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Category: In the press

598. remembering jorge kaudi

In 2009, Robert found one of the few copies available of a book by Jorge Kaudi titled “Cementerio de la Recoleta — Guía de Visitantes,” the first of its kind ever written about the cemetery. In mid-2023, a group of researchers decided to re-edit this trailblazing text, created when no one believed in the cultural & touristic potential of the necropolis. Surprisingly, the process of that re-edition began far from Recoleta, in a place near the city of Buenos Aires called San Isidro. María Laje, one of the editors along with Graciela Blanco & Susana Gesualdi, tells us the story.

“It all began thanks to the curiosity of Graciela Blanco, who researches the cemetery of San Isidro. In the decade of the 1950s, a tragedy took place there: twelve girls died in a factory fire. They were buried together in a mausoleum funded by donations from the general public, & it has a very beautiful (statue of an) angel. Graciela has written much about the history of this event over the years & was looking to find who had donated the statue. About a year & a half ago, she discovered that the donor was Jorge Kaudi, president of the Argentina Federation of Pétanque.”

“From that moment,” continues Laje, “Graciela looked into who Kaudi was & discovered that he was a builder of funeral vaults who had written a guidebook to Recoleta Cemetery. She found a reference to Kaudi in a book by Elba Villafañe Bombal titled ‘Intinerario histórico de Recoleta‘”.

“At that point, Susana Gesualdi accessed Kaudi’s book in the Museo Hernández, & I transcribed it on my computer. We copied it word for word, we didn’t correct any single part,” affirms María Laje.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Jorge Kaudi
Invited guest, María Laje, Susana Gesualdi & Graciela Blanco in the presentation of Kaudi’s book, Recoleta Cemetery. Image courtesy of Alicia Rebollar.

Life story

“Once the book had been found, we needed to uncover more biographical information about Kaudi. Oscar de Masi (heritage specialist & former president of the National Commission of Monuments, Places & Historical Assets) gave Susana a tip: Kaudi’s date of death. With this information we went to newspaper archives to find his obituary & to see if there was any other info. Kaudí had donated his publication to various newspapers, so we searched in Clarín & La Nación but found nothing,” states Laje.

This all changed when “someone appeared from the Family Search website who wanted to help provide information. I commented that were were investigating the life of Kaudi, & this person took it upon themselves to find him on that webpage. That’s how we found his date of birth & a detail… that he had been born in Montevideo, Uruguay. We asked a friend there to obtain a copy of his birth certificate for us.”

“Afterwards,” Laje continues, “we began searching for vaults built by Kaudi in Recoleta. Susana found a few, while between Graciela & myself, we combed through the cemetery several times. This is how we found 49 vaults signed by him, although we’re sure that more exist.”

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Jorge Kaudi
Graciela Blanco, Susana Gesualdi & María Laje in the presentation of Kaudi’s book, Recoleta Cemetery. Image courtesy of Any Contín.

A pioneer

Concerning the guidebook previously mentioned, Laje points out that “it’s marvelous. Kaudi speaks 70 years ago about the importance of cemeteries like we do today. About how important the cemetery is, not as a final resting place, but somewhere you have to bring school groups, exactly the same as we say now. It’s unbelievable how he has fallen out of public memory.”

“This guy’s merit is remarkable, just for the effort in making that guidebook. No one had written anything before him, he was a pioneer,” continues Laje. She adds, “I believe we are going to do justice to the memory of Kaudi. Apart from your publication (Laje refers to our blog post mentioned & linked above), we found nothing else… except a reference that he had been president of the Argentine Federation of Pétanque. Recovering his life story was difficult. In fact, to this day we don’t know if he had any children. When he passed away, his wife & other family members appear in the obituary, but there is no mention of children.”

María Laje concludes, “It was an interesting undertaking that we’re satisfied with, mainly for remembering Kaudi & giving him his due recognition. In addition, we’re going to propose to Recoleta, where they are developing themed guided visits, that one should be about the works of Jorge Kaudi.”


The book “Cementerio de la Recoleta — Guía de Visitantes” by Jorge Kaudi originally appeared in 1955 with a second edition following one year later. That 1956 publication was the source for the reedition by those researchers mentioned above, & first appeared in mid-2023 as PDF available for free download. This year a physical edition was presented in Recoleta Cemetery on Saturday, 03 Feb 2024.

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595. la nación, 09 jan 2023

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, sculptors, escultores, La Nación

It’s been quite some time since a full-feature piece about Recoleta Cemetery appeared in a major Buenos Aires newspaper. In the past, I’d translate these articles in their entirety under the category “In the press” so readers could have access to this historic content in English. But all manner of automatic translation exists today online… not ideal & not always accurate, at least those tools give a general notion of the article if you’re curious.

Recorrido por las tumbas de los escultores más célebres del cementerio de la Recoleta” written by Alejandro Machado starts with an overview of the cemetery then dives into an extensive list of sculptors, their works in Recoleta & where to see other pieces by the same artist. Sculptors included in the article are:

I know the author, & he is very meticulous with research… we’ve even collaborated on a few projects together. It’s great to have this information available to the general public! A passing mention of this blog or the possibility of contributing photos would have been a nice gesture though.

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594. birthday bash

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Recoleta Cemetery

Happy 200th birthday! Marcelo was unable to attend, but a series of activities throughout November commemorated the bicentennial of Recoleta Cemetery. Announced by the official website of the Buenos Aires city government, here’s their schedule of events:

  • Official commemorative act, November 17

  • Dramatization, November 19 at 18:00
    Directed by Hugo Aquino, the Clepsidra theater group will surprise as usual in its performances at various historical sites. This tour & its actors pull together 200 years of Argentine history from a religious, architectural, political & cultural perspective.

  • Symphony orchestra, November 24 at 18:00
    The Argentine Naval Prefecture symphony orchestra brings together 40 members to perform a repertoire that will include the Argentina national anthem as well as works by Brahms, Strauss & Dvorak.

  • Chamber vocal ensemble, November 26 at 18:00
    Created in 1970, the Chamber Vocal Ensemble —managed by the Undersecretary of Culture from the Municipality of Quilmes— is composed of music professionals who join the group through a rigorous competition. The choir is composed of 5 sopranos, 4 altos, 3 tenors & 5 bass singers that achieve a beautiful harmony. They have performed in emblematic places such as the Teatro Colon, the Teatro Cervantes & the Auditorio Belgrano among others.

  • Guided visit, November 30 at 21:00
    Commemorating the bicentennial of the cemetery, Mr. Eduardo Lazzari will accompany us in a nighttime tour without precedent. The route will include places of interest that bring together legends & stories that have been gathered throughout history.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Recoleta Cemetery, Domingo Faustino Sarmiento

In addition, the article lists ten must-see places to visit inside Recoleta Cemetery. We’ve written about these specific tombs or general areas, so each link below will take you directly to that post:

  1. Peristyle & monumental entrance
  2. Pantheon of Meritorious Citizens – Section once dedicated to Argentina’s forefathers, but most remains have since been moved to other locations. One later addition was Dr. Guillermo Rawson.
  3. Central statue of Christ
  4. Walkway parallel to Calle Azcuénaga – Long path with large mausoleums such as Adolfo Alsina, Toribio de Ayerza & Luis Ángel Firpo.
  5. Sculptures parallel to Calle Vicente López – Shorter walkway filled with grand statues like on the tombs of Juan Alberto Lartigau & Luis María Campos.
  6. María Eva Duarte de Perón mausoleum
  7. Leloir family mausoleum
  8. Domingo Faustino Sarmiento tomb
  9. Legend of Rufina Cambacérès
  10. Chapel
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Recoleta Cemetery

Other press releases in local newspapers generally copied the official article linked above; however, one editorial piece in La Prensa caught my attention. Written by Roberto L. Elissalde, the article mentions some of the impressions that foreign visitors had while visiting Recoleta Cemetery as well as highlights the role of the cemetery’s first historian, Ricardo de Lafuente Machain. Worth a look if you can read Spanish.


If anyone has photos of the events mentioned above & would like to share, I’d be happy to post them here… & of course give proper credit!

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581. lorenzo fernández de viana

Lorenzo Fernández de Viana, Museo de Bellas Artes, Álava

Born in 1866 in Lanciego —a small town in the southern Basque region of Álava, near the border with La Rioja— Lorenzo Fernández de Viana began his artistic career as a cabinet maker… but soon moved on to bigger & better things. After obtaining grants to study in Madrid & Paris, he returned to the local capital of Vitoria to open the only sculpture workshop in the city. As a result, his art decorates the new cathedral & he even taught aspiring students.

