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Category: Presidents

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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531. dechert-barletti

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Dechert-Barletti, Arturo Illia

We love a good mystery…

Aquí descansaron los restos del Presidente de la República Dr. Arturo U. Illia desde su fallecimiento enero de 1983 a octubre de 1983

President of the Republic, Dr. Arturo U. Illia, laid to rest here from his passing in January 1983 until October 1983

President Illia had been forced from office by a military coup in 1966, another victim of the revolving door of democracy & dictatorship in the 20th century. The Argentina Independent has a good article describing Illia’s last day in office. As a high-ranking member of the Unión Cívica Radical, he was entitled to be buried in a mausoleum dedicated to those who had died in the 1890 revolution: a conflict that gave birth to that political party. Obviously he was moved there in October 1983, but why did Illia spend 10 months in this spot? A Presidential sash inside is another reminder of his temporary stay.

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Dechert-X, Arturo Illia

At first I thought this family might be related to Illia’s wife, Silvia Elvira Martorell Kaswalder. She had been undergoing treatment for cancer in a Texas hospital when Illia was forced from office in 1966. Silvia passed away only a few months later back home in Córdoba & was buried in Recoleta Cemetery in the tomb of Hipólito Yrigoyen’s mother. Several decades later, she moved to a separate vault. A search in Genealogía Familiar turned up nothing to relate either Illia or his wife to the Dechert-Barletti family.

According to a 1977 edition of the Boletín Oficial, Jorge Luis Dechert & Ernesto Alberto Barletti formed a company called Nininco that specialized in radio & television components as well as albums & cassette tapes. The business venture no longer exists, so even that extra info was a dead end.

If anyone has information as to why a former President temporarily rested in peace here, please help us solve this mystery!

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526. alfonsín vandalism

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Raúl Alfsonsín, vandalismo, Peronistas

Sadly, two posts in a row deal with damage & destruction inside Recoleta Cemetery. The tomb of former President Raúl Alfonsín was spray painted on 05 Jun 2017 with the pro-Peronista symbol “PV”, Perón vuelve. Alfonín passed away in Mar 2009 after a long battle with lung cancer & was buried with much fanfare, fitting of someone so important in national history (for more info, see the 4-part Death of a President series). This method of showing political disagreement should never be considered acceptable.

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What follows is a translation of a press release from the Télam news agency:

National representative Ricardo Alfonsín (of the Cambiemos-Unión Cívica Radical party) today thanked those who called him concerning the vandalism of his father’s mausoleum located in Recoleta Cemetery & confirmed that he would not accept any candidacy.

After a reunion with Governor María Eugenia Vidal, in which it was rumored that the leader of Buenos Aires province offered him a post, Alfonsín reassured that “the meeting took place & we talked about many things, both sides showed courtesy, kindness & frankness”, but emphasized that he does not want “to be a candidate for an elected position, either in Argentina or in a foreign country”.

In statements to Télam Radio, Alfonsín said that he received calls offering support after news of vandalism of the mausoleum of the deceased ex-President Raúl Alfonsín had been made public.

“In every country around the world there are powerful personalities with anti-democratic ideas who do this kind of thing, which we always must renounce regardless of who is the victim”, he affirmed.

Among those who communicated with the Cambiemos representative are the Minister of Security, Patricia Bullrich; the head of the Federal System of Media & Public Content, Hernán Lombardi; the ex-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner; the ex-Minister of Transportation Florencio Randazzo; and the former head of the Cabinet Aníbal Fernández, as well as “all members of the Radical political party”, the Governor of Santa Fe province & the national head of the Socialist Party Antonio Bonfatti.

In this context, Alfonsín complained that the during the period of government under Cambiemos, the UCR party had maintained “a rather passive role which has harmed society” & added that “no one should be surprised, therefore, that disagreements would present themselves”. At the same time he admitted to be “working” so that “in 2019 there will be a Radical party President”.

Photo above from the Télam news agency.

