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Category: Literati

540. tomás guido

Occupying a prime piece of cemetery space—a wide, main axis close to the central Cristo Redentor statue—this mausoleum also attracts lots of attention thanks to an interesting design. Unfortunately its first occupant no longer resides here; you’ll have to go to the cathedral on Plaza de Mayo to pay your respects. Read on…

Born in 1788, Tomás Guido witnessed or participated in almost every major event during the creation of Argentina as an independent, new nation. He started young, defending Buenos Aires from both British invasions in 1806 & 1807 at the age of 18. Guido later accompanied Mariano Moreno on a diplomatic mission to the UK & was on board when Moreno passed away at sea. During independence wars, Guido traveled to Tucumán where he became a secretary & befriended both José de San Martín & Manuel Belgrano. Memoirs of his time with San Martín became an invaluable historic document, published in 1816. Over time, he would advance in rank & participate in the liberation of what we know as Chile & Perú.

Returning to Buenos Aires, Guido worked with the Rivadavia government during the war with Brazil. He continued to be appointed by successive leaders such as Manuel Dorrego, Juan Lavalle, Juan José Viamonte & surprisingly by both Juan Manuel de Rosas & Justo José de Urquiza at different moments. Usually involved in diplomacy & international relations, Guido passed away in 1866 in Buenos Aires after negotiating a peace agreement between Paraguay & the United States just a few years prior. His last wish was to be buried in the Andes, in remembrance of his time fighting for South American independence.

Legend claims that Guido’s second youngest child, Carlos Spano y Guido, felt so committed to his father’s final wish that he had stones brought from the Andes to build this mausoleum. We’ve yet to see any hard proof, but it’s a wonderful story. Some even insist that Carlos built the tomb himself by hand. Again, unlikely but hey… sounds great! The design of the tomb fits an era when romantic ideas were combined with images of nature, & the pintoresco style was born:

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Archivo General de la Nación, AGN, Tomás Guido
Image courtesy of Archivo General de la Nación, copy taken by author.

Also check out a nearby tomb to Gregorio Torres with an almost identical wrought-iron door:

On the 100th anniversary of his death, descendants of Tomás Guido authorized the national government to transfer his remains. Guido keeps company once again with San Martín in the cathedral of Buenos Aires:

An important figure in his own right, Carlos Spano y Guido & his descendants remain buried here. Guido y Spano wrote well-received romantic prose & became director of the National Archive (plaque below dedicated to his passing). He also worked to found the Sociedad Protectora de Animales with José Pérez Mendoza. In 1946, this tomb was designated a National Historic Monument by the Perón government.

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537. familia olegario v. andrade

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Olegario Víctor Andrade

During the period of national organization after independence from Spain, many families had to make a difficult decision: support a Confederation of provinces or a Buenos Aires-based government. Escalating into civil war, factions split between Urquiza & Rosas… in fact, many people on both sides are buried in Recoleta Cemetery & this blog dedicates a lot of text to this period. Based in the province of Entre Ríos & firm Urquiza supporters, the Andrade family was forced to leave Argentina. They made their way to neighboring Brazil where Olegario Víctor Andrade was born in 1839. After the 1853 defeat of Rosas, his family returned to Argentina & settled in the riverside town of Gualeguaychú.

Olegario finished his early studies in the nearby town of Concepción del Uruguay & became friends with a future President Julio Argentino Roca… as well as with others who would go on to become important national leaders such as Victorino de la Plaza & Eduardo Wilde. Olegario demonstrated a gift for writing poetry even at this early age, often writing about national events. Although he worked in journalism at first, he eventually moved into provincial politics. In 1859 at the age of 21, Andrade became personal secretary for President Santiago Derqui & put his pen to good use in criticizing Bartolomé Mitre & the War of the Triple Alliance.

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Olegario Víctor Andrade

Although his political career continued with a number of ups & downs, Andrade achieved major recognition for his poem “El nido de cóndores” which was read to the public at the Teatro Colón in 1877. This work uses an imaginary dialogue with condors to praise the crossing of the Andes by José de San Martín & his troops during independence. A monument in Plaza San Martín in Andrade’s hometown of Gualeguaychú commemorates this very poem:

Gualeguaychú, Entre Ríos, Plaza San Martín, Olegario Víctor Andrade, El Nido de Cóndores

Andrade continued to write epic historical poetry. Of note is “San Martín“, discussing the general’s move to Europe & consequent disappearance from national narrative. This poem was written when Sarmiento repatriated the general’s remains in 1877, & the section below addresses the recovery of San Martín’s rightful place in national history:

¡Salud al vencedor! ¡Salud al grande
Entre los grandes héroes! Exclamaban
Civiles turbas, militares greyes,
Con ardiente alborozo,
En la vieja ciudad de los Virreyes.–
Y el vencedor huía,
Con firme paso y actitud serena,
A confiar a las ondas de los mares
Los profundos secretos de su pena.–

La ingratitud, la envidia,
La sospecha cobarde, que persiguen
Como nubes tenaces,
Al sol del genio humano,
Fueron siguiendo el rastro de sus pasos
A través del Oceano,
Ansiosas de cerrarle los caminos
Del poder y la gloria,
¡Sin acordarse, ¡torpes! de cerrarle
El seguro camino de la historia!


