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Category: Politicians

577. miguel cané

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Miguel Cané

Born in Montevideo in 1851, the Cané family returned to Argentina when Miguel was only two years old. Their self-imposed exile from Rosas likely influenced the young Cané to become involved in Argentine politics, but he also left behind a body of literature that reflected the spirit of a new nation discovering itself.

In the 1860s, Cané attended the prestigious Colegio Nacional de Buenos Aires along with classmates who would also become leaders of Argentina. With a new curriculum directed by Amadeo Jacques, twenty years later Cané would look back on his time there & write a memoir titled Juvenilia:

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Miguel Cané, Juvenilia

After participating in the War of the Triple Alliance, Cané accompanied his cousin on an extended trip to Europe. He also became a European correspondent for the newspapers La Tribuna & El Nacional while on the road, covering conflicts & recording his experiences. Travelogues were all the rage & allowed Argentine readers to get a vicarious taste of travel.

On his return, Cané married & had two children then graduated from law school. His political career began as mayor of Buenos Aires. Eventually Cané crossed over to national politics & served in Congress as well as became ambassador to Colombia & Venezuela in 1893 under the presidency of Luis Saénz Peña. The largest plaque on his mausoleum reminds visitors that he became president of the influential Jockey Club in 1894. After many years of public service, Cané passed away in 1905. His neglected tomb sits along a major walkway in the cemetery, barely attracting the attention of tourists on route to see the nearby burial place of Eva Perón:

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Miguel Cané
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574. tierra de los padres

Opening with over four minutes of historical videos of violent confrontations & death scenes set to the Argentine national anthem, Tierra de los Padres (Fatherland) then switches to the walkways of Recoleta Cemetery. Director Nicolás Prividera uses this final resting place to explore not-so-traditional points of view of Argentina’s complicated history. Whatever opinion leaders had on particular issues during their lifetime, they often ended up in Recoleta Cemetery almost side by side… friends & foes alike.

The second scene sets the tone for the rest of the movie: everyday people —not trained actors— read excerpts written by historical figures buried in Recoleta Cemetery, often at the site of their burial. Prividera explains his concept:

El cementerio de la Recoleta es el más antiguo de Buenos Aires. En 1881, en coincidencia con la formación del estado moderno, se lo transformó en una necrópolis: una simbólica ciudad dentro de la ciudad en la que los mausoleos de los “padres fundadores” trazan un recorrido por la historia oficial. Sin embargo, esta historia también puede ser leída desde la perspectiva de los vencidos…

Recoleta Cemetery is the oldest in Buenos Aires. In 1881, coinciding with the formation of the modern state, it was transformed into a necropolis: a symbolic city within the city in which the mausoleums of the “founding fathers” trace a journey through official history. However, this history can also be read from the perspective of the defeated…

After great debates of Argentine history are spoken aloud, their readers fade away & are replaced by shots of specific sculptures, cemetery caretakers cleaning & repairing mausoleums or the occasional tourist:

Ideologies at odds are presented more or less in chronological order: civilization vs. barbarie as defined by Domingo Faustino Sarmiento · internal conflict as a means for glory in South America according to Juan Bautista Alberdi · immigrants viewed as immoral & anormal by the Liga Patriótica Argentina · Eva Perón dividing people into those who hate, those who are indifferent & those who love · Aramburu at the hands of the Montoneros · Rodolfo Walsh confronting the military junta · and many others.

As this excellent review by Guido Pellegrini states, the director’s political stance is made clear by his selection of texts & images. Anti-elite & wholeheartedly Peronista, Prividera makes no attempt to balance opinions or explain historical context. This bias can be confusing & mislead viewers who have little idea of Argentina’s many historical twists & turns… something we make an effort to explain in this blog & in our PDF guide. No small task but ultimately worthwhile to gain an understanding of Recoleta Cemetery.

The only other criticism would be a failure to respect architectural heritage. Recoleta Cemetery is almost 200 years old, & its mausoleums need remain for future generations to contemplate like Prividera has done. But he places his readers directly on the tombs of their author’s texts —sitting, standing or inserted among the statues. While his intentions are good, those type of takes should have never been permitted.

Tierra de los Padres can be seen for free in its entirety on YouTube.

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560. brigr genl dn juan martín pueyrredón

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Juan Martín Pueyrredón

Straddling the east wall & tucked away near a corner, the simple tomb of Brigadier General Juan Martín de Pueyrredón receives few visitors. One of the founding fathers of Argentina, his memorial seems almost low-key compared to some of his contemporaries.

Born in 1777 in Buenos Aires, his father passed away when he was only 14 years old. That event would change his life. Sent at the age of 18 to Cádiz, Pueyrredón took over his father’s export business & continued increasing the family’s fortune. He also took the opportunity to travel in Europe before returning to Argentina in 1805. He’d married his cousin two years earlier, but she passed away (also in 1805) due to complications from a miscarriage. Influential & well-received back home, Pueyrredón first tried to act as a liaison when the British invaded Argentina the following year. But he soon decided to fight & joined local forces that would defeat the British.

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Juan Martín Pueyrredón

Although sent to Spain as a regional representative, Pueyrredón returned just in time to join the 1810 revolution that began his homeland’s struggle for independence. He was not a successful soldier in the following years but was named to replace Juan José Paso in the First Triumvirate —a prototype executive branch in the newly-formed United Provinces of the Río de la Plata. Alongside San Martín, Pueyrredón organized army & naval forces against the Spanish.

