Skip to content

Category: Military

332. pedro inchauspe

Pedro Inchauspe, Recoleta Cemetery

Many people who visit Recoleta Cemetery have heard about Perón’s policy of allowing Nazi war criminals safe haven in Argentina after World War II. But there is another, often neglected part of the story. Argentina could have easily been on the Allied side long before Perón came to power.

Argentina consulted the UK about declaring war on Axis powers in 1939 under the presidency of Roberto Ortiz. England had been Argentina’s chief creditor for decades & one of the major importers of Argentine grain & livestock. But Argentina was advised to maintain neutrality so they could continue to supply food to a nation at war. As a contrast to Ortiz’s willingness to involve Argentina in a conflict in another hemisphere, his government also issued an order to deny visas to any Jewish person trying to escape the Holocaust. His interests were obviously only economic.

Acción Argentina, Recoleta Cemetery

In a response to the horrors of Axis domination in Europe, Acción Argentina formed in 1940 led by ex-President Marcelo T. de Alvear. Although their motives were different than those of Ortiz, they might have been successful in taking Argentina to war if the US had not been attacked in 1941. Dropping their isolationist policy, the US requested at a conference in Rio de Janeiro that all American nations form a united front against Axis powers. To many —including Argentina foreign minister & Nobel Laureate Carlos Saavedra Lamas— the US request sounded like a way to extend their own power to South America & the request was rejected.

Other members of Acción Argentina included Victoria Ocampo, Nicolás Repetto, Alicia Moreau de Justo, & former President Agustín P. Justo. Although total membership was under 500, elite members gave the organization a strong voice.

For more info, check out a book by Andrés Bisso titled “Acción Argentina y las estrategias de movilización del antifascismo liberal-socialista en torno a la Segunda Guerra Mundial, 1940-1946.” Under US pressure, Perón’s predecessor declared war on Germany about 6 months before the conflict was over.


310. martín rodríguez ◊

Martín Rodríguez, Recoleta Cemetery

Martín Rodríguez, Recoleta Cemetery

Successful rancher turned soldier, Martín Rodríguez participated in almost every conflict in early Argentine history. His first campaign was against the British in 1806, taking back the Iglesia de Santo Domingo in downtown Buenos Aires. During independence, Rodríguez went north to fight with Manuel Belgrano & saw his share of victories as well as defeats.

With independence won, Rodríguez became a politician. As Governor of Buenos Aires, he & Bernardino Rivadavia created several important institutions: the University of Buenos Aires, the Museum of Natural History, the Banco de la Provincia & most importantly, Recoleta Cemetery. Then called the Cementerio del Norte (Northern Cemetery), a few lines of text on the Rodríguez tomb is the only place where the cemetery’s original name can be seen today:

Martín Rodríguez, Recoleta Cemetery

Rodríguez originally supported Rosas but soon switched sides. By doing so, his family had to flee in exile to Uruguay where Rodríguez died in 1845. His remains were later repatriated, & the current vault was erected in 1924 with ironwork & a fantastic sculpture by Arturo Dresco. It became a National Historic Monument in 1946:

Martín Rodríguez, Recoleta Cemetery


274. elisa chapman

Jorge Chapman, Recoleta Cemetery

One of the most interesting combinations of religious & secular art in the cemetery. The plaque states that Jorge Chapman died in an aviation accident while on duty, & the image of a man in crucifixion position tied to an airplane’s wing is a stroke of genius. The plaque dates March 19, 1925.

Leave a Comment

272. álvaro barros

In 1866—several years before the Campaña del Desierto—Álvaro Barros went to command one of the fortified outposts on the frontlines between the indigenous population & what was considered national territory. His new settlement founded a year later near the fortress became known as Olavarría, established friendly relations with local tribes & began moderate agricultural activity.

Barros left Olavarría when his replacement arrived in 1868 but maintained active in both the military & politics. After Roca pushed the frontlines as far south as the Río Negro, all newly acquired territory in Patagonia needed to be officially incorporated into the central government. Roca named Barros Governor of Patagonia in 1878, & he reported to Roca directly… not to the Ministry of the Interior.

Two years later the final boundary was set between the Province of Buenos Aires & Patagonia at the outlet of the Río Negro. To make the separation clearer, Barros decided to move the regional capital to the area only the southern side of the river. Viedma is now considered the oldest settlement in Patagonia.

As co-founder of the land auction firm Bravo Barros y Cía, Álvaro managed to control real estate development in Patagonia & earned a lot of prestige & power at the same time. The company even auctioned off land in Buenos Aires:

Álvaro Barros, Recoleta Cemetery

Other relatives of Álvaro helped develop train lines to deliver agricultural goods for export & connect remote regions of the south to the port of Buenos Aires:

Horacio Barros, Recoleta Cemetery

Leave a Comment

265. comodoro rivadavia

Comodoro Rivadavia, Recoleta Cemetery

One of six grandchildren of President Bernardino Rivadavia, Martín began his military career at the age of 13. Training in Buenos Aires, Rivadavia managed to see a bit of action during the war with Paraguay in the 1860s but had a change of heart on his return home. Rivadavia left the Army & enlisted in the Navy. At the time, the Argentine military formed a single, combined unit with both Army & Navy reporting to the same commanding officers.

Rivadavia’s first naval assignment involved a patrol of Patagonia against incursions from Chile, following the expedition by Comodoro Luis Py. He rose in rank quickly, & in 1888 Rivadavia was given command of the corvette “La Argentina” which lead the first training mission for new cadets. The next command for Rivadavia was the cruiser “25 de Mayo” & he took the ship to Europe in 1892, representing Argentina during celebrations of the 400th anniversary of the voyage of Columbus.

In 1896, Rivadavia received the rank of Commodore & was put in charge of the armed forces. After the separation of the military, President Roca appointed Rivadavia as Minister of the Navy & entrusted him to command a voyage to Patagonia so Roca could improve strained relations with his Chilean counterpart. [Photo below courtesy of HISTARMAR]:

Roca & Martín Rivadavia, onboard Belgrano

In gratitude for Rivadavia’s service during this historic mission, obligatory military service in the Navy was granted prior to that in the Army obtained a few years later by Pablo Riccheri:

Comodoro Rivadavia, Recoleta Cemetery

In 1901, Rivadavia had a severe fall, breaking two ribs in the process & suffering a lot of internal damage. Surgery failed to improve his condition & Rivadavia died at the age of 49. At the time of Rivadavia’s death, President Roca had sent his Vice-President Norberto Quirno Costa to Patagonia for the official foundation of a coastal town. They decided to name the new settlement Comodoro Rivadavia in remembrance of Martín, who was often present in the region. Today, Comodoro Rivadavia is the largest city in Patagonia with production/export of petroleum & natural gas driving regional growth.

Whether due to the effects of time, carelessness or deliberate vandalism (although rare in Recoleta Cemetery), the glass panes behind the wrought-iron doors to the vault have been broken. Someone covered Rivadavia’s casket with a sheet of plastic for protection, but the condition of the vault today hardly reflects the service given by one of Argentina’s military best… and who would leave a shoe inside??

Comodoro Rivadavia, Recoleta Cemetery


262. francisco javier muñiz ◊

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

Leave a Comment