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Month: December 2011

449. francisco salamone

Francisco Salamone, Azul, cementerio

Much remains unknown about the life of Francisco Salamone, including his birthplace. Some authors say he was born in Italy while other claim Buenos Aires as his hometown. Uncertainty even carries over to Salamone’s large body of work, scattered throughout Argentina. Fans are discovering more & more of his buildings, but here’s what we know for sure…

After studying architecture & engineering at several different universities in Argentina, Salamone received his degree in 1917. Through his friendship with Manuel Fresco, governor of the Province of Buenos Aires, he got a big break. Hired to design & modernize public works throughout the province, Salamone constructed over 60 buildings in his trademark style between 1936 & 1940.

Francisco Salamone, Azul, Matadero

Breaking through the flat grasslands of La Pampa, Salamone designed towering white structures which could be seen easily from a distance. Governor Fresco liked Mussolini—a fairly common trait in Italian descendants in Argentina in those days—and gave Salamone free reign to build something that would fit in with modern, Fascist design. The end product was futuristic, something completely unexpected in small towns seemingly in the middle of nowhere.

Francisco Salamone, Coronel Pringles, Municipalidad

Francisco Salamone, Coronel Pringles, Municipalidad

Salamone’s works can be divided into general categories: town halls, cemeteries & slaughterhouses. He designed other buildings as well, but those three comprised the bulk of his work. He even worked on smaller projects like benches & light fixtures for plazas.

Francisco Salamone, cementerio, Saldungaray

Francisco Salamone, cementerio, Laprida

Francisco Salamone, cementerio, Balcarce

Many have now fallen into disuse, but the rise of tourism in Argentina over the last ten years as well as an increased focus on the nation’s architectural heritage has made Salamone popular once again. Restoration projects have begun & weekend excursions go to towns that are difficult to connect using public transportation alone.

Mapa de obras de Francisco Salamone

Salamone passed away in 1959 & was originally buried in Recoleta Cemetery. An obituary newspaper column announced the following:

Francisco Salamone, obituary

Unfortunately, architecture buffs can no longer pay their respects in Recoleta Cemetery. After spending five years in the Lippo mausoleum, Salamone’s casket was transferred in 1964 to the López Vida family vault. But that wasn’t the end of his journey. We also discovered that he was taken to Jardín de Paz in Pilar in 1992 thanks to Rick Caba. Motives for moving around are still unknown, but all three resting places are shown below:

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Lippo

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, López Vida

Salamone lápida

Salamone has been included in AfterLife due to his importance in national architecture + as one more example of a temporary Recoleta Cemetery burial.

There are a variety of online sources about the architecture of Salamone (in Spanish). With the exception of Rick Caba’s tombstone photo (used with permission), all pics are from Marcelo Metayer who administers the architect’s Flickr groupAndrés Tórtola filmed two travel documentaries about Salamone, & Edward Shaw talks about returning to the works of Salamone ten years after his first visit.


448. josé félix uriburu

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, José Félix Uriburu

Born in Salta in 1868, José Félix Uriburu joined the Military Academy located on the outskirts of Buenos Aires at the age of 17. Five years later, he would participate in the birth of civil society in Argentina during the Revolución del 1890. But he would soon part ways with the Radicals.

When President Luis Sáenz Peña resigned in 1895, Vice-President José Evaristo de Uriburu—his uncle—took over. The younger Uriburu became his uncle’s assistant & got first-hand experience in government. In 1905 he helped President Manuel Quintana stifle another attempted Radical coup.

Uriburu continued to move up swiftly through both military & political circles. He was sent to Europe to learn techniques to improve the Argentine military & soon after elected as a representative for his native province of Salta in Congress. After obtaining the rank of Division General, Uriburu retired against his will… but would soon return to be the center of attention.

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Recoleta Cemetery, José Félix Uriburu, golpe militar

Uriburu led the first military coup in Argentina in 1930. Ousting democratically elected Radical President Hipólito Yrigoyen, historians credit Uriburu with starting military involvement in politics… a trend that would lead to a series of military takeovers until 1983. Conservative & very Catholic, Uriburu called for elections but annulled results when the Radicals won. In fact, Uriburu ushered in what historians call the “Infamous Decade” where democracy was only given lip service.

Eventually Uriburu handed the presidency to military colleague General Agustín P. Justo in 1932. Diagnosed with stomach cancer, he went to Paris for treatment but died soon after arrival. His funeral service in the Église Saint-Pierre-de-Chaillot seems extraordinary, especially since the church also held funerals for Guy de Maupassant & Marcel Proust. At least we have an impressive visual record:

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, José Félix Uriburu

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, José Félix Uriburu

After services in Paris, Uriburu’s remains were brought by ocean liner to Buenos Aires. Services held at his residence led to a temporary burial at the tomb of Ramón Falcón… that fact speaks volumes. Just look at the number of people entering the cemetery. Wow.

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, José Félix Uriburu

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, José Félix Uriburu

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, José Félix Uriburu

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, José Félix Uriburu

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, José Félix Uriburu

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, José Félix Uriburu

Currently Uriburu’s mausoleum is unkempt & unadorned… perhaps his family fell on hard times. Whatever the reason, Uriburu’s legacy to Argentine history—good, bad or indifferent—has disappeared from public view in Recoleta Cemetery. Find the plaque below in the photos above… a piece of history few remember:

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, José Félix Uriburu

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, José Félix Uriburu

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, José Félix Uriburu

Update (14 Apr 2013): One important reminder of Uriburu’s legacy remains in the town of Balcarce, about 400 km or 250 mi south of Buenos Aires. Originally meant to glorify, a bit of historical revision has occurred with the only statue of Uriburu in Argentina.

Balcarce, Provincia de Buenos Aires, José Félix Uriburu statue

A new plaque placed in June 2012 reads:

Este monumento fue emplazado en el 6º aniversario del primer golpe de estado en Argentina. El general José Félix Uriburu atentó contra la Constitución Nacional el 6 de septiembre de 1930. Este nefasto acontecimiento abrió paso a una serie de violaciones al estado de derecho y a los derechos humanos de la población, impuesto por los gobiernos de facto que interrumpieron el orden democrático, signando décadas de inestabilidad y autoritarismo en nuestro país.

This monument was erected on the sixth anniversary of the first coup d’etat in Argentina. General José Félix Uriburu defied the national constitution on 06 Sep 1930. This horrific deed opened the way for a series of violations of the rule of law & of the population’s human rights, imposed by de facto governments that interrupted democratic order, ushering in decades of instability & authoritarianism in our country.

Archival photos from the British Library Endangered Archives Programme. Balcarce photo courtesy of Marcelo Metayer.


447. living meaning of cemeteries

Life magazine, W. Lloyd Warner, Margaret Bourke-White, 1949

American anthropologist W. Lloyd Warner wrote the following in “The Living and the Dead: A Study of the Symbolic Life of Americans,” first published in 1959 (emphasis mine):

When cemeteries no longer receive fresh burials which continue to tie the emotions of the living to the recently dead & thereby connect the living in a chain of generations to an early ancestry, the graveyards must lose their sacred quality & become objects of historical ritual. The lifetime of individuals & the living meanings of cemeteries are curiously interdependent, for both are dependent on an ascription of sacred meaning bestowed upon them by those who live. The symbols of death say what life is and those of life define what death must be. The meanings of man’s fate are forever what he makes them…

This distinction between “active” & “dead” cemeteries & how their significance changes to those who are living is very interesting in the case of Recoleta Cemetery because it receives so much tourism. It straddles the line between Warner’s sacred symbol & historic site. While guiding, I would always remind visitors to be respectful because it is indeed a functioning cemetery & we often witnessed funeral ceremonies. As two distinct groups of people inside the cemetery for very different reasons, I have always considered taking photos of funeral services to be taboo… even though I’ve been tempted by some of the more elaborate displays.

Another overlooked aspect of Recoleta Cemetery is the role it plays in collective memory. Commemorative services—like that for Admiral Guillermo Brown—occur frequently, but they are usually only witnessed by a few. The interconnection & social ties that commemoration builds would seem to be lost, with participation limited to a very small percentage of the population. Tourists may enjoy witnessing such services, but they are intended for Argentines… who are often absent.

But anyone, tourist or local, can learn from Warner’s observation that the symbols of death explain what life is. Visiting Recoleta Cemetery helps us understand who we are by connecting with the past & giving us a sense of continuity. Perhaps that’s why I’m such a big fan of visiting cemeteries—I love seeing how different cultures deal with life.

Photo of W. Lloyd Warner: Margaret Bourke-White/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images, taken on 01 May 1949. Post inspired by “The Collective Memory Reader” edited by Olick, Vinitzky, Seroussi & Levy (2011)… a fantastic collection of essays investigating society’s interpretation of the past & present.


446. macedonio fernández

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Macedonio Fernández

Born in 1874, Macedonio Fernández led a fairly standard life where he studied & practiced law, had four children & published various poems. But in 1920 his wife passed away, he left his children in the care of his siblings & began anew. The following year, the family of Jorge Luis Borges returns to Argentina after an extended stay in Europe… Macedonio & the father of Borges had been lifelong friends & this friendship was passed on to Borges himself.

Borges & Macedonio were often on the same wavelength, chatting endlessly about reality itself. These conversations about metaphysics would emerge 20 years later in the writings of Borges in the 1940’s. Literary circles debate if Borges would have ever developed his characteristic style without the influence of Macedonio, & Borges often credited his tutor for fashioning his intellect. They likely created each other.

Macedonio continued to write until his death in 1952. Borges said a few words at Macedonio’s funeral in Recoleta Cemetery, remembering his grand sense of humor:

Las mejores posibilidades de lo argentino —la lucidez, la modestia, la cortesía, la íntima pasión, la amistad genial— se realizaron en Macedonio Fernández, acaso con mayor plenitud que en otros contemporáneos famosos. Macedonio era criollo, con naturalidad y aun con inocencia, y precisamente por serlo, pudo bromear (como Estanislao del Campo, a quien tanto quería) sobre el gaucho y decir que éste era un entretenimiento para los caballos de las estancias.

The best possibilities of that which is Argentine—lucidity, modesty, courtesy, intimate passion, wonderful friendship—existed in Macedonio Fernández, perhaps more fully than in other famous contemporaries. Macedonio was a true product of this land, natural & still innocent, & precisely for that reason, could joke (like Estanislao del Campo, who he loved so much) about the gaucho & say that they were merely entertainment for horses.

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