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AfterLife Posts

022. julián garcía y familia

Julián García Núñez, Recoleta Cemetery

Born in Buenos Aires in 1875 to Spanish immigrant parents, Julián García Núñez was sent to complete his architecture studies in Barcelona. He arrived at the beginning of the Art Nouveau period, just as Barcelona got its distinctive look. Although Gaudí is the most recognized name of Barcelona architecture of that era, Domènich i Montaner was equally as prolific & García Núñez fortunately had him as a professor.

Returning to Buenos Aires around 1905, García Núñez brought with him a touch of Barcelona to the growing metropolis of Buenos Aires. He wasn’t shy about promoting himself & was awarded with important contracts for the immigrant Spanish community, most notably the Hospital Español (now 80% demolished). For Argentina’s centennial celebrations in 1910, GN built the Spanish Pavilion & his designs were increasingly in demand.

But when Art Nouveau fell out of fashion in Buenos Aires & gave way to Art Deco, García Núñez abruptly stopped practicing his profession. Only a few works date after 1915, & apparently he destroyed all his plans & awards. Surviving family members recall GN having a rather stern character, but we’ll never know why he abandoned everything & faded into obscurity.

The buildings by García Núñez in Buenos Aires which have not been demolished or modified remain as striking today as when they were built. Below are apartment buildings at Otamendi 76-82 (Caballito), Paso 684-98 (Once), & Luis Sáenz Peña 274 (Monserrat):

Julián García Núñez, Otamendi 76-82

Julián García Núñez, Paso 684-98

Julián García Núñez, Luis Sáenz Peña 274

His neglected family tomb lacks the style García Núñez was most recognized for but is nevertheless nicely designed:

Julián García Núñez, Recoleta Cemetery

Julián García Núñez, Recoleta Cemetery

Julián García Núñez, Recoleta Cemetery

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. Works of García Núñez are highlighted in the guide.

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021. tombstones in english

Lots of Irish Catholic immigrants came to Argentina along with all the Italians & Spanish. For most of its history, only Catholics could be buried in Recoleta Cemetery so any new arrivals who practiced Catholicism qualified. These aren’t easy to find… pay special attention to nooks & crannies. Simple tombstones with English inscriptions hide among the grandeur of monster-size mausoleums.

The tombstone below reads: “Sacred to the memory of Rose Casey, native of Cº [County] Westmeath Ireland, who died [date unreadable] March 1881, aged 50 years.”

Rose Casey, Recoleta Cemetery

Another reads: “Sacred to the memory of Patrick McLoughin who departed this life on the 29th of Augost [sic] 1862, aged 40 years. His beloved wife dedicates this to his memory.”

Patrick McLoughin, Recoleta Cemetery

Another with a small, neglected statue states: “Sacred to the memory of Thomas Kenny, born in Ireland on the 5th Dec 1796 and died Feb 15th 1857. His children have erected this monument to his memory.”

Thomas Kenny, Recoleta Cemetery

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019. romulo otamendi ◊

Difficult to miss, this granite monster is unremarkably cold, grey & lifeless. But if the glass window behind the wrought-iron door is open, be sure to peek through… one of the most beautiful statues of Recoleta Cemetery sits inside. The interior of the mausoleum has significant water damage thanks to broken ceiling glass, but the sculpture has been spared from the elements:

Rómulo Otamendi, Recoleta Cemetery

An angel with exquisite wings carries a child to heaven on a cloud. Both look completely content & offset what was a terrible tragedy for the Otamendi family. Their only daughter, Estela Matilde Otamendi, died in 1916:

Rómulo Otamendi, Recoleta Cemetery

Romulo Otamendi, born in 1852, worked an engineer & was responsible for laying out a large portion of the Argentine railroad network. He was compensated with land holdings & a small town was established near the railroad station named after him. On Otamendi’s death in 1934, much of the land was willed to the national government. After decades of neglect, it was recovered & became a nature reserve in 1990. The 3,000 hectare area is about 70 km northwest of Buenos Aires, near the city of Campana, & is hoping to become the first national park in the Province of Buenos Aires.

The Otamendis spent their summers in a sumptuous estate along the Tigre Delta known as the Palacio Belgrano. Originally constructed in the 1860’s for Carlos Belgrano, brother of independence hero Manuel Belgrano, the German/Italian-influenced castle had been decorated with all the European elegance money could buy:

Palacio Belgrano

When daughter Estela passed away, the estate was donated to the local government & a shelter for girls now operates there. Above the main entrance of this mausoleum, Estela’s name figures between those of her father & mother.

[Palacio Belgrano photo courtesy of the Municipalidad de San Fernando.]