Skip to content

Category: Urban legends

343. ida ◊

Ida, Recoleta Cemetery

Ida rarely gets a visitor since she shares the same row as Eva Perón… nothing like being upstaged by the cemetery’s most well-known resident. Perhaps due to Ida’s proximity to Evita, an urban legend developed around her death based on the evocative statue of a young woman reaching for a fallen rose.

Unable to confirm any factual evidence, most guides claim Ida fell to death from an upper story balcony… hence the statue. Seems like someone had an overactive imagination, but the best part about this mausoleum is that it contains some of the most overlooked Art Nouveau in Recoleta Cemetery.

The door is difficult to appreciate given the narrow width of sidewalk in front but is quite an impressive work of art:

Ida, Recoleta Cemetery

Interior photos are difficult due to glass reflections & low light levels, but peeking inside is easy. The mosaics & carved marble tomb shouldn’t be missed:

Ida, Recoleta Cemetery

Ida, Recoleta Cemetery

After seeing Eva Perón, wander toward the wall instead of returning to the main walkway. Ida is on the right-hand side waiting for some attention too.

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.


312. liliana crociati de szaszak ◊

Liliana Crociati de Szaszak, Recoleta Cemetery

Poor Liliana. She’s filed under urban legends only because no one can get the story straight…

…until 2021! Read on to uncover the truth behind the legend.

Part of 1960s high society, Liliana went on vacation in Austria when she was 26. She & her husband couldn’t return as planned because winter snow had been exceptionally heavy & roads were blocked. On an early February morning in 1970, an avalanche covered the hotel where she was staying. The force of the snow broke several windows & filled most of her room. Liliana was found on her bed covered in blankets but only lived a few hours after her rescue. Death was attributed to lack of oxygen & exposure to severe cold.

The statue of Liliana with elongated features always draws a crowd. Inscribed on the base is the name of her dog, Sabú. The greenery outside the vault & a modern Neogothic design also make the resting place of Liliana stand out:

Liliana Crociati de Szaszak, Recoleta Cemetery

Through the glass door, an oil portrait of Liliana hangs above the staircase… usually credited to one of Liliana’s friends in the School of Fine Arts:

Liliana Crociati de Szaszak, Recoleta Cemetery

The occasional cat likes to sit with Sabú in the tall grass:

Liliana Crociati de Szaszak, Recoleta Cemetery

So where does the mystery come in? There seem to be more versions of Liliana’s tragic death than even Rufina Cambacérès can claim.

No one mentions what happened to her husband. Did he die in the avalanche? If not, where is he now? Some people say that Sabú died in Buenos Aires on the same day as Liliana. Doubt it. Others say that Sabú passed away earlier but was Liliana’s favorite pet, hence his place with her for eternity. There are even tales of Sabú being added later to the statue… highly unlikely given the position of Liliana’s hands. And apparently to add more tragedy, some versions of the story say that Liliana was on her honeymoon & the garment she wears in the statue is her wedding dress.

Liliana Crociati de Szaszak, Recoleta Cemetery
Liliana Crociati de Szaszak, Recoleta Cemetery

What’s the real scoop? Someone in the family must still be alive to set the record straight. Otherwise, a look through 1970s microfilm of Buenos Aires newspapers might hold a few clues. At least corroborates part of the tragedy; from February 19-24, 1970 a series of avalanches in St. Sigmund im Sellrain near Innsbruck claimed four fatalities. One of those must have been Liliana.

