Mendoza he met general San Martin, who named him secretary of the Intendencia del Ejercito (Army Intendancy). At the end of 1816 he enrolled in the Army of the Andes with the rank of lieutenant colonel of the infantry.

Upon his return to Chile (1817), O’Higgins named him minister of War. He worked hard in putting together the first National Squadron and the Liberation Expedition of Peru. In order to accomplish this he created the Academia de Guardiamarinas (Midshipmen Academy) (in Valparaiso), where officers were trained.

The results of the Squadron and the Expedition were positive: in 1821, Peru became independent. As a recognition of his work, Zenteno was honored by San Martin with the Orden del Sol (Order of the Sun), and O’Higgins promoted him to brigade general. He also took over as governor of Valparaiso. He was able to hold on to this position after the abdication of O’Higgins (January of 1823), but when Ramon Freire assumed the position of supreme director, the situation became complicated and he was ultimately deported to Peru.

He returned to Chile in 1826 and requested his acts be judged by a War Council, which absolved him. In 1831, he was named general commander of arms and inspector of the army.

He was elected deputy for Santiago and Victoria many times in a row.

He was also a professor for the Faculty of Law of the Universidad de Chile, editor of El Mercurio and member of the Court Martial and the Agriculture Society. He passed away in Santiago on July 16th, 1847.