Here’s to the victor! Here’s to the greatest
Among all great heroes! Exclaimed
Multitudes of citizens, military troops,
With heartfelt joy,
In the old city of the Vicerroys.-
And the victor fled,
With convincing step and serene demeanor,
To trust to the waves of the seas
The deep secrets of his sorrow.-

Ingratitude, envy,
Cowardly suspicion, that followed
Like tenacious clouds,
To the sun of human genius,
They pursued the track of his footsteps
Across the Ocean,
Anxious to block the path
Of power and glory,
Without remembering, fools!, to close off
The sure path of history!

Andrade passed away from a stroke in 1882. His former high school friend Roca—then President—spoke at the funeral, & five years later Congress published a compilation of Andrade’s works. Today however, those works are unfortunately less well known as can be seen by the poor condition of his family mausoleum (in spite of being declared a National Historic Monument). Also buried here are his daughter, Agustina, & her husband, Ramón Lista, an early explorer of Patagonia who deserves a post of his own. Perhaps next month…

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Olegario Víctor Andrade

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501. florencio varela

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Florencio Varela

Florencio Varela was born in Buenos Aires in 1807 (pre-independence), with his father passing away when he was only 11 years old. As a child, he earned a grant to attend the Unión del Sur school, recently founded by General Juan Martín de Pueyrredón. His university studies began four years later, & in 1827 he obtained a doctorate in Law.

While studying, Varela wrote his first literary piece & was published in newspapers edited by his older brother, the famous poet Juan Cruz Varela. Florencio’s brother also inspired Unitarian ideas that led him to leave Argentina in 1829 after Lavalle ordered the execution of Manuel Dorrego. Complicated times.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Florencio Varela

Exiled in Montevideo, Varela married Justa Cané, had 11 children & spent most of his time working as a lawyer. But during this period, Varela came to be known as much for his literary talent as for his flair for politics. He participated in early elections in Uruguay, supporting Fructuoso Rivera over General Manuel Oribe who shared ideas similar to those of Juan Manuel de Rosas.

In 1843 while Montevideo remained under siege by Oribe, Varela was sent to Europe in an attempt to obtain English & French support against the growing influence of Rosas. The UK turned a deaf ear to Varela although he took advantage of the trip to visit museums, monuments & factories. Later in Paris, he met with Alphonse Thiers, & the French Congress agreed to put the struggles in the Río de la Plata on their agenda.

In the French capital, he also conversed with the aging General José de San Martín & met Louis Daguerre who explained to Varela details of the latest invention: photography. He brought back to the Río de la Plata one of the first early cameras. The daguerrotype below is of Varela & his daughter, María, taken by an unknown author in 1847.

Florencia Varela, daguerrotype

Immediately after returning to Montevideo, Varela founded the newspaper “El Comercio del Plata,” fighting Rosas from its pages & supporting European intervention in the region. Miguel Cané (father) & Valentín Alsina collaborated with Varela, & Alsina would become editor after Varela’s death.

On 20 Mar 1848, Florencio Varela was stabbed in the back & murdered. His assassin declared on trial that he had been sent by Oribe’s men. Interestingly enough, Florencio Varela’s ashes lie among many members of his family, but his wife is not here. After the assassination of Varela, Justa Cané married again—to Doctor Andrés Somellera—and her remains are in that family’s vault. Justa survived Varela by more than half a century, passing away in 1910.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Florencio Varela

One of the most populated areas of the Province of Buenos Aires commemorates the reporter since 1891. In 1883, that same province also issued a bill with portraits of Valentín Alsina & Florencio Varela with the value of 2 gold pesos.

1883 billete 2 pesos florencio varela

The currency shown above is courtesy of Billetes Argentinos.

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494. “La Recoleta”

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Marcelo Metayer

Jorge Luis Borges often wandered the walkways of Recoleta Cemetery (along with his friend & fellow writer Adolfo Bioy Casares), but his prediction of being buried there never came true. The cemetery, however, makes a remarkable appearance as the topic of one of his first published poems, La Recoleta… appearing in the 1923 collection Fervor de Buenos Aires. Below is the original text in Spanish followed by an English translation found online by Robert Mezey & Richard Barnes.

Convencidos de caducidad
por tantas nobles certidumbres del polvo,
nos demoramos y bajamos la voz
entre las lentas filas de panteones,
cuya retórica de sombra y de mármol
promete o prefigura la deseable
dignidad de haber muerto.

Made certain of impermanence
by so many noble witnesses of dust,
we linger with hushed voices
between the stately rows of mausoleums,
whose rhetoric of shade and marble
promises or foreshadows the appealing
dignity of having died.

