Unassuming & rather neglected, one of the founding fathers of Argentina lies inside. Nicolás Rodríguez Peña was born in 1775 in Buenos Aires & after a short stint in the military, he decided to go into the soap business with Hipólito Vieytes. Vieytes & Rodríguez Peña turned out to share more just than commercial interests… they were responsible for gathering support to declare independence from Spain in 1810. Discreet meetings took place either in the soap factory or at the country estate of Rodríguez Peña.
The early years after independence were rocky ones. In 1812, Rodríguez Peña formed part of a brief triumvirate government along with Juan José Paso & Antonio Álvarez Jonte. But factions came & went, & so did Rodríguez Peña’s influence in Buenos Aires. Eventually caught on the wrong side, he chose to join San Martín in ousting the Spanish from Chile & remained there after the decisive battle in Chacabuco. Spending 37 years away from Argentina, Rodríguez Peña died in Santiago de Chile in 1853.
His remains were brought back to Buenos Aires in 1894 & placed in Recoleta Cemetery in a family vault built after his departure from Argentina. On the base of the pedestal, a list of family members related to Nicolás includes his wife, Casilda Ygarzábal de Rodríguez Peña, who passed away in 1844 & Joaquín who died in 1869:
Small plaques below the pedestal are the only reminder that Nicolás is buried here:
The participation of Rodríguez Peña in the independence of South America is noteworthy not only because of his constant participation regardless of internal conflicts, but also because he used his entire fortune to support the cause. Now that’s dedication. This tomb was declared a National Historic Monument in 1946 & is scheduled for restoration later this year. Unfortunately nothing remains of the estate in Buenos Aires where revolutionary meetings were held, but that location is now a beautiful public square filled with jacarandá trees which bears his name… Plaza Rodríguez Peña:
Update (Jun 2008): About one year after this post was written, the crypt was restored & the column replaced. Text on the column is in French—some unreadable & with mistakes—but the general idea is easily conveyed:
N. R. Peña / jeune americain / de Buenos Ayres / mort malhuereusement / le 13 janvier 1831. / Sa mort / à laissé ses amis [column broken] / inconsolables / à prive ses parens / du meilleur des fils / et son pays / d’un citoyen habile / et vertueux / quien aurait été / sans doute lux des plus / beaux obnemens [difficult to decipher]
N.R. Peña, young American from Buenos Aires, sadly died the 13th of January 1831. His death has left his friends unconsolable, has deprived his parents of their best son & his country of an able & virtuous citizen who would have been without doubt the most beautiful light…