Posts about Military

262. francisco javier muñiz • ◊

28 Nov 2008

Francisco Muñiz, Recoleta Cemetery

Born in 1795 in what are now the northern suburbs of Buenos Aires, Francisco Javier Muñiz dedicated his life to serving Argentina & became one of its first internationally acclaimed scientists.

Muñiz was only 12 years old when the British invaded for the second time in 1807. Although technically too young to fight, he defended the city & received a bullet wound in his left leg… this seemed to foreshadow a lifelong involvement with the military. He opted to study medicine at the age of 19 when Cosme Argerich opened the Instituto Médico-Militar in 1814 to train surgeons for military service. Muñiz remained under the tutelage of Argerich until transferring to the medical school at the newly-created University of Buenos Aires in 1822.

His first major assignment came under Coronel Juan Lavalle in early campaigns to take territory from the indigenous population. Muñiz did more than lead the medical unit; he studied customs of the indigenous people & made his first forays in natural history. The 1826 war with Brazil took Muñiz to foreign lands where he was ordered by General Alvear to accompany Lavalle’s troops once again. Lavalle took a bullet in the leg, & Muñiz was fortunately there to save him. Returning to Argentina, Muñiz received multiple honors.

Francisco Muñiz, Recoleta Cemetery

In 1828 Muñiz married & settled down in Luján, just west of Buenos Aires. Better for his health & given the opportunity to engage in scientific study, Muñiz put to practice everything he had learned while on the battlefield. His most significant contribution to Argentina was being the first to use cowpox serum as a vaccination against smallpox. In fact, Muñiz experimented at the same time as Edward Jenner… his results granted Muñiz membership in the Royal Jennerian Society.

Francisco Muñiz, Recoleta Cemetery

Living in Luján also gave Muñiz time to pursue his other great interest: paleontology. During his first service with Lavalle, Muñiz discovered remains of a glyptodont… the first ever recovered. A 10,000 year-old version of today’s armadillo, glyptodonts resembled a mix between a beaver & a turtle & some were as big as a Volkswagen Beetle. Similar fossils have been uncovered in Buenos Aires while building new subway stations. Displays can be found on the D Line (Juramento) & on the B Line (Tronador):

Glyptodont fossil, Subte, Juramento station

Unfortunately Muñiz did not publicly document his discovery & a French explorer 13 years later took credit for finding a new species. Undeterred, Muñiz received praise for sending 11 boxes of fossil specimens to Paris & even corresponded occasionally with Charles Darwin. Darwin wrote to Muñiz in 1847:

Your pamphlet on the scarlet fever I will present to the Royal College of Surgeons. I cannot adequately say how much I admire your continued zeal, situated as you are without means of pursuing your scientific studies and without people to sympathise with you, for the advancement of natural history; I trust that the pleasure of your pursuits affords you some reward for your exertions.

Francisco Muñiz, Recoleta Cemetery

Muñiz eventually returned to Buenos Aires where he directed the medical school & served as a member in both houses of Congress until the start of the War of the Triple Alliance. Even though he was 70 years old, Muñiz offered to go to the front lines. When refused, he disguised himself as a peasant, took surgical equipment & went anyway. Muñiz remained in northern Argentina fighting a cholera epidemic until his wife passed away in 1868.

Francisco Muñiz, Recoleta Cemetery

Returning once again to Buenos Aires, Muñiz officially retired but decided to come to the rescue once again when a massive outbreak of yellow fever hit the city in 1871. Catching yellow fever himself, Muñiz became one of the 14,000 casualties. After his death, the private collection of Muñiz became the foundation of the Museum of Natural Sciences located in Parque Centenario in the neighborhood of Caballito:

Museo de Ciencias Naturales, Caballito

The crypt became a National Historic Monument in 1946. The enormous sculpture of a woman holding the rod of Asclepius in one hand & a sword in the other (medicine + military) was Ettore Ximenez—the same Roman sculptor responsible for Manuel Belgrano’s tomb in the patio of the Iglesia de Santo Domingo:

Francisco Muñiz, Recoleta Cemetery

260. domingo matheu

24 Nov 2008

Domingo Matheu, Recoleta Cemetery

Born near Barcelona in 1765, Matheu piloted vessels in his youth after training in the Spanish Navy. He later formed a partnership with his brother after obtaining permission from the crown to engage in colonial trade. It was the start of a venture which would change his life. Matheu permanently moved to Buenos Aires in 1793 after several trips to the area.