Viana left it all for Argentina in 1912, accompanied by his three daughters. His timing could not have been more perfect, with Argentina booming & numerous cities requesting European artists to decorate the nation. Viana’s stay in America was brief, but he left behind works in Mar de Plata & Buenos Aires. Gaze up to the Constitución train station to find representations of Agriculture & Commerce… fitting since this was the gateway to the Pampas (photo below). On their return to the Basque Country in 1916, his family moved to Bilbao where Viana passed away ten years later in 1926.

Buenos Aires, Constitución, estación de tren, train station

During the height of the pandemic, the Museum of Fine Arts in Álava found this blog & requested to use photos from the tomb of Adolfo Alsina in an upcoming exhibition. Viana was responsible for several reliefs depicting scenes from Alsina’s life. Always happy to assist, I was pleased to contribute & receive a catalog. If you’re in Vitoria, visit the free exhibition because they’ve done a wonderful job in rescuing the memory of such a great artist (runs until 20 Mar 2022).

Lorenzo Fernández de Viana, Museo de Bellas Artes, Álava
Lorenzo Fernández de Viana, Museo de Bellas Artes, Álava
Lorenzo Fernández de Viana, Museo de Bellas Artes, Álava
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579. resources from the 1990s

The difficulties of researching Recoleta Cemetery have been well documented in this blog. Whether due to copyright infringement, repetition of hearsay or even pure invention, all these problems present a disservice to one of the most spectacular sites of Buenos Aires.

Perhaps the most difficult issue to overcome is access to previous publications about the cemetery. Print runs in Argentina are notoriously small, often around 3,000 copies… in a capital city with almost 15 million people & a national population of 45 million! During the 14 years I lived there, I’d scout bookstores each month with the hope of obtaining new resources before they disappeared from sight. Much like a treasure hunt —fun but not practical for most researchers.

Libraries presented another problem: source material spread across the entire city with incomplete collection catalogs. After finding a good publication, I would scour the bibliography for additional leads. However, sources mentioned were often unavailable, in private collections or worse, completely missing. Also, most library staff had insufficient knowledge of holdings or lacked initiative to help users discover additional information. Budget cuts also affected operating hours. Navigating the system took more time than actual reading!

Fortunately the digital age has improved the availability of early texts about Recoleta Cemetery. A recent search on Scribd revealed two gems from the 1990s that I never found in physical form…


Although without a publication date, Recoleta: Cementerio, Arte e Historia contains a prologue signed by Fernando de la Rúa… acting as head of the Buenos Aires city government. That means this 36-page booklet had to be published sometime between 1996 & 1999. Also oddly missing is the author’s name; credit goes to a large number of public officials.

What a shame this publication was not reedited or reproduced in later years! I would have loved an introduction like this on my first cemetery visit. After a brief overview, a hand-drawn map —with correct dimensions— marks 50 tombs of interest. If the route were followed by number, quite a bit of backtracking would be involved. But that’s a minor issue.

Text for each point of interest is brief but with good & surprisingly neutral information about people who were often anything but neutral 😉 Interesting photographs accompany most descriptions. An updated version of this guide in several languages would have been a best-seller at the cemetery entrance gate during the tourism boom of the early 2000s:

Unfortunately this publication has been delegated to the city government’s library & will likely never return.


Issue #5 published by the Board of Historic Studies of Recoleta (Junta de Estudios Históricos de La Recoleta) had a complicated title… something akin to “Recoleta Cemetery: Unraveling its Sites”. The 1970s witnessed a birth of local historical associations, often composed of self-appointed elite who supported a particular vision of their neighborhood. Cemetery heritage director Carlos Francavilla co-authored this 42-page booklet with architect Victor Villasuso. 63 points of interest dot their map marked with a very clear walking route:

Descriptive text & photographs do not mingle; each have their own dedicated pages. In general, mausoleums receive elaborate architectural explanations —so much so that a glossary is included at the end— while occupants & their deeds are secondary.

While interesting for its choice of mausoleums (several of which are rarely mentioned in other guidebooks), overly simple design makes this publication difficult to use as does such grandiloquent language. Oddly cropped photographs also fail to highlight the beauty of mausoleums. Consider this a secondary resource for those interested in lengthy architectural descriptions rather than a practical guide.

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