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Month: June 2008

215. manuel ocampo

Ocampo, Recoleta Cemetery

As part of an aristocratic family & a successful structural engineer, Manuel Ocampo increased his family’s fortune by constructing railroad bridges in Argentina. He had six children… all girls. The oldest, Victoria, & the youngest, Silvina, became major figures in 20th century Argentine literature.

Like most elite families in Buenos Aires, the Ocampo daughters were taught French as their first language & also learned English at any early age. The family traveled to France for extended stays & lived in Paris for two years. After the death of her father, Victoria used the family fortune to establish the literary journal Sur in 1931. It grew to become one of the most important outlets for upcoming, Latin American authors. Sur also published European writers & established a reputation for having some of the best translations into Spanish. Among those presented to an eager Argentine audience were T.S. Eliot & Henry Miller. But the most important writer in Sur was Jorge Luis Borges, whose career was greatly aided by the patronage of Victoria Ocampo.

Victoria was an unconventional woman of her time. A strong-minded feminist, she felt stifled by traditional women’s roles. Victoria married young as expected, but the union quickly turned into disaster when she fell in love with her husband’s cousin. Divorce was not allowed in Argentina during that time, so she conveniently moved to a different bedroom. The in-family love affair didn’t last, & after her husband’s death Victoria never remarried. However, she had many lovers, particularly foreign intellectuals.

Victoria Ocampo, Recoleta Cemetery

As the matriarch of literary culture in Buenos Aires, Victoria hosted lavish parties at family residences & often provided housing for foreign writers to spend months in Argentina. Among the lucky few were a Nobel Prize winning Indian poet & the acclaimed English author Graham Greene. Albert Camus also was a friend of Ocampo’s. Victoria’s sister, Silvina, is also buried here who married the best friend of Borges, Adolfo Bioy Casares.

Instead of an imposing mausoleum, the Ocampo family opted for a crypt with ample room for underground storage:

Ocampo, Recoleta Cemetery

Biography kindly provided by Jeff Barry, author of Buenos Aires: City of Faded Elegance. Original copies of Sur can still be found for a few pesos at many of the used bookstores along Avenida Corrientes.


213. sepulcro de antonio martínez

Ángel María Zuloaga, Recoleta Cemetery

Neglected & forgotten, the final resting place of Ángel María Zuloaga remains unnoticed by most. A few plaques alert to his skill in aviation, but only one mentions Zuloaga’s 1916 record-breaking trip across the Andes by hot air balloon with Eduardo Bradley:

Ángel María Zuloaga, Recoleta Cemetery

Quite a personality in his own right & not a mere sidekick to Bradley, Zuloaga traveled the world & was considered an expert in aeronautics. In his 20s, Zuloaga served as military attaché to France during World War I & later spent time in Washington, DC as a military advisor. He could have even been the first to cross the Atlantic by plane, but the Argentine government failed to back Zuloaga’s request for assistance three years before Lindbergh’s historic flight. Foreign Minister Bernardo de Irigoyen told Zuloaga, “If man was meant to fly, God would have given him wings.” At this point, Zuloaga had to choose between his Air Force career or going it alone across the Atlantic… he remained in the military.

His youngest daughter described him as “loving but disciplined” & fondly remembered his great love of art & friendships with Benito Quinquela Martín & Luis Perlotti. During a visit to Europe as World War II began, Zuloaga was invited to speak with Hitler but refused to go. He was, however, on friendly terms with Franco. Zuloaga added to his legacy by penning a history of Argentine aviation in 1948 titled “La Victoria de las Alas.” At present, I’ve been unable to determine how Zuloaga was buried here but I’m assuming that the Martínez family was related to his wife in some way. Any further info would be appreciated.

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