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Month: March 2010

400. hasta luego… for now

Beautiful decay, Recoleta Cemetery

All good things must come to an end, & after several years of researching Recoleta Cemetery it’s time to concentrate to other projects.

We will continue to post as time permits but nothing as regular as our standard 3 posts/week. The prolonged pause is necessary in order to develop additional walking tours around Buenos Aires… & the rest of the world. Exciting stuff! Also, another year of full-time work in Europe means I will be away from Buenos Aires for most of this year.

By way of a summary, here are a few interesting stats:

First post: 03 Oct 2007

Total # of posts: 400

Total word count: almost 82,000 or about the size of a small novel

Readership: over 3,000 unique visitors per month, about 180-200 per day. Amazing for a blog about a cemetery!

Most comments: Liliana Crociati de Szaszak

Total number of photos posted: almost 1,200

Number of bilingual posts: currently 155, or 39%. Unfortunately Spanish text is not available at the moment, but we’re working on bringing it back!

Don’t worry, we’re not going anywhere; this blog will remain online. Since so little information in English exists about Recoleta Cemetery, this should remain a valuable resource for the future. Much work is left to be done to make AfterLife 100% bilingual… it will come eventually. Purchasing the PDF guide will help maintain this site for everyone.

Demystifying urban legends is something Marcelo & I have worked hard to accomplish. Recoleta Cemetery—the most visited site in Buenos Aires—has much more value than those few wild & crazy stories. As the last paragraph of the PDF guidebook states:

… in spite of all the money spent to be immortalized forever, it is difficult to ignore the irony that so many prominent families have fallen on hard times. Argentina today is not the country those families envisioned, whatever their personal ideology. Several of the same issues they tried to resolve still exist today for a different generation. Recoleta Cemetery should therefore offer guidance & hope for the future. What better place to be inspired by beauty, honor past achievements & learn from previous mistakes?

Enrique García Velloso, Recoleta Cemetery

399. manuel josé bustillo y su familia

Alejandro Bustillo, Recoleta Cemetery

With a long history of military participation in Argentina, Bustillo family members saw action in the 1806 British invasion, the fight for independence under General José de San Martín, the struggle for national organization between Urquiza & Rosas, & the War of the Triple Alliance. But it was Alejandro Bustillo who made the most lasting contribution to Argentina as an architect for some of its largest cities.

Born in 1889, Alejandro graduated with a degree in architecture in 1914… no doubt inspired by his uncle, Eduardo Madero. His early works were mainly private dwellings but by the 1930s, Bustillo produced dozens of major buildings seemingly without stopping for breath.

Among some of his best known constructions are the hotel-casino in Mar del Plata (1938), headquarters for the Banco de la Nación in Buenos Aires (1940), & the cathedral & Hotel Llao Llao in Bariloche (1938-40). All are pictured below:

Mar del Plata, Casino, Bustillo

Banco de la Nación, Plaza de Mayo, Alejandro Bustillo

Catedral, Bariloche, Alejandro Bustillo

Hotel Llao Llao, Bariloche, Alejandro Bustillo

Bustillo claimed to be influenced by Albert Speer, chief architect for Hitler… evident in the scale of his larger works. Considered one of the great 20th-century architects of Argentina, Alejandro Bustillo passed away in 1982 at the age of 93.

The family tomb is the oldest in Recoleta Cemetery. At a time when graves were typically for individuals (remember Remedios de Escalada has the oldest single plot), the Bustillo family was one of the first to build a mausoleum. It dates from 1823, constructed only one year after the cemetery’s opening:

Alejandro Bustillo, Recoleta Cemetery


398. familia federico r. leloir ◊

Luis Federico Leloir, Recoleta Cemetery

Family founder Federico Augusto Rufino Leloir Bernal possessed a large land fortune along the southern coast of the Buenos Aires Province. He & his wife traveled to Paris in 1906 for medical reasons, but unfortunately Federico passed away. One week later, Luis Federico was born… the last of five siblings.

Luis Federico Leloir without doubt became the most famous member of the family. His 1949 discoveries in biochemisty led to a Nobel Prize in 1970. Leloir & his team were the first to identify nucleotide sugars which are instrumental in accumulating energy stores in the human body:

UDP, Leloir

Ten years after his initial discovery, Leloir found that nucleotide sugars are responsible for transferring sugars to molecules which grow to an immense size & become glycogen… seemingly endless chains of glucose waiting to be broken down to provide energy:

glycogen molecule

As his studies progressed, Leloir proved that human biosynthesis is not merely a reversal of breakdown, as had been assumed earlier. On the contrary, they are distinct processes. Leloir’s principle was also shown to be valid with proteins and nucleic acids, leading to discoveries about organ donor rejection & lactose intolerance. Leloir passed away in 1987, five years after receiving a cross from the French Legion of Honor.

The family vault, built in 1906 with opulent Art Nouveau decoration, is one of the tallest in the cemetery:

Luis Federico Leloir, Recoleta Cemetery

What distinguishes the mausoleum are its mosaics. The underneath side of the dome is decorated with an image of Christ surrounded by angels. The mosaic can be seen from the interior of the mausoleum through a skylight… Christ appears dramatically overhead:

Luis Federico Leloir, Recoleta Cemetery

Luis Federico Leloir, Recoleta Cemetery

Luis Federico Leloir, Recoleta Cemetery

The interior is also lavishly decorated with mosaics & Art Nouveau imagery… press your nose to the glass for a look inside:

Luis Federico Leloir, Recoleta Cemetery

Leloir also has one other claim to fame: the invention of a condiment. He came up with salsa golf at the Golf Club at the seaside resort of Mar del Plata. Basically a combination of mayonnaise & ketchup, it remains a popular, non-spicy alternative to cocktail sauce & a key ingredient of a local salad made with hearts of palm.

Like Art Nouveau? Learn about the architects of the era, their individual styles & what makes Art Nouveau in Buenos Aires so unique with a 33-page guide from our sister site, Endless Mile.

Update (27 Aug 2022): The Centro de Documentación e Investigación de la Arquitectura Pública (CeDIAP) has made thousands of images available online that could only be consulted previously by appointment. Among these are three blueprints for the Leloir family museum by French architect Albert Desiré Guilbert. For more of his works in Buenos Aires, see the comprehensive blog by Alejandro Machado, Arquitectos Franceses en Argentina.


396. familia del carril ◊

Salvador María del Carril, Recoleta Cemetery

A gigantic mausoleum commemorates the life of Salvador María del Carril, an important figure in the early days of Argentine history. Born in San Juan in 1798, Del Carril studied law & moved to Buenos Aires to participate in national politics. He firmly supported President Rivadavia & encouraged General Juan Lavalle to shoot his childhood friend, Manuel Dorrego, thinking it would prevent civil war. It didn’t.

Salvador María del Carril, Recoleta Cemetery

Del Carril lived in Uruguay during the Rosas period & met his wife, Tiburcia, there… 25 years younger than him. His political life continued to grow in spite of being in exile. Good friends with Justo José de Urquiza, Del Carril was selected as his Vice-President and godfather of the general’s first-born son. In later years, Bartolomé Mitre appointed him to the Supreme Court. Del Carril passed away in 1883, & Tiburcia had this elaborate construction built to honor his memory.

Salvador María del Carril, Recoleta Cemetery

In spite of Del Carril’s decades of participation in Argentine politics, he is also well-known for having major marital problems. Tiburcia apparently liked to spend Del Carril’s fortune… to a point where he published a letter in several major newspapers claiming that he would no longer be responsible for his wife’s debts. That obviously didn’t go over well with Tiburcia:

Salvador María del Carril, Recoleta Cemetery

Rumor has it that before she passed away in 1898 —fifteen years after her husband— Tiburcia requested that her bust look away from Del Carril for eternity. To this day, the unhappy couple have their backs to each other:

Salvador María del Carril, Recoleta Cemetery