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Category: Presidents

531. dechert-barletti

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Dechert-Barletti, Arturo Illia

We love a good mystery…

Aquí descansaron los restos del Presidente de la República Dr. Arturo U. Illia desde su fallecimiento enero de 1983 a octubre de 1983

President of the Republic, Dr. Arturo U. Illia, laid to rest here from his passing in January 1983 until October 1983

President Illia had been forced from office by a military coup in 1966, another victim of the revolving door of democracy & dictatorship in the 20th century. The Argentina Independent has a good article describing Illia’s last day in office. As a high-ranking member of the Unión Cívica Radical, he was entitled to be buried in a mausoleum dedicated to those who had died in the 1890 revolution: a conflict that gave birth to that political party. Obviously he was moved there in October 1983, but why did Illia spend 10 months in this spot? A Presidential sash inside is another reminder of his temporary stay.

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Dechert-X, Arturo Illia

At first I thought this family might be related to Illia’s wife, Silvia Elvira Martorell Kaswalder. She had been undergoing treatment for cancer in a Texas hospital when Illia was forced from office in 1966. Silvia passed away only a few months later back home in Córdoba & was buried in Recoleta Cemetery in the tomb of Hipólito Yrigoyen’s mother. Several decades later, she moved to a separate vault. A search in Genealogía Familiar turned up nothing to relate either Illia or his wife to the Dechert-Barletti family.

According to a 1977 edition of the Boletín Oficial, Jorge Luis Dechert & Ernesto Alberto Barletti formed a company called Nininco that specialized in radio & television components as well as albums & cassette tapes. The business venture no longer exists, so even that extra info was a dead end.

If anyone has information as to why a former President temporarily rested in peace here, please help us solve this mystery!

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526. alfonsín vandalism

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Raúl Alfsonsín, vandalismo, Peronistas

Sadly, two posts in a row deal with damage & destruction inside Recoleta Cemetery. The tomb of former President Raúl Alfonsín was spray painted on 05 Jun 2017 with the pro-Peronista symbol “PV”, Perón vuelve. Alfonín passed away in Mar 2009 after a long battle with lung cancer & was buried with much fanfare, fitting of someone so important in national history (for more info, see the 4-part Death of a President series). This method of showing political disagreement should never be considered acceptable.


What follows is a translation of a press release from the Télam news agency:

Buenos Aires, June 05

National representative Ricardo Alfonsín (of the Cambiemos-Unión Cívica Radical party) today thanked those who called him concerning the vandalism of his father’s mausoleum located in Recoleta Cemetery & confirmed that he would not accept any candidacy.

After a reunion with Governor María Eugenia Vidal, in which it was rumored that the leader of Buenos Aires province offered him a post, Alfonsín reassured that “the meeting took place & we talked about many things, both sides showed courtesy, kindness & frankness”, but emphasized that he does not want “to be a candidate for an elected position, either in Argentina or in a foreign country”.

In statements to Télam Radio, Alfonsín said that he received calls offering support after news of vandalism of the mausoleum of the deceased ex-President Raúl Alfonsín had been made public.

“In every country around the world there are powerful personalities with anti-democratic ideas who do this kind of thing, which we always must renounce regardless of who is the victim”, he affirmed.

Among those who communicated with the Cambiemos representative are the Minister of Security, Patricia Bullrich; the head of the Federal System of Media & Public Content, Hernán Lombardi; the ex-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner; the ex-Minister of Transportation Florencio Randazzo; and the former head of the Cabinet Aníbal Fernández, as well as “all members of the Radical political party”, the Governor of Santa Fe province & the national head of the Socialist Party Antonio Bonfatti.

In this context, Alfonsín complained that the during the period of government under Cambiemos, the UCR party had maintained “a rather passive role which has harmed society” & added that “no one should be surprised, therefore, that disagreements would present themselves”. At the same time he admitted to be “working” so that “in 2019 there will be a Radical party President”.

Photo from the Télam news agency.

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503. coronel juan de dios rawson

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Coronel Juan de Dios Rawson

Coronel Juan de Dios Rawson, whose father came from Massachusetts, fought in several battles during Argentina’s early years of organization, including the Guerra de la Triple Alianza. He was also the half brother of Dr. Guillermo Rawson. But his great-grandson, Arturo Rawson, became President of Argentina… for only 72 hours.

Rawson had a long career in the military & rose to the rank of General after several decades of service. As commanding officer of the cavalry, he possessed the troops needed to stage a successful coup d’etat already planned by the GOU (Grupo de Oficiales Unidos) in 1943. This secret, informal collection of officers aimed to end the Década Infame where electoral fraud kept the same people in power year after year.

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, General Arturo Rawson

On 04 Jun 1943, Rawson marched 10,000 soldiers into Buenos Aires & took control of the country. While naming fellow officers to government positions & before he was sworn in as de facto President, the GOU realized they had made a mistake in asking Rawson for help. He supported the Allies in World War II while the GOU thought Argentina should remain neutral. Juan Domingo Perón, along with other GOU members, forced Rawson to resign & General Pedro Ramírez took his place.

For a brief period Rawson served as ambassador to Brazil. He also supported an attempted coup to overthrow Perón’s government in 1951. Rawson died of a heart attack the following year & did not live to see the eventual ousting of Perón in 1955.

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492. caídos en la revolución del 1890 ◊

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Caídos en la Revolución del 1890

After becoming President in 1886, Miguel Juárez Celman began to distance himself from political supporters & preferred to do things his own way. Concentrating power in his own hands, the public referred to the term of Juárez Celman as a unicato… a one-man rule. After three years in office & with inflation out of control, diverse groups expressed their discontent with Juárez Celman. Upper class families, members of the clergy, university leaders, senators & the emerging middle class joined forces to form the Unión Cívica. Their main goal was to defeat the Juárez Celman in upcoming elections. But at the same time, preparations were being made for a coup d’etat.

Leading the Unión Cívica, Leandro Alem conspired with an influential general, Manuel Campos (brother of Luis María Campos). Planned for July 21st, the revolution was aborted by the arrest of key figures… someone had leaked information about the surprise attack. General Campos was taken under custody & while in prison received a visit by none other former President Roca. More sneaky plans were underway.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Caídos en la Revolución del 1890

From his cell, Campos sent word to Alem to go ahead with their plans & fighting broke out early on 26 July 1890. Government forces used Retiro as their base of operations while Alem’s men were concentrated in Plaza Lavalle, now home of the Supreme Court.

As civilