Typical for an election year, cultural offerings in Buenos Aires have increased over the past few weeks. Incumbent officials provide a few months of frenetic activity in an attempt to erase 3.5 years of neglect. Last night in conjunction with Earth Hour, the city sponsored “La Noche en Vela” (Candlelight Night) with different cultural activities across the city. Recoleta Cemetery participated with an announced video projection on the entrance gate beginning at 21:00. Ironically, entrance gate lights had been shut off to support Earth Hour but a multimedia show which undoubtedly used more electricity replaced them.
Although starting on time, someone had made a big PR mistake. Instead of projecting on the main gate, the show took place on a smaller service entrance. Much less engaging. In the beginning, various images of vaults displayed while an actor dressed as a caretaker paced back & forth ringing a bell. Eventually the caretaker character appeared in the video, opening the gate for spectators to look inside. More vault images raced by like a passing train while a women desperately tried to escape her inevitable death. As she laid to rest—accompanied by a cat—more still images were projected. Videos below are from various moments of the show:
Even though the tombs of Pedro Ferré & Luz María García Velloso were incorporated into the show, there was little attempt at historical narrative. The timing of the show seemed a bit off as well… certain parts went very fast while others seemed to last an eternity. Many of the crowd of approximately 500 people drifted in & out, commenting that they did not understand the purpose of the show. Perhaps an effort to incorporate information about the cemetery’s history would have been more appropriate than the overly dramatic skit. While mildly entertaining, Candlelight Night at Recoleta Cemetery could have been much better.
Although Admiral Guillermo (William) Brown died on 03 Mar 1857, Navy officials waited until St. Patrick’s Day to perform a memorial service. Students from Irish Catholic schools were present as was the current Irish ambassador to Argentina, James McIntyre (center, with glasses, in the row of five people below).
The ceremony lasted about 15 minutes as a military band played both the Argentina & Ireland national anthems & a wreath was laid at the base of Brown’s tomb:
The last piece played by the band was “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes. In spite of the fact that none of Brown’s descendants participated in the ceremony, it is commendable that 154 years after Brown’s death, the country paid homage to one of its most important immigrants… very nice to see.
Group pantheons are rare in Recoleta Cemetery. Organizations usually choose Chacarita Cemetery while Recoleta attracts families & individuals. But given the social status of the Sociedad Científica Argentina, it’s not surprising they’re here.
During the 1850’s & 1860’s, medical & scientific societies formed—often with a very specific field of interest—in order to advance progress in these areas. As a relatively new nation with many issues to resolve, science often took a back seat. University students decided to change that. While still in the Department of Exact Sciences, students such as future engineers Luis Huergo & Santiago Barabino found support in their older peers, like Germán Burmeister, to found the society in 1872.
The SCA encouraged the study of science through a series of expeditions & conferences. They partially funded Francisco Perito Moreno’s groundbreaking research trip to Patagonia & hosted important international conferences in 1898 & 1910. By the 1920’s, the organization had become so respected that the city government ceded land on Avenida Sante Fe in Retiro for the SCA to build their headquarters:
Still an influential institution today, members can opt for burial in the society’s pantheon. Numerous plaques list some of the occupants, such as analytical chemist Reinaldo Vanossi & biophysicist Máximo Valentinuzzi. The statue of Christ is the vault’s most outstanding feature & often has flowers placed at its feet.
Interior photos courtesy of the Sociedad Científica Argentina.