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Category: Education

304. arata

Pedro Arata, Recoleta Cemetery

A little bit of Egypt in Argentina, several members of the Arata family are buried here but none as recognized as Pedro Narciso Arata. The unfinished pyramid implies the same symbolism as a truncated column: a life ended with many tasks undone. Freemason fanatics shouldn’t get too excited; Arata died the same year that Tutankhamun’s tomb was discovered (1922) & Egyptian design had become fashionable.

Born in Buenos Aires in 1849 & related to the wealthy Unzué clan, Arata’s early years of school were in Paris. Naturally. He returned to Argentina for high school & university, tutoring many of his classmates in science including future President Roque Sáenz Peña. Arata quickly became part of the scientific elite & enrolled in medical school while teaching at the Faculty of Exact Sciences. Combining his knowledge chemistry & medicine in the improvement of city hygiene, Arata created the Municipal Chemical Office in 1883:

Pedro Arata, Recoleta Cemetery

On closer inspection, the left side reveals a faint image of a woman & child doing some sort of chemistry with a snake eager to participate. Crudely etched on the the bottom is a Latin phrase “Alii quidem equos am ant, alii oves, alii feros; mihi vero a puerulo mirandum acquirendi et possidendi libros insedit desiderium.” Fourth century Roman emperor Julian placed this quotation over every library he opened & obviously refers to Arata’s work to expand the University of Buenos Aires:

Arata became Dean of the School of Agriculture & Veterinary Sciences (Facultad de Agronomía) in 1904. His massive library of 60,000 books eventually became part of the university’s collection & a train station named after him greets students today. The campus occupies a huge section of the city, complete with horses & llamas:

Facultad de Agronomía, Buenos Aires

For all his accomplishments, Arata’s political beliefs tended toward the conservative as evidenced by a dedicatory plaque from the Liga Patriótica Argentina… maybe there is a bit of Masonic influence in the design after all:

Pedro Arata, Recoleta Cemetery

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297. aristóbulo del valle

Aristóbulo del Valle, Recoleta Cemetery

Born in 1845 to a rural family who had supported Rosas & later participated in the Conquista del Desierto, Aristóbulo del Valle was sent to Buenos Aires for a university education. While studying law, the devasting war with Paraguay erupted. Del Valle dropped everything to participate then returned to complete his degree.

With recognized literary & debating proficiency, it didn’t take long for del Valle to select a cause—universal male suffrage—& move into national politics. Surrounded with friends like Leandro Alem, Dardo Rocha & Carlos Pellegrini, his beliefs became increasingly radical for the time. With Alem, del Valle founded the Unión Cívica political party & participated in the 1890 Revolution against President Juárez Celman… while serving as Senator. A strong sense of duty forced him to resign since he had taken part in anti-government actions while serving as an elected official, but the public absolved any guilt by re-electing him. Two plaques commemorate his political acts of the time:

Aristóbulo del Valle, Recoleta Cemetery

Three years later under the presidency of Luis Sáenz Peña, del Valle was asked to serve as Minister of War & propose cabinet changes. From this position he tried to incorporate Alem & others into the government so they could officially institute changes denied by the earlier, failed revolution. But Alem refused & another revolution in 1893 was planned… without the participation of del Valle this time. Del Valle passed away soon after in 1896 in his office at the School of Law.

This tomb was one of the first two ever to be declared a National Historic Monument in 1945. Without many windows & tinted door glass, it appears to be yet another neglected tomb. But glancing inside reveals one of the most beautiful statues in the cemetery… preserved from the elements (although a bit dusty) & missed by almost every visitor [see comments for more info about the statue]:

Aristóbulo del Valle, Recoleta Cemetery

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283. petronila rodríguez

Petronila Rodríguez, Recoleta Cemetery

As a descendant of Nicolás Rodríguez Peña, Petronila inherited four centrally located city blocks in Buenos Aires. On her death in 1882, she willed the entire lot to the city government with very specific instructions. A church should be built as well as an attached Catholic school & a separate, 3-story school for 700 girls complete with a museum, library & other rooms decided to teaching art, music & science.

The wishes of Petronila were fulfilled & all the requested buildings constructed. The enormous girls’ school was occupied briefly by the Supreme Court until becoming the Ministry of Education in 1903. Not far from the busy intersection of Avenidas Córdoba & Callao, the Ministry became popularly known as the Palacio Pizzurno for 3 brothers who improved education in Argentina:

Palacio Pizzurno, Buenos Aires

Palacio Pizzurno, Buenos Aires

Petronila’s school eventually found a home in the distant neighborhood of Parque Chas in 1934 where it continues to function today:

Escuela Petronila Rodríguez, Parque Chas

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251. emma nicolay de caprile ◊

Emma Nicolay de Caprile, Recoleta Cemetery

One of the most under-investigated periods of Argentine history—fundamental to its growth as a nation—may receive more attention thanks to a book recently published by Julio Crespo. “Las Maestras de Sarmiento” recounts the story of US teachers who were given grants to come to Argentina & found schools, give women the opportunity to be educated & train others to follow in their footsteps.

Prior to Domingo Sarmiento’s election as President, Mitre nominated him to represent Argentina in the US in 1865… just after the assassination of Lincoln. Sarmiento’s contact with the intellectual elite, most notably Horace Mann, inspired him to replicate American system of free, public education in Argentina. When he became President in 1868, Sarmiento encouraged US teachers to help him make his dream a reality.

Although he wanted 1,000, only 65 teachers arrived (61 of which were women). Among them was one of Polish descent, Emma Nicolay de Caprile. Arriving in 1870, de Caprile became the first director of the Escuela Normal de Maestras de la Provincia de Buenos Aires located in Barracas on the Cambacérès estate. By 1880, the school had a new location in Recoleta on Avenida Córdoba & Riobamba, just opposite the Palacio de Aguas Corrientes:

Escuela Normal de Maestras, Recoleta

When de Caprile passed away in 1884, even Sarmiento attended her funeral & this crypt was declared a National Historic Monument in 1982. She helped introduce modern education methods & trained a generation of respected teachers. The sculpture by Lucio Correa Morales is particularly evocative:

Emma Nicolay de Caprile, Recoleta Cemetery

Emma Nicolay de Caprile, Recoleta Cemetery

For more info about how US teachers shaped Argentina’s future, a synopsis of Crespo’s work can be found in the newspaper Página/12 (in Spanish).

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246. another dellepiane

Dellepiane, Recoleta Cemetery

As if the first & second Dellepiane weren’t enough, a third vault with an Art Deco-inspired door can also be found… plaques mention a Luis F. Dellepiane who worked in the Colegio Nacional Central:

Dellepiane, Recoleta Cemetery

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