Update (21 Dec 2009): It’s amazing how an urban legend can quickly get out of control & lead to comments like those for this particular post. After being contacted by Sven Szaszak who claimed to be the son of Juan Szaszak after he remarried, I asked Sven if he could provide any photos of Juan & Liliana together or help in some other way. Immediately someone claiming to be another relative, Trixie, went on a rampage. That didn’t help. So Marcelo visited the newspaper archives in La Plata & found the following facts…

La Nación, 26 February 1970
Argentine tourists—Vienna, 25 (AP) Among the 16,000 tourists blocked by snow in the eastern Austrian provinces of Tirol & Vorarlberg are Juan Szaszak, 31 years old, of Hungarian origin but an Argentine citizen, who squads managed to rescue after 15 minutes of searching. His wife, 24 years old, was pulled from under the snow after one hour of hard labor. It is reported that in spite of her critical condition, doctors trust that they can save her:

Newspaper article, La Nación, Liliana Crociati de Szaszak

La Prensa, 26 February 1970
Difficult situation in Austria for two Argentines—Innsbruck, Austria, 25 (UP) An Argentine couple was buried by an avalanche which happened in the Tirol region but shortly after were rescued alive from the hotel room they occupied. Police informed that Mrs. Liliana Szaszak, 24 years old, is in critical condition. Her husband, Juan, 31 years old born in Hungary was not injured.

The couple slept in their third floor room at the Piz Buin hotel in the Zuers winter resort, 64 km west of Innsbruck, when the snow from the avalanche entered through the window & filled their room. Szaszak was rescued in less than 15 minutes, but his wife could only be found after searching for one hour & had to be revived with oxygen.

Another avalanche in the Austrian Alps caused the death of four people at the beginning of the week. Innsbruck police said that around 14,000 tourists were stranded in the area due to avalanches which have blocked roads & railways. Helicopters are taking supplies to some areas, but bad weather impedes rescue operations in small villages, where it has been confirmed that residents are without bread:

Newspaper article, La Prensa, Liliana Crociati de Szaszak

Obituary, La Nación
Liliana Crociati de Szaszak, RIP, passed away in Austria on 27 February 1970 with help of the holy religion & papal blessing (c. a. s. r. y b. p. are initials for con los auxilios de la santa religión y bendición papal) — Her husband, Juan Szaszak; her parents José Crociati & María Adriana Ana Balduino; her in-laws Juan Szaszak & Gabriela Persoczy; her brother-in-law Ladislao A. Szaszak; aunts & uncles, nieces & nephews; her cousins & other relatives invite those interested to accompany her remains to Chacarita Cemetery today at 10:00. Funeral home:  Paraná 1255, Casa Mirás:

Obituary, La Nación, Liliana Crociati de Szaszak

Update (23 Jun 2017): Public records can reveal amazing things. Thanks to a reader who requested to remain anonymous, we now have family photos from a 1954 trip to Brazil to share. Since these are not private documents, I decided to publish them for anyone who is interested. Below are Liliana’s parents, Guiseppe Crociati & Maria Adriana Balduino de Crociati, as well as Liliana when she was 11. I’ve also emailed the tourism information office in Zuers to see if they have any information about the avalanche from local sources.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Giuseppe Crociati
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Maria Adriana Balduino de Crociati
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Liliana Crociati

Update (06 Dec 2021): On 26 Nov 2021 Donato Del Blanco left a comment on this blog, saying he had finally uncovered the truth about Liliana after speaking to a family member. Trixie, who left many comments on this post in 2009, truly exists! Donato & I spoke via WhatsApp, here’s what he published in an article in La Nación:

  • Liliana was known to friends & family as just Lili.
  • Her husband’s name was Janos Szaszak, nicknamed Jancsi.
  • They married on 17 Oct 1966… so no, they weren’t on their honeymoon when she passed away.
  • Their ski trip started in Val d’Isère in the French Alps, halfway between Geneva & Turin.
  • For lack of snow, they changed plans & went to Zürs am Arlberg in Austria & stayed at the Hotel Piz Buin.
  • On 26 Feb 1970, an avalanche covered their hotel & broke through their second story room window. Jancsi suffered from hypothermia but was revived by paramedics soon after. Liliana was transferred to a hospital in Innsbruck where he learned his wife was brain dead & made the decision to remove her from life support.
  • Jancsi found love again with Trixie, & they had two children. Jancsi passed away in 1996.
  • The family wanted to portray Liliana in her wedding dress, although according to photos provided by Trixi, it isn’t an exact replica. The dog is indeed Sabú, but he died many years after Liliana.