As one of the major businessmen in city, Matheu also became influential in politics. He used his military training to defend Buenos Aires against the British during the 1806 & 1807 invasions & was one of the most involved citizens during the May Revolution against Spain.

Whether Matheu identified strongly with his new home or was mainly considering business opportunities is unclear, but he effectively betrayed his homeland by becoming a member of the Primera Junta in 1810 at the age of 44. During the absence of the President while on a trip to reorganize the Northern Army, Matheu made decisions on his behalf. Although not officially named President of the Primera Junta, Matheu ruled the new nation for several months.

Domingo Matheu, Recoleta Cemetery

The participation of Matheu in the early days of Argentina is often hidden behind more recognized names such as Moreno, Saavedra, & Belgrano. Besides performing civic duties, Matheu’s most important contribution during that time was financial. Wealthy & generous, Matheu helped fund the creation of expeditions which eventually persuaded regions of modern-day Uruguay, Paraguay & Bolivia to join the independence movement.

After the dissolution of the Junta in 1811, Matheu donated additional funds for the army & manufactured rifles for Argentina during most of the war with Spain. He passed away in 1831 & was buried in an oddly off-center spot in Recoleta Cemetery. Barely visible these days, the simple inscription reads:

Domingo Matheu
Procer de la Revolución de Mayo
Vocal de la Primera Junta
Fallecido el 28 de marzo de 1831
La Patria agradecida

The tomb became a National Historic Monument in 1946.

245. dellepiane

05 Sep 2008

Antonio Dellepiane, Recoleta Cemetery

Lots of Dellepiane tombs are scattered through the cemetery, but this vault holds two of the most important family members. Antonio Dellepiane chose not to practice law after graduating with honors & much praise in 1892. Instead, he focused on education in criminology. As first professor of the newly-established Sociology department at the Universidad de Buenos Aires, Antonio traveled to Europe to bring back the latest theories & teachings to Argentina.

Several books & faculty positions later, Antonio excelled in another field: history. In the early 1920s, he was named Director of the Museo Histórico Nacional & used his position to write several historical biographies. With access to original documentation, Antonio discovered the lives of two important women, María Sánchez de Thompson & Carmen Nóbrega de Avellaneda (wife of President Nicolás Avellaneda). He passed away in 1939 & a plaque was donated by master sculptor Rogelio Yrurtia on the first anniversary of his death:

Antonio Dellepiane, Recoleta Cemetery

During the 1919 Semana Trágica, Lieutenant General Luis J. Dellepiane restored order to Buenos Aires after a metalworkers’ union strike spiraled out of control. He had previously been in charge of the city’s police force after the 1909 assassination of Ramón Falcón & remained in that position until 1912. By 1919, Luis had assumed command of the Second Division of the Argentine army stationed in Campo de Mayo. Luis marched his troops into Buenos Aires to engage striking workers at the request of the Minister of War. Violence continued & almost 1,000 people died in the most violent social uprising ever seen in the city.

Luis would later be appointed Minister of War during Hipólito Yrigoyen’s second term & resigned when fellow general José Félix Uriburu ousted the President in 1930. Oddly enough, Luis also studied to be a civil engineer & did the first geodetic studies of Argentina. Only two plaques commemorate Luis, none of which mention his role in the Semana Trágica:

Luis J. Dellepiane, Recoleta Cemetery

242. guerreros del paraguay • ◊

30 Aug 2008

Guerreros del Paraguay, Recoleta Cemetery

This pantheon is unique since Recoleta Cemetery does not officially commemorate national events & has very few group memorials… it’s more of a family place. The war with Paraguay ended in 1870, but the architectural style of the pantheon contains elements of Art Nouveau (popular at the beginning of the 20th century). A trip to the Archivo General de la Nación solved the dilemma. One archived photo records the site dedication in 1913:

Guerreros del Paraguay, Recoleta Cemetery

A large statue of Argentina as female warrior (note the coat-of-arms on her breastplate) offers a branch of laurel in a gesture of peace:

Guerreros del Paraguay, Recoleta Cemetery

Paraguay & Argentina declared independence around the same time. Stuck in the middle of South America without an exit to either ocean & no chance to develop overseas trade, Paraguay depended on its neighbors for imported European goods. As its only control mechanism, Paraguay introduced strict laws with heavy taxation & managed to earn a small fortune. Never a democracy in its early years, leadership passed from grandfather to father to son. In the 1860s (50 years after independence), Francisco Solano López was in charge. Historians still aren’t quite sure what to make of him or what really started the war, but it went very wrong for Paraguay.