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503. coronel juan de dios rawson

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Coronel Juan de Dios Rawson

Coronel Juan de Dios Rawson, whose father came from Massachusetts, fought in several battles during Argentina’s early years of organization, including the Guerra de la Triple Alianza. He was also the half brother of Dr. Guillermo Rawson. But his great-grandson, Arturo Rawson, became President of Argentina… for only 72 hours.

Rawson had a long career in the military & rose to the rank of General after several decades of service. As commanding officer of the cavalry, he possessed the troops needed to stage a successful coup d’etat already planned by the GOU (Grupo de Oficiales Unidos) in 1943. This secret, informal collection of officers aimed to end the Década Infame where electoral fraud kept the same people in power year after year.

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, General Arturo Rawson

On 04 Jun 1943, Rawson marched 10,000 soldiers into Buenos Aires & took control of the country. While naming fellow officers to government positions & before he was sworn in as de facto President, the GOU realized they had made a mistake in asking Rawson for help. He supported the Allies in World War II while the GOU thought Argentina should remain neutral. Juan Domingo Perón, along with other GOU members, forced Rawson to resign & General Pedro Ramírez took his place.

For a brief period Rawson served as ambassador to Brazil. He also supported an attempted coup to overthrow Perón’s government in 1951. Rawson died of a heart attack the following year & did not live to see the eventual ousting of Perón in 1955.

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492. caídos en la revolución del 1890 ◊

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Caídos en la Revolución del 1890

After becoming President in 1886, Miguel Juárez Celman began to distance himself from political supporters & preferred to do things his own way. Concentrating power in his own hands, the public referred to the term of Juárez Celman as a unicato… a one-man rule. After three years in office & with inflation out of control, diverse groups expressed their discontent with Juárez Celman. Upper class families, members of the clergy, university leaders, senators & the emerging middle class joined forces to form the Unión Cívica. Their main goal was to defeat the Juárez Celman in upcoming elections. But at the same time, preparations were being made for a coup d’etat.

Leading the Unión Cívica, Leandro Alem conspired with an influential general, Manuel Campos (brother of Luis María Campos). Planned for July 21st, the revolution was aborted by the arrest of key figures… someone had leaked information about the surprise attack. General Campos was taken under custody & while in prison received a visit by none other former President Roca. More sneaky plans were underway.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Caídos en la Revolución del 1890

From his cell, Campos sent word to Alem to go ahead with their plans & fighting broke out early on 26 July 1890. Government forces used Retiro as their base of operations while Alem’s men were concentrated in Plaza Lavalle, now home of the Supreme Court.

As civilians rose up in arms to oust Juárez Celman, battles took place in the heart of Buenos Aires. Fighting continued sporadically for the next few days. General Campos made obvious military mistakes & gave the government ample time to recover & fight back. Alem noted these irregularities at the time but given the difficult situation, deferred to the general’s orders. Violence ended four days later with a truce. Estimates of those killed or wounded range from 300 to over 1,000. While the revolution was not successful in overthrowing the government, the political landscape quickly changed afterwards.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Caídos en la Revolución del 1890

Juárez Celman lost support due to the conflict & resigned, handing the government to Vice-President Carlos Pellegrini. Although no historical record exists of conversations between Campos & Roca, it is taken for fact that Campos made bad tactical decisions on purpose. He threw the revolution so Roca & his elite allies could remain in power. The UC also had difficult times afterwards & split into two groups. One year later the Alem faction transformed into the UCR–Unión Cívica Radical. The UCR still plays an important role in politics as the main alternative to the Peronist party.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Caídos en la Revolución del 1890, plaques

Numerous plaques cover the base of the entire pantheon, housing a few of the fallen during the revolution but many important figures from the UCR: party founder Leandro Alem, President Hipólito Yrigoyen (top casket with flag), & President Arturo Illia (silver casket). During the term of President Frondizi, this tomb was declared a National Historic Monument… even President Alfonsín spent a few months here until his own tomb was under construction.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Caídos en la Revolución del 1890

All subplots & internal division aside, strong civilian support of the attempted revolution marked the beginning of civil society in Argentina & the birth of a radical political party. Every major figure on both sides of the Revolución de 1890 can be found somewhere in Recoleta Cemetery.

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