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Month: March 2009

323. death of a president, day 1

TN news still, Raúl Alfonsín

After several years of fighting lung cancer, former President Raúl Alfonsín passed away this evening at 20:30 in his home on Avenida Santa Fe in Buenos Aires. The news came as no surprise since Alfonsín’s health had taken a turn for the worse a few days earlier, but the response from both the public & the media was no less sentimental for it.

Born in 1929 in the Province of Buenos Aires, Alfonsín used his law degree as a stepping stone to politics & affiliated with the UCR (Unión Cívica Radical)—the same party born of the 1890 Revolution. Risking his life to investigate cases of desaparecidos during the last military dictatorship, he later won the 1983 election for President… the year democracy was restored in Argentina.

La muerte de Alfonsín, Avenida Santa Fe, Buenos Aires

Alfonsín’s term reflected the turbulent times & the need for conflict resolution. He inherited an abused economy with extraordinary debt & hyperinflation but managed to make some improvements with the equivalent of a National Food Bank Plan (Plan Alimentaria Nacional). However Alfonsín’s greatest contribution to Argentine society was taking the prior military regime to Supreme Court & trying them for human rights abuses. Further economic problems forced him to resign seven months early to his successor, Carlos Menem, in 1989.

La muerte de Alfonsín, Avenida Santa Fe, Buenos Aires

Regardless of the ups & downs of Alfonsín’s presidency, he is remembered as a studious politician who valued democratic process… a man who did not hold a grudge, strived for consensus, & never abused his position of power. That’s something remarkable in Argentine politics & mainly why his death caused such a massive response from the public.

La muerte de Alfonsín, Avenida Santa Fe, Buenos Aires

About 500 people went to his house & held a candlelight vigil while either chanting his name or singing the national anthem. Three days of official mourning were called for by Vice-President Julio Cobos, in charge of the country while Christina Kirchner is in Qatar on her way to London for the G-20 summit.

The family agreed to have a public wake for Alfonsín in Congress the next day, & he would be buried the day after in the pantheon for the fallen during the 1890 Revolution in Recoleta Cemetery. Alfonsín will be the first President buried there since Arturo Illia (term 1963-66)… also a member of the UCR political party & buried in the same pantheon.

All photos except the first are from the DyN news agency.

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322. familia de eloisa f. de diehl

Familia de Eloisa F. de Diehl, Recoleta Cemetery

Familia de Eloisa F. de Diehl, Recoleta Cemetery

This vault displays one of the few marble plaques to be found in Recoleta Cemetery with the following inscription:

¡Beba! ¡Beba!  El destino cruel te arrebató al cariño de tu padrino.

Baby! Baby! Cruel destiny snatched you away from the love of your godfather.


320. masonic madness

Perhaps it’s only a fad or maybe the need to believe in something more than the obvious. Whatever the reason, Masonic madness seems to have taken over cemetery research in Buenos Aires. Every symbol found on tombs is automatically attributed to the Masonic order. For example, a page added to the city government’s official website explains much of the symbolism already mentioned in this blog as if it all had Masonic origins. Impossible.

Without question, several tombs display obvious Masonic imagery (like the Corona family or Pedro Benoit, among many others), & the Order was extremely popular in Argentina. But that fact alone does not give researchers the right to discard alternative meanings.

The door below—several copies of which can be found in Recoleta Cemetery—contains a lot of symbolism when examined carefully:

Door, Recoleta Cemetery

Three nails refer to the crucifixion & can be found on the mosaic floor of the Cathedral in Buenos Aires: one nail for each hand/wrist & one for both feet. But beneath that obvious Christian symbol, there are many tools… a ladder, pliers, a hammer & even a spear. The most common explanation is that these are Masonic symbols, but actually they have been used to describe the Passion of Christ for several centuries. An English text from the 1300’s shows them all:

14th century text, Lancashire

The spear was used to confirm that Christ had died (some claim that the spear actually killed him), followers used a ladder to bring the body down & pliers were needed to remove the nails. Symbolic explanations are often that simple. A more recent example of the same imagery can be found in the Iglesia de la Piedad in Buenos Aires:

Iglesia de la Piedad, Buenos Aires

In a country like Argentina which was more Catholic than Masonic, it’s always safer to assume a religious explanation for cemetery symbols. No need for Masonic madness.

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319. imágenes de la muerte

Marcelo, Suplemento Cubo

La Plata newspaper El Día recently published a compilation of Marcelo’s photos in their cultural supplement Cubo. The March 19th online gallery (unavailable as of 2020) consisted of several cemetery photos, some of which were taken in Recoleta Cemetery. He mentioned participating in this blog, but unfortunately no link was published.


Update 26 Mar 09: A link to this blog was added as well as many other photos by Marcelo. We’re finally getting some real press!

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