We’re grateful that Trixie has finally shared Liliana’s story with the public, along with a large number of family photographs. We also hope that this will finally allow Liliana to rest in peace. However, we are sad to learn —once again— that our investigation has been used by someone else with no credit given to this blog… even our photos were placed in the article without permission. I’ve contacted Donato about this, but I doubt the article will ever be corrected.


306. pedro benoit ◊

Pedro Benoit, Recoleta Cemetery

As one of the most important architects in Argentine history, Benoit is not recognized for the sheer number of buildings he constructed but instead for designing a city completely from scratch. Given the opportunity of a lifetime, Benoit was awarded the commission by Dardo Rocha to build the capital of the Province of Buenos Aires.

When Buenos Aires became the national capital & a separate federal unit, it had to relinquish control over an enormous area of land. This territory became the Province of Buenos Aires & needed its own capital city. Named La Plata, a site was chosen 30 km (17 mi) south of Buenos Aires & the foundation stone was laid in 1882. Benoit designed its grid plan criss-crossed by diagonals as well as most of the city’s government buildings & major churches:

Plano, Ciudad de La Plata
Catedral, La Plata

Obvious architecture/Masonic symbols & a plaque from the Comisión Pro-Templo in Mar del Plata hint to his social activities, both secular & religious:

Pedro Benoit, Recoleta Cemetery
Pedro Benoit, Recoleta Cemetery

If Benoit’s accomplishments weren’t enough, his father claimed to be the Dauphin—the last Bourbon king of France. Since the French Revolution it was widely believed that Louis XVII, son of Louis XVI & Marie Antoinette, was secretly removed from prison at a young age & a sick boy replaced him who later died. By way of Haiti, Louis XVII arrived in Buenos Aires under the pseudonym Pierre Benoit in 1818. Maybe.

Maintaining his supposed royal past a secret, Benoit served in the Argentine Navy, married, & had two sons… one of them named after him: Pedro Benoit. One day Pedro’s father received a childhood friend from France. Immediately afterwards, Benoit was noticeably shaken & his health took a turn for the worse. No one knows what was said between the two, but Pierre Benoit died within 24 hours. On his deathbed, he confessed to be Louis XVII. That would make Pedro, the architect son of Pierre, French royalty. Maybe.

Pedro Benoit, Recoleta Cemetery

Only recently has the fate of Louis XVII been settled. “The Lost King of France” by Deborah Cadbury (2002) chronicles the French Revolution & closely examined events afterwards. After the autopsy of  the sick boy in prison, his heart was removed & kept by a doctor with royal sympathies. Recently submitted for DNA testing, the heart proved to be of the same lineage as Marie Antoinette… confirming that the boy who died under horrible conditions in solitary confinement was indeed Louis XVII. No child had been substituted for the real Dauphin.

Regardless, Pedro Benoit is a legend in his own right for good urban planning… royalty or not. The vault was declared a National Historic Monument in 1983.

Update (Oct 2021): A family descendant, Alejandro Zuccarelli Benoit, has written a book about the legacy of Benoit in an attempt to recover his story. Interviewed by the La Plata newspaper El Día, Benoit shared the following photo of Pedro Benoit’s tomb in Recoleta Cemetery… note the lack of mausoleums that had yet to be built!

Pedro Benoit, Recoleta Cemetery

218. familia de luis dorrego indart ◊

Dorrego Indart, Recoleta Cemetery

On a winter morning in 1881, Felisa Dorrego de Miró received an unexpected letter at the family mansion in Buenos Aires. Full of eloquent prose & apologies, Felisa read that the cadaver of her recently deceased mother had been stolen from Recoleta Cemetery & a ransom of 2 million pesos was demanded in 24 hours for its return. Shocked & in spite of threats not to involve the police, Felisa reported the theft.

