Skip to content

Month: April 2008

175. wenceslao villafañe y familia

Wenceslao Villafañe, Recoleta Cemetery

Born in 1837, Wenceslao Villafañe founded “La Capital” in 1888—a trolley service which became the principal beef distribution network for Buenos Aires. Slaughterhouses moved from Parque Patricios to the barrio of Mataderos in 1901, & back then there was a lot of open land between them & the city center. Trolleys carried sides of beef to Boedo where it eventually reached butcher shops & a hungry public.

Wenceslao Villafañe, Recoleta Cemetery

Villafañe passed away in 1903, but he had already sold the network in 1895 to Theodore N. Vail… American business mogul & founder of AT&T. Tramway growth under Vail was immense, & he even hired Luis María Drago as a legal consultant. The original hub, named Estación Liniers, eventually housed electric trolleys instead horse-drawn carriages. And the meat distribution plant built next door was named Estación Vail in honor of “La Capital”‘s owner.

Later bought & nationalized in 1949 as part of Perón’s grand economic plan, the end of all trolley service in the 1960s closed “La Capital” forever. Estación Liniers/Vail was purchased by a shipping company & used briefly, but that company went bankrupt in the 1990s.

The station still sits on Virrey Liniers between Estados Unidos & Carlos Calvo… but not for long. A high-rise apartment building will soon be constructed on the lot & leftover space will be converted into a public park. Distinctly industrial & surrounded by lots of suspended cables, this is one more piece of Buenos Aires which will soon be history. Go see it while you can:

Estación Liniers, Boedo

Buenos Aires, San Cristóbal, Estación Vail

Buenos Aires, San Cristóbal, Estación Vail

Leave a Comment

174. closing time

Bell, Recoleta Cemetery

Hidden when viewing the entrance gate from the front, a single bell crowns the southern side. Closing time is announced by ringing the bell at 17:50, ten minutes before the gates are locked.

If you don’t notice the constant clang, no need to worry. Guards also patrol the grounds looking for straggling tourists. It’s probably not a great place to spend the evening.

Leave a Comment

172. liga patriótica argentina

In the aftermath of the 1909 assassination of Ramón Falcón & Juan Alberto Lartigau, the upper class in Argentina began to pay attention. Wary of what they considered disruptive elements to society, immigration laws were modified to exile anyone committing a crime in the name of anarchism, Marxism or any other -ism convenient. Universal male suffrage in 1912 further shifted politics away from the upper class when Radical candidate Hipólito Yrigoyen was elected in 1916. The 1917 Communist Revolution & growing strength of labor unions only intensified what the upper class saw as a challenge to their power.

When a metalworkers strike spiraled out of control at the end of 1918, violence broke out between police, strikers & scabs hired to keep production going. Certain groups thought the violence originated from the Jewish community & a pogrom was carried out. The army had to intervene to restore order with a final death toll of about 1,000 people & another 4,000 injured. The 1919 Semana Trágica would go down in history as one of the most violent working class conflicts in the nation’s history.

Citizens who took part in repressing union activity during the Semana Trágica later formed an extra-governmental organization to maintain order: the Liga Patriótica Argentina. With a collective identity of “Argentine-ness,” they proposed to do what the government or police could not: prohibit erosion of the current order & stop all those foreign ideas from entering the country. Good luck with that. How can you argue with the following logic?

Cien años de virtudes fundaron la civilización argentina y la historia de nuestro siglo XIX, la exaltación más bella de la conciencia de un pueblo dispuesto a ser grande. Todo ese pasado de honor no puede alterarse por la perfidia de gente recién llegada trayendo en el alma la derrota de sus vilezas.

Argentine civilization & our 19th-century history was founded on one hundred years of virtue, the most beautiful exaltation of the consciousness of a people with a desire to be great. All that honorable past cannot be altered by the treachery of recently arrived people bringing in their soul the path to vileness.

Why would any of this be important in Recoleta Cemetery? Because many people buried inside were also members of the LPA. Just look for the plaques. Chemist & sanitation engineer Pedro Arata belonged to the group. So did author Ángel de Estrada. Others were examples for the LPA to follow such President Manuel Quintana who survived an attempt on his life by an anarchist:

Pedro Arata, Liga Patriótica Argentina plaque, Recoleta Cemetery

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Ángel de Estrada

Manuel Quintana, LPA plaque, Recoleta Cemetery

Leave a Comment