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Month: August 2008

242. guerreros del paraguay ◊

Guerreros del Paraguay, Recoleta Cemetery

This pantheon is unique since Recoleta Cemetery does not officially commemorate national events & has very few group memorials… it’s more of a family place. The war with Paraguay ended in 1870, but the architectural style of the pantheon contains elements of Art Nouveau (popular at the beginning of the 20th century). A trip to the Archivo General de la Nación solved the dilemma. One archived photo records the site dedication in 1913:

Guerreros del Paraguay, Recoleta Cemetery

A large statue of Argentina as female warrior (note the coat-of-arms on her breastplate) offers a branch of laurel in a gesture of peace:

Guerreros del Paraguay, Recoleta Cemetery

Paraguay & Argentina declared independence around the same time. Stuck in the middle of South America without an exit to either ocean & no chance to develop overseas trade, Paraguay depended on its neighbors for imported European goods. As its only control mechanism, Paraguay introduced strict laws with heavy taxation & managed to earn a small fortune. Never a democracy in its early years, leadership passed from grandfather to father to son. In the 1860s (50 years after independence), Francisco Solano López was in charge. Historians still aren’t quite sure what to make of him or what really started the war, but it went very wrong for Paraguay.

Uruguay had already been created as a buffer zone between Brazil & Argentina. Both countries continued to meddle in the new nation’s affairs, & in the 1860s civil war was about to break out in Uruguay. Brazil & Argentina loosely supported one side while Paraguay supported the other. López asked permission to cross Argentine territory with troops to backup his friends in Uruguay. Argentina refused. López went ahead with his plans, attacking Brazil & occupying part of Argentina. He had gathered the largest army in Latin America, amounting from 30,000 to 80,000 troops depending on which account you read. His neighbors were no match with just a few thousand men each. López had the best odds.

Uruguay, Argentina & Brazil decided to join forces to beat López & formed the Triple Alliance. These nations’ flags decorate the top of the mausoleum, actual flags covered in plastic are inside, & repeated again on the interior stained glass:

Guerreros del Paraguay, Recoleta Cemetery

Guerreros del Paraguay, Recoleta Cemetery

The 5-year war was extremely violent & eventually devasted Paraguay. They had more manpower but also out-of-date equipment & no supplies. Historical figures vary wildly, but using conservative numbers at least half of the population Paraguay was killed. In terms of gender, only 1/10 of the male population survived. When the fighting was over, López & his followers were executed & Paraguay was forced to surrender half of its territory; one chunk going to Brazil & the other to Argentina, today known as the Province of Formosa.

Revisionist historians have spent decades analyzing the facts. Was López really so arrogant to think he could defend Uruguay’s interests as well as obtain an outlet to the Atlantic Ocean? Maybe not. Someone else financed the war: England. One theory claims that since England didn’t have a steady supply of cotton from the US thanks to an equally horrible civil war at the same time, they looked elsewhere. Paraguay produces lots of cotton & perhaps the UK took that into consideration when loaning Brazil & Argentina extravagant amounts of money to fund the war. Two statues of armed soldiers remind visitors of the men who fought in one of the most horrific & often forgotten wars of Latin American history:

Guerreros del Paraguay, Recoleta Cemetery

Guerreros del Paraguay, Recoleta Cemetery

The pantheon became a National Historic Monument in 1983.

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240. la nación, 18 aug 2008

Mausoleo de San Martín, Catedral Metropolitana, Buenos Aires

158 years after his death

Proposed transfer of the remains of San Martín

Project on docket in city legislature

In remembrance of the death of General José de San Martín 158 years ago, a Buenos Aires city legislature representative has proposed moving the remains, which lie in the cathedral of Buenos Aires, to Recoleta Cemetery.

Meanwhile, numerous acts throughout the country evoked the memory of the Liberator. Official commemoration services by the national government were held in the Granaderos Horse Guard Regiment in Palermo and were presided over by the Minister of Defense, Nilda Garré, as reported on page 9.

The project of representative Roy Cortina, President of the city’s Socialist Party, suggests locating the mausoleum with the Liberator’s remains —for which a public design & construction contest open to national artists would be called— in front of the main entrance of Recoleta Cemetery, near the tomb of Remedios de Escalada de San Martín.

The initiative, which must be debated in the city legislature, proposes that the transfer take place on July 9th, 2010, as part of the Bicentennial celebrations.

“The will of San Martín deserves to be respected & the place for his remains should be grandiose… in accordance with the place that we have given him in our hearts & in our nation,” expresses Roy Cortina concerning the basis of the project.

The remains of the Liberator rest in the chapel of Our Lady of Peace, inside the Metropolitan Cathedral since 1880, permanently guarded by two Granaderos (the first Argentine regiment, created by San Martín).

“The transfer of his remains makes sense based on respecting the will of General San Martín himself, who requested that his heart lie in the Buenos Aires cemetery. Furthermore, without denying the quality of the sculpture of the [current] mausoleum, it sits practically hidden on one side of Metropolitan Cathedral in a space inappropriate with the greatness & importance he has for all Argentines. Historical concensus recognizes [him] as the Father of our country,” explains Cortina in a press release.

