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Month: March 2008

168. eduardo bradley

Eduardo Bradley, Recoleta Cemetery

With no nameplate on the skinny vault & stuck in the middle of a narrow corridor, it’s easy to miss one of the greats of Argentine aviation.

Coming from a long line of Irish-American intermarriage in Argentina, Eduardo Bradley was born in the city of La Plata in 1887. His fascination for the sport of aeronautics led him to become friends with Argentina’s first & foremost aviator, Jorge Newbery.

Newbery died in an attempt to cross the Andes by plane in 1914, but two years later Bradley made it… not by plane but by hot-air balloon. No small feat for the time. The Andes are the second tallest mountain chain on Earth after the Himalayas, & temperatures reached a low of -34ºF during Bradley’s trip. He & co-pilot Ángel María Zuloaga departed from Santiago de Chile & landed in Mendoza in 1916.

Plaques from 1966—commemorating the 50th anniversary of Bradley’s flight—are the only reminder left. Most people have no idea who Bradley is today. He passed away in 1951.

Eduardo Bradley, Recoleta Cemetery

Eduardo Bradley, Recoleta Cemetery


167. bernabé sáenz valiente

Bernabé Sáenz Valiente, Recoleta Cemetery

The most remarkable thing about this mausoleum—apart from its size & beautiful state of disrepair—isn’t easily noticed at first glance. Along the left side behind the iron gate is a single tombstone which fits neatly in the gap:

Bernabé Sáenz Valiente, Recoleta Cemetery

The inscription reads:

Catalina Dogan falleció el 31 de agosto de 1863 a los setenta y cinco años de edad. Fue en su humilde clase de sirvienta un modelo de fidelidad y de honrrades.

Catalina Dogan passed away the 31st of August, 1863 at the age of 75. She was, in her humble class of servant, a model of loyalty & honor.

That’s right. The maid was buried on the same plot as the family she worked for… but of course not inside.

Upper-class families that made their fortune either through agriculture or livestock had large estates to manage & required servants to raise children, maintain mansions & naturally to keep up appearances. Some servants became surrogate family members as in the case of Catalina Dogan. In spite of being exposed to the elements, this family obviously thought the world of her & bestowed a great honor by burying her here.

Update (Mar 2023): According to the former director of the cemetery, the tombstone has been temporarily removed for restoration. No estimate on its return date.


165. rufino de elizalde ◊

Rufino de Elizalde, Recoleta Cemetery

Many historians refer to Rufino de Elizalde as the first politician with a clear vision of Argentina’s future. His participation in numerous debates across the Americas & Europe left no doubt about Elizalde’s stance. Born in 1822 into a lower class military family in Buenos Aires, Elizalde put himself through law school & graduated in 1846. Joining the anti-Rosas factions, he quickly moved up in political circles, served in Congress & became a close ally of Bartolomé Mitre.

That allegiance paid off when Mitre became President in 1862. Appointed as Minister of Foreign Relations, Elizalde first voiced what Argentines have become known for—their strong ties to Europe & semi-rejection of their neighbors. This is particularly striking considering Elizalde lived decades before European immigration to Argentina began in earnest. His most famous quote states:

Es claro que existen mayores vínculos, mayores intereses, mayor armonía entre las repúblicas americanas y ciertas naciones europeas que entre las repúblicas americanas mismas… América, al contener naciones independientes, con sus propios medios y necesidades de gobierno, no puede formar una entidad política unitaria.

It is clear that better ties, more interests, better harmony exists between American republics & certain European nations than between the American republics themselves… America, consisting of independent nations, with their own means & government needs, cannot form a united political entity.

The big problem of Elizalde’s era was obviously where to form alliances. The Monroe Doctrine of the United States threatened to become Pan-American, & several nations tried to limit US influence from spreading further south. Argentina had a privileged position, far enough from the US to shift its concerns to other national projects.

Rufino de Elizalde, Recoleta Cemetery

Elizalde wanted to become President after Mitre but was beat by Sarmiento. Reclaiming his role as Minister of Foreign Relations under Avellaneda, Elizalde continued to serve in various government positions until a few years before his death in 1887.

The underground mausoleum obviously dates from a later era—that of Art Deco—but a plaque gives us a clue. Elizalde’s son also shared his name & was President of the Buenos Aires Rowing Club. The son must have secured this space for his father as well as his own descendants:

Rufino de Elizalde, Recoleta Cemetery

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