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Juan Martín Pueyrredón

In 1815, Pueyrredón returned to Buenos Aires to marry his second cousin… he was 39 while she was only 14. Times have certainly changed! The following year he was elected as Supreme Director for the national government at a constitutional congress. Pueyrredón founded the national bank & continued to send funds & supplies to San Martín as troops marched toward Perú.

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Juan Martín Pueyrredón

Unfortunately, those early years of independence proved difficult to survive. Discontent brewed within the new government & in 1819, Pueyrredón was forced to resign & eventually went to Montevideo in exile. The political situation changed constantly & he was allowed to return to Buenos Aires two years later. In 1823, his wife gave birth to a boy —Prilidiano— and lived a comfortable life on her family estate in San Isidro. In a brief return to politics, he tried to negotiate an agreement between Juan Manuel de Rosas & Juan Lavalle but to no avail. Leaving for exile in Europe once again, Pueyrredón returned to Buenos Aires in 1849 & passed away a few months later. He left behind a long legacy of public service & commitment to Argentina.

Buenos Aires, Juan Martín Pueyrredón, Plaza X, statue

In spite of such a modest tomb, commemoration of Pueyrredón can be found throughout Buenos Aires: his statue decorates Plaza Chile in Palermo (above), a major north-south avenue (ending just behind the cemetery) connects Recoleta with the Once train station, & a small neighborhood in the western part of the city was named after him in 1907.

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550. familia de saavedra lamas

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Saavedra Lamas

Born in Buenos Aires in 1878, Carlos Saavedra Lamas had family roots dating back to the earliest days of Argentina. As great-grandson of founding father Cornelio de Saavedra, perhaps Carlos seemed destined for success. But he did something no one ever expected… Saavedra Lamas became the first Argentine to receive a Nobel Prize.

His career path began as a lawyer & teacher, & in 1908 Saavedra Lamas started in politics as representative for the city of Buenos Aires in Congress. During the presidency of Victorino de la Plaza, he became the Minister of Justice & Public Instruction. Remember that the Victorino de la Plaza administration had to implement universal suffrage when President Roque Sáenz Peña died just after the law had been passed. One other interesting connection: Saavedra Lamas married Rosa, the daughter of Roque Sáenz Peña. But it was his next big government position that would send him into the international spotlight.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Saavedra Lamas

As Minister of Foreign Relations during the military-run Agustín P. Justo administration (1932-38), Saavedra Lamas negotiated peace between Paraguay & Bolivia during the Chaco War. At a nexus between four countries, the Chaco region had long been an area of contention. Argentina had most of the power, treating Paraguay as a feudal trade partner. Brazil feared the dominance of Argentina in South America, & Bolivia yearned for an outlet to the Pacific Ocean in order to avoid being landlocked by other nations. Recently discovered oil also played a role in the conflict. Saavedra Lamas persevered to find a peaceful resolution to the war by addressing the League of Nations & at the same time prevented the USA from intervening in what it saw as a “local,” hemispherical dispute.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Saavedra Lamas

During the Chaco War, Saavedra Lamas drew up a Treaty of Non-agression & Conciliation (referred to in Spanish as the Pacto Antibélico) which stated that signatories would not recognize any territorial change in the entire hemisphere brought about by an act of war. By 1935, all nations in North & South America —with the exception of Bolivia & Costa Rica— had signed the peace agreement. What an amazing accomplishment in a decade full of nascent dictatorships & warmongering! Six European countries, including Spain, also ratified the treaty. As of 1948, another treaty superseded that of Saavedra Lamas but many nations still recognize the original. In 1936, Saavedra Lamas received the Nobel Prize for Peace, becoming the first Argentine to receive the honor. He passed away in 1959 & was buried with honors in Recoleta Cemetery.

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Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Saavedra Lamas, Nobel Peace Prize, medal

A bitter afternote: The actual medal given to Saavedra Lamas disappeared after his death, then turned up in 1993 in a pawn shop. It passed through several private collectors until being auctioned in March 2014 in Baltimore. A representative in Argentina’s Congress proposed buying it back… but as the second-only Nobel Peace Prize medal ever up for sale, it fetched an amazing price: $1,116,250 USD! Supposedly a private Asian collector now has a symbol of Argentina’s once prominent role in international peacemaking.

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546. rodolfo moreno

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Rodolfo Moreno

Born in 1879 in Buenos Aires to dual immigrant parents —his father from Chile, his mother from Brazil— Rodolfo Moreno received a doctorate in law at the age of 21. Afterwards he taught civil & criminal law classes at universities in both La Plata & Buenos Aires… at the same time. A gift for writing allowed him opportunities direct a local newspaper as well as publish a 7-volume work about criminal law, his specialty.

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Rodolfo Moreno

Law in Argentina has often been a stepping stone into the political arena, & Moreno soon moved away from university teaching. In 1914, he became a minister in the provincial Buenos Aires government. For most of the 1920s, Moreno served as a representative (diputado) in Congress for the same province. And in the 1930s, he jumped around from position to position, but one of Moreno’s most interesting assignments was ambassador to Japan… in 1939 & 1940 just as World War II erupted. After the war, Moreno would publish a book about his experience there.

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Rodolfo Moreno

In the midst of electoral fraude scandals in the 1940s, Moreno became governor of Buenos Aires province for a little over a year. He even assigned Roberto Noble (of later Clarín fame) as one of his ministers. Moreno sought to take on Ramón Castillo for his conservative party’s nomination for President of Argentina but never got far. The volatile political climate of the 1940s forced Moreno to resign as governor in 1943, he left in exile to Uruguay the following year, then he returned to Argentina during the Perón era. But Moreno never served in political office again & passed away in Buenos Aires in 1953.

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