In the project proposal, the Socialista legislator points out that placement of the Liberator’s remains in the cathedral “was always controversial” and that, on Jan 3rd 1844, in Paris, San Martín dictated his third testament in which he expresses his desire to be taken after his death to Recoleta Cemetery.

In this text, San Martín himself wrote: “I forbid that any kind of funeral service be held for me, and from the place where I pass away they should take me directly to the cemetery with no procession or ceremony. But I would like that my heart be deposited in that [supposedly meaning the cemetery] of Buenos Aires.”


Original article in Spanish located here.

José de San Martín died in Boulogne-sur-Mer in 1850, 28 years after the opening of Recoleta Cemetery. But the statement in his last will & testament is rather vague… at the time of his death, Recoleta Cemetery was the only public burial ground in the city. However a large number of burials were still taking place inside local churches (even though the practice had been offically prohibited by law). Among the most respected was the camposanto of the cathedral. So without mentioning a specific cemetery or church burial site, no one can truly know where San Martín actually meant to be buried.

Argentines love to move their deceased leaders, but the current tomb of San Martín (above photo) is beautiful & completely in line with his historical importance. And the location could not be better. Plaza de Mayo is the most important public space in the nation, in spite of its current run-down condition. Several other more important city projects need to be resolved… no need to add another to the list. Let the Founding Father rest in peace.

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238. pablo riccheri ◊

Pablo Riccheri, Recoleta Cemetery

Attracting as much attention for its size as well as its location in the center of the cemetery, the tomb of Pablo Riccheri is a fitting memorial for his deeds. Born in the Province of Santa Fe of Italian immigrant parents, Riccheri dedicated his life to the military. From the age of 15, he rose in the ranks & seemed to be a patriot in the true sense of the word. Riccheri saw the military as a professional organization used to uphold the constitution & defend the nation… not to be involved in politics or used for invasion.

Pablo Riccheri, Recoleta Cemetery

Riccheri traveled frequently to Europe & adopted the best of what he saw in the armed forces overseas. These trips occurred during Argentina’s growth spurt of the 1880s, & by the next decade he had befriended soon-to-be President Julio Argentino Roca. Roca appointed Riccheri as Minister of War (what we would today call the Minister of Defense) & gave him the opportunity to make real change.

Riccheri acquired several hectares of land around the nation & transformed them into training grounds (campos, like the Campo de Mayo near Buenos Aires). He hired mainly German military officers to instruct upper-ranking staff while relying on French engineers & artillery. Riccheri also instituted obligatory military service in 1901 for all males when they turned 20 years old. At the time it helped form a sense of national identity, but after decades of misuse conscription was eliminated in 1994. Riccheri also created the Escuela de Aplicación de Sanidad Militar where new doctors had to live at the main military hospital in Parque Patricios for 3 years to complete their training. His professionalism was remarkable:

“Si las instituciones armadas de un pueblo se mezclan en las contiendas políticas, perdiendo su respetable y noble misión de ser los guardianes tutelares y el respeto a las leyes, siempre bajo la autoridad que marca la Constitución, ¿a quién incumbirá entonces el mantenimiento del orden y el respeto a la ley?”

“If the military institutions of a nation get entwined with political disputes, losing their respectable & noble mission to be the guardians of law, always under the authority outlined by the Constitution, who will then take the responsibility of maintaining order & upholding the law?”

The mausoleum is interesting in its own right. A depiction of Argentina plus a few soldiers flank the statue of Riccheri made by Luis Perlotti:

Pablo Riccheri, Recoleta Cemetery

Pablo Riccheri, Recoleta Cemetery

Side relief panels depict Riccheri overseeing the training grounds:

Pablo Riccheri, Recoleta Cemetery

Pablo Riccheri, Recoleta Cemetery

Riccheri passed away in 1938, & the national government appropriated the mausoleum which was orginally in the same spot—that of first President Bernardino Rivadavia. Rivadavia’s ashes had been moved in 1932 to Once where they remain to this day. A small plaque in the rear, relegated to the bottom left corner, reminds visitors of the original occupant of this spot:

Bernardino Rivadavia, Recoleta Cemetery

The Archivo General de la Nación has an old photograph of the Rivadavia vault:

Bernardino Rivadavia, Recoleta Cemetery

The current vault dates from 1952 & buried inside with Riccheri are other military figures… the national government dedicated this spot to several important leaders. A plaque states that Bernardo de Monteagudo is buried there & supposedly so are Juan O’Brien, Félix de Olazábal, Juan José Quesada, Francisco Fernández de la Cruz & Elías Galván. But Monteagudo is the only one with a plaque:

Bernardo de Monteagudo, Recoleta Cemetery

The remains of Bernardo de Monteagudo were transferred to the Cementerio del Oeste his natal province of Tucumán on 24 Jun 2016 (news report in Spanish)… we’ll add photos here as they are provided.