A big, bulky coffin would have been impossible to sneak out without someone noticing, so police deduced the casket must have been hidden somewhere inside the cemetery. Sure enough, a nearby tomb with a broken chain had the coffin of Felisa’s mom stuffed inside. With part of the mystery solved, the police captured the entire gang by paying the ransom & following the trail. The culprits were bored upper-class “gentlemen” looking for a bit of adventure.

Dorrego Indart, Recoleta Cemetery

Unfortunately no punishment existed on the books for the crime committed. Each member recevied two years in prison for related violations of the law, & in response a new law was added. Article 171 of the Argentine Penal Code still states that a sentence of 2 to 6 years will be given to anyone who steals a cadaver & demands a ransom for its return. Seriously.

Another interesting thing about this tomb is the sculpture. Copied from Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, the statue depicts the only demon in Recoleta Cemetery. A rather smug angel carries a soul to heaven while stomping on a devil with bat wings, a curly, gruesome tail & a pitchfork. No doubt who won this contest:

Dorrego Indart, Recoleta Cemetery

1 Comment

177. juan facundo quiroga ◊

Juan Facundo Quiroga, Recoleta Cemetery

Born in La Rioja, Quiroga received the nickname “Tiger of the Plains” based on his adeptness in battle. It was a skill needed during the troubled times of early independence from Spain when Argentina struggled to reach a consensus on national government.

When Argentina broke away from Spain & earned its independence in 1816, some people wanted to invite a European monarch to establish their own kingdom… sort of an Empire of the Río de la Plata. The idea isn’t far-fetched since Brazil was a separate Portuguese empire at the same time. But those in favor of a monarch didn’t have the majority.

The biggest issue centered on the role of Buenos Aires in the new nation, specifically the money it received from port taxes. Unitarios wanted Buenos Aires to become the capital city & keep all revenue from international trade. Opposing federales wanted a confederation—an alliance among equals—which would commit Buenos Aires to give other provinces access to their income. Definitely a touchy issue.

As the major port of the nation, foreign trade brought lots of money into Buenos Aires & exporters wanted to maintain the status quo. By placing the national capital in the same spot as the economic center, Federalists feared that the rest of Argentina would be neglected. In the end, the struggle over Confederation vs. Republic was settled in favor of Buenos Aires. Unitarian predictions came true as national growth has been skewed toward the capital ever since.

A strong supporter of BsAs, Quiroga thought that Rosas could resolve the conflict & pledged his support. But when Rosas began ruling Argentina like a monarch, Quiroga switched sides. Ignoring warnings of a conspiracy against his life, Quiroga was ambushed & killed in central Argentina. Eventually his remains were transferred to Recoleta Cemetery.

His place in history was guaranteed when future President Domingo Sarmiento wrote a harsh biography of Quiroga… still required reading in the Argentine curriculum. For Sarmiento, Quiroga embodied the stereotype of the gaucho: unable to think off his horse, wild, savage, & the opposite of progress. Not the most accurate of depictions, this image of Quiroga served to promote urban development at a time when Argentina needed guidance:

Sarmiento, Facundo, Recoleta Cemetery

Quiroga’s story is interesting but so is his tomb. Although weathered over time, the statue of Mary is a beautiful work of art made of Italian artist Antonio Tantardini. Note the delicate lacework details on her shawl. And yes, you’re seeing double. A miniature copy of this statue crowns the dome of another tomb nearby:

Juan Facundo Quiroga, Recoleta Cemetery

Juan Facundo Quiroga, Recoleta Cemetery

Legend claimed that the coffin of Quiroga was buried upright, perhaps so he would be one of the first out during the Second Coming of Christ. Excavations in 2004 confirmed his fate… Quiroga was indeed buried upright, hidden behind a wall underground. He was controversial enough that family & friends were afraid someone might break into the cemetery to deface his remains. Sure, it’s gruesome, but that’s one way to have the last word… when your opponent can’t fight back.