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Category: Art + Architecture

591. alcorta

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Alcorta

Occupying a massive mausoleum along a main walkway, Amancio Alcorta (Sr.) descended from a long line of city founders in north & central Argentina. He was born in Santiago del Estero five years before Argentina declared independence from Spain & gradually moved closer & closer to Buenos Aires… first studying literature in Catamarca, followed by music studies in Córdoba. A law degree moved him in the direction of politics, occupying a number of positions before being elected Senator of his native province.

However Amancio was not your average politician; he was part of a generation who balanced political careers with the arts. One of the first Argentine-born composers, many of his works have been unfortunately lost. But surviving pieces incorporate early folklore rhythms as well as influence from Rossini, popular during his lifetime. Amancio was so beloved that he takes the forefront in a monument near the center of the cemetery:

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Alcorta

Amancio had six children, two of which are depicted behind him: Santiago Damiano Alcorta Palacio on the left & namesake Amancio Mariano Alcorta Palacio on the right.

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Alcorta

Amancio (Jr.) followed in his father’s footsteps, studying law & becoming a prominent politician. One of his distinctions was serving as the Minister for Foreign Relations under four different presidents, almost continuously from 1890 until his death in 1902.

Some of Amancio (Sr.)’s musical abilities must have been genetic because his grandson, Alberto Williams, went on to be one of the most recognized pianists of his generation & founded the Music Conservatory in Buenos Aires. Williams, who passed away in 1952, is also buried in the Alcorta family mausoleum:

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Alcorta, Alberto Williams

Another important figure, Carlos Maschwitz, is also buried here. He married a granddaughter of Amancio (Sr.) & improved the national train network as Minister of Public Works alongside Emilio Mitre. He died in an automobile accident while driving from Paris to Bordeaux & has a town near Tigre named after him:

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Alcorta, Carlos Maschwitz
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585. ossorio arana ◊

Born in the western outskirts of Buenos Aires in 1902, Arturo Ossorio Arana embarked on a military career that would lead him to participate in several military coups. Staunchly anti-peronista, he would also be complicit in hiding Eva Perón’s embalmed corpse… proof that friends & enemies rest side by side in Recoleta Cemetery.

In 1951, the Minister of the Army blamed Ossorio Arana for leading a group of young officers in a revolt against the Perón government. Relieved from duty, he tried to oust Perón again in 1955 with help from Pedro Aramburu & Eduardo Lonardi. Resulting civilian casualties were high after rogue military planes bombed Plaza de Mayo. However, Perón had been tipped off & took refuge in army headquarters just in time. A few months later, the military finally succeeded in taking control & attempted to wipe all traces of Peronism from Argentina.

As part of that plan, Ossorio Arana held the deceased Eva Perón captive for a while… but you’ll have to get the map/guidebook for that story! In the end, Ossorio Arana was more known for re-establishing martial law as Commander-in-Chief under Aramburu’s de facto presidency. In 1956, he gave permission to execute by firing squad a group of young people who had opposed the military government. Seven of 12 people shot would survive & later become immortalized in Rodolfo Walsh’s Operación Massacre.

The tomb of Ossorio Arana is striking with its gigantic, oversized statue of Argentina. A brilliant work by sculptor José Fioravanti, she represents Liberty with her sword ready for action. Ossorio Arana died in Buenos Aires in 1967, but the place & date on his tomb —Córdoba, 16 Sep 1955— correspond to the revolution that forced Perón to flee Argentina. Engraved scales represent Ossorio Arana’s belief in military justice.

His funeral drew a large crowd, with a multitude of military speakers & a large escort. La Nación reported that a couple people were arrested for public disturbance… one even shouting “Long live democracy!” Big thanks to Nicolás Colombo for sending us the images below… he runs the Misterios de La Plata blog & Facebook group.

Given his control over national affairs, memorials (like the one shown below) were common for several years after Ossorio Arana’s death. On the first anniversary, former President Aramburu gave a speech that was later engraved on the left side of the tomb:

“…If you fear the risks of Liberty, If you find safety in the obedience that despots impose… Do not stand before the tomb of this soldier!”

Image courtesy of the Centro de Documentación e Investigación de la Cultura de Izquierdas, 1972.
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584. poli – antonio riva

What a stunning statue of an angel gazing towards the heavens by Luigi Trinchero. Invited to Argentina by fellow Italian artist Victor de Pol in 1889, Trinchero directed a ceramics factory in La Plata that ultimately did not succeed. Soon after its closure, he returned to Italy.

However, Trinchero came back to Argentina at the insistence of Carlos Morra & this time would succeed. He established a workshop to produce ornamental sculpture… exactly what Buenos Aires needed as many aristocratic porteños rekindled their European origins & a building boom began. Trinchero decorated the Centro Naval, churches, schools & most famously the Teatro Colón.

A descendant of Antonio Riva has generously shared his family history with us. A portion of his comment is copied here. Thanks, Agustín!

Antonio Riva, whose name is featured on top of the mausoleum’s door is my great great grandfather. He was a wealthy Genovese born (who came to Argentina maybe in the 1860s) importer and salesman of food stocks in the late 19th and the early 20th century. He probably commissioned the sculpture from Trinchero at the same time the sculptor was famous for doing work in the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires. The rest of the mausoleum was most likely built by other Italian workers who more or less made these in series, albeit really well. Antonio Riva’s daughter, Emma Riva, who was fond of art and Italian artists – sponsoring painters such as Angel Della Valle – was maybe involved in picking the sculptor for the mausoleum. Emma Riva married Giulio Poli, and that is why the surname Poli was added. 

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let us show you around…

Endless Mile, Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery guide

The list of occupants of Recoleta Cemetery reads like a Who’s Who of Argentine history & society. The elite, an aspiring middle class, friends, enemies & those who contributed to the general welfare of Argentina all share space in a miniature city of mausoleums & monuments.

During a visit, you’ll stroll past Presidents & politicians (some naughty, some nice), Nobel Prize winners, literary greats, entertainers, scientists, military leaders, sports figures & even some who died tragically. The cemetery’s most famous resident, Eva María Duarte de Perón —simply Evita to her devotées— even had a bizarre post-mortem journey before finally resting in peace in Recoleta.

Want to learn more? Get all the details in our recommended may & pdf guide. The authors of this blog are proud to have guided more than 1,500 people through Recoleta Cemetery… join in!

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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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