Uruguay had already been created as a buffer zone between Brazil & Argentina. Both countries continued to meddle in the new nation’s affairs, & in the 1860s civil war was about to break out in Uruguay. Brazil & Argentina loosely supported one side while Paraguay supported the other. López asked permission to cross Argentine territory with troops to backup his friends in Uruguay. Argentina refused. López went ahead with his plans, attacking Brazil & occupying part of Argentina. He had gathered the largest army in Latin America, amounting from 30,000 to 80,000 troops depending on which account you read. His neighbors were no match with just a few thousand men each. López had the best odds.

Uruguay, Argentina & Brazil decided to join forces to beat López & formed the Triple Alliance. These nations’ flags decorate the top of the mausoleum, actual flags covered in plastic are inside, & repeated again on the interior stained glass:

Guerreros del Paraguay, Recoleta Cemetery

Guerreros del Paraguay, Recoleta Cemetery

The 5-year war was extremely violent & eventually devasted Paraguay. They had more manpower but also out-of-date equipment & no supplies. Historical figures vary wildly, but using conservative numbers at least half of the population Paraguay was killed. In terms of gender, only 1/10 of the male population survived. When the fighting was over, López & his followers were executed & Paraguay was forced to surrender half of its territory; one chunk going to Brazil & the other to Argentina, today known as the Province of Formosa.

Revisionist historians have spent decades analyzing the facts. Was López really so arrogant to think he could defend Uruguay’s interests as well as obtain an outlet to the Atlantic Ocean? Maybe not. Someone else financed the war: England. One theory claims that since England didn’t have a steady supply of cotton from the US thanks to an equally horrible civil war at the same time, they looked elsewhere. Paraguay produces lots of cotton & perhaps the UK took that into consideration when loaning Brazil & Argentina extravagant amounts of money to fund the war. Two statues of armed soldiers remind visitors of the men who fought in one of the most horrific & often forgotten wars of Latin American history:

Guerreros del Paraguay, Recoleta Cemetery

Guerreros del Paraguay, Recoleta Cemetery

The pantheon became a National Historic Monument in 1983.

238. pablo riccheri ◊

22 Aug 2008

Pablo Riccheri, Recoleta Cemetery

Attracting as much attention for its size as well as its location in the center of the cemetery, the tomb of Pablo Riccheri is a fitting memorial for his deeds. Born in the Province of Santa Fe of Italian immigrant parents, Riccheri dedicated his life to the military. From the age of 15, he rose in the ranks & seemed to be a patriot in the true sense of the word. Riccheri saw the military as a professional organization used to uphold the constitution & defend the nation… not to be involved in politics or used for invasion.

Pablo Riccheri, Recoleta Cemetery

Riccheri traveled frequently to Europe & adopted the best of what he saw in the armed forces overseas. These trips occurred during Argentina’s growth spurt of the 1880s, & by the next decade he had befriended soon-to-be President Julio Argentino Roca. Roca appointed Riccheri as Minister of War (what we would today call the Minister of Defense) & gave him the opportunity to make real change.

Riccheri acquired several hectares of land around the nation & transformed them into training grounds (campos, like the Campo de Mayo near Buenos Aires). He hired mainly German military officers to instruct upper-ranking staff while relying on French engineers & artillery. Riccheri also instituted obligatory military service in 1901 for all males when they turned 20 years old. At the time it helped form a sense of national identity, but after decades of misuse conscription was eliminated in 1994. Riccheri also created the Escuela de Aplicación de Sanidad Militar where new doctors had to live at the main military hospital in Parque Patricios for 3 years to complete their training. His professionalism was remarkable:

“Si las instituciones armadas de un pueblo se mezclan en las contiendas políticas, perdiendo su respetable y noble misión de ser los guardianes tutelares y el respeto a las leyes, siempre bajo la autoridad que marca la Constitución, ¿a quién incumbirá entonces el mantenimiento del orden y el respeto a la ley?”

“If the military institutions of a nation get entwined with political disputes, losing their respectable & noble mission to be the guardians of law, always under the authority outlined by the Constitution, who will then take the responsibility of maintaining order & upholding the law?”

The mausoleum is interesting in its own right. A depiction of Argentina plus a few soldiers flank the statue of Riccheri made by Luis Perlotti:

Pablo Riccheri, Recoleta Cemetery

Pablo Riccheri, Recoleta Cemetery

Side relief panels depict Riccheri overseeing the training grounds:

Pablo Riccheri, Recoleta Cemetery

Pablo Riccheri, Recoleta Cemetery

Riccheri passed away in 1938, & the national government appropriated the mausoleum which was orginally in the same spot—that of first President Bernardino Rivadavia. Rivadavia’s ashes had been moved in 1932 to Once where they remain to this day. A small plaque in the rear, relegated to the bottom left corner, reminds visitors of the original occupant of this spot:

Bernardino Rivadavia, Recoleta Cemetery

The Archivo General de la Nación has an old photograph of the Rivadavia vault:

Bernardino Rivadavia, Recoleta Cemetery

The current vault dates from 1952 & buried inside with Riccheri are other military figures… the national government dedicated this spot to several important leaders. A plaque states that Bernardo de Monteagudo is buried there & supposedly so are Juan O’Brien, Félix de Olazábal, Juan José Quesada, Francisco Fernández de la Cruz & Elías Galván. But Monteagudo is the only one with a plaque:

Bernardo de Monteagudo, Recoleta Cemetery

225. guillermo brown • ◊

18 Jul 2008

Guillermo Brown, Recoleta Cemetery

At the junction of eight intersecting walkways Guillermo, or William, Brown could not find a more prominent spot to rest in peace. Born in Ireland in 1777, his family fled to the US to escape religious persecution. Brown became a merchant marine & earned the title of captain at the young age of 19. In an odd twist of fate, he was captured by the British at sea & later joined the Royal Navy. England was turning out naval greats like Horatio Nelson at the end of the 18th century, so Brown was in the right place at the right time.

Brown also met his wife while in England, & their household became a model of tolerance at the time mixing Irish Catholic & British Protestant members. Soon after their marriage, the Browns arrived in Argentina. He ran trade between Montevideo & Buenos Aires, acquiring enough money to buy his own boat & a large mansion. After independence, Brown offered his services to the new nation & helped found the Argentine Navy.

Over the next 35 years he served Argentina well by winning battles against Brazil & impeding the British-French naval blockade. Brown died in 1857 in Buenos Aires at the ripe old age of 80. His final rites were performed by fellow Irishman Father Fahy, whose cenotaph can be found directly across from Brown.

A single Corinthian column topped with a model of a ship & wind-blown sails is tall enough to compete with neighboring trees. Naturally the green color makes reference to his Irish origins, although I’ve read that the monument was not initially painted green:

Guillermo Brown, Recoleta Cemetery

Around the base of the column, silver-painted plaques depict naval battles he won for Argentina against Brazil:

Guillermo Brown, Recoleta Cemetery

Brown’s ashes are conserved in a bronze urn, cast from cannons of ships he commanded, seen through an etched glass pane:

Guillermo Brown, Recoleta Cemetery

Barely visible behind his urn are the remains of his daughter, Elisa. She was engaged to be married to a captain under her father’s command, but during the war with Brazil her fiancée was killed. Many guides like to embellish the already tragic story by claiming a distraught Elisa drowned herself in the Riachuelo, but this is not true. Elisa did die in the Riachuelo but from a tragic accident while bathing, slipping into an unseen hole:

Guillermo Brown, Recoleta Cemetery

Lots of text around the base honor Brown’s accomplishments & was declared a National Historic Monument in 1946:

Guillermo Brown, Recoleta Cemetery

Guillermo Brown, Recoleta Cemetery

Guillermo Brown, Recoleta Cemetery

Brown’s wife could not be buried alongside him because non-Catholic burials were not allowed in Recoleta Cemetery at that time. She was laid to rest in the Cementerio de Victoria, now Plaza 1º de Mayo, used by both Protestant & Jewish residents.

View fifth photo larger on Flickr.