Bellos son los sepulcros,
el desnudo latín y las trabadas fechas fatales,
la conjunción del mármol y de la flor
y las plazuelas con frescura de patio
y los muchos ayeres de a historia
hoy detenida y única.

Beautiful, these sepulchers,
the naked Latin and the linked and fatal dates,
flowers touching marble and
the little plazas cool and fresh as a courtyard,
the myriads yesterdays of a story
now cut short and unique.

Equivocamos esa paz con la muerte
y creemos anhelar nuestro fin
y anhelamos el sueño y la indiferencia.
Vibrante en las espadas y en la pasión
y dormida en la hiedra,
sólo la vida existe.

We confuse this peace with death
and we think we long for the end
when all we long for is indifference and sleep.
Vibrant in swords, tremulous in passion,
asleep in the ivy,
life is all there is.

El espacio y el tiempo son normas suyas,
son instrumentos mágicos del alma,
y cuando ésta se apague,
se apagarán con ella el espacio, el tiempo y la muerte,
como al cesar la luz
caduca el simulacro de los espejos
que ya la tarde fue apagando.

Time and space are but the forms it takes,
the magic instruments of the soul,
and when it is snuffed out,
as when the light dies
time & space will be snuffed out with it,
death will be snuffed out,
the semblance in the mirror expires,
which the twilight was already snuffing out.

Sombra benigna de los árboles,
viento con pájaros que sobre las ramas ondea,
alma que se dispersa entre otras almas,
fuera un milagro que alguna vez dejaran de ser,
milagro incomprensible,
aunque su imaginaria repetición
infame con horror nuestros días.

Kindly shade of trees,
bird-streaked wind that ripples through the branches,
soul dispersing itself into other souls,
it must have been a miracle that on a day those souls left off existing,
a miracle that passeth understanding,
even though its imagined repetition
stains our days with horror.

Estas cosas pensé en la Recoleta,
en el lugar de mi ceniza.

These thoughts came to me in La Recoleta,
in the place of my ashes.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Marcelo Metayer

Photos courtesy of Marcelo Metayer.

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466. josé hernández

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, José Hernández

In 1834, José Rafael Hernández y Pueyrredón was born in the Province of Buenos Aires. His parents & relatives had property near Buenos Aires, so he spent most of his childhood in the big city. At the age of 9, his mother passed away. Diagnosed with respiratory problems, doctors recommended a change of climate for Hernández. He went to live with his father who ran ranches for Juan Manuel de Rosas… a great opportunity to learn the gaucho lifestyle.

Hernández began a military career in the 1850s. On & off, he participated in many of the decisive battles to determine if Buenos Aires would become the capital of Argentina. But a career in journalism lured Hernández away from the military. Already an established member of the literary community, his greatest work began to be published in 1872 as a newspaper series under the title “Martín Fierro.”

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, José Hernández

Combining gaucho folklore & romantic imagery, Martín Fierro became immediately popular for its authentic tone, first-person narrative & innovative use of language. The work became a fundamental piece of Argentine identity & by the time of its 11th edition in 1879, Hernández penned a popular sequel titled “La Vuelta de Martín Fierro.”

José Hernández passed away in 1886. Martín Fierro has been adapted in many formats since then, & many Argentines continue to identify with this classic piece of literature. Both texts can be found here, & it is often presented in comic format for a younger audience:

José Hernández, Martín Fierro

Despite his contribution to national identity, the tomb of José Hernández is rarely visited these days. It was made a National Historic Monument in 1946, & the following plaque was placed in 1964 on the 130th anniversary of his birth:

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, José Hernández

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453. antonio zinny

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Antonio Zinny

There’s no better example of how space is at a premium in Recoleta Cemetery than the crypt of Antonio Zinny, tucked neatly at the end of a diagonal avenue. The family managed to pack a nice memorial in a very limited space:

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Antonio Zinny

Born in Gibraltar in 1821, Zinny arrived in Buenos Aires in 1842 to complete a law degree he’d begun in Spain. After a brief period in Corrientes & working at several newspapers, Zinny returned to Buenos Aires. He is remembered for founding a few schools, but Zinny seemed to have found his true calling as a historian while organizing national archives.

Sifting through Argentina’s early days inspired Zinny to write the first provincial histories ever published. Another significant contribution was compiling all the early newspapers printed in Argentina from Viceroyal times until the Rosas era (1776-1852)… no small accomplishment given that many were only printed locally & had a limited audience. It’s amazing that Zinny isn’t more recognized today.

Zinny passed away in 1890, but this crypt took some time to be built. The socialite magazine Caras y Caretas published a lengthy article in July 1907 (No. 458) about the dedication service. They even included a photograph of sculptor Alejo Joris alongside his bust of Zinny:

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Antonio Zinny, Caras y Caretas

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Antonio Zinny, Caras y Caretas

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Antonio Zinny

In 1921, fellow immigrants from Gibraltar donated a plaque on the 100th anniversary of Zinny’s birth. I wonder if Zinny formed part of the Asociación Calpense de Socorros Mutuos?

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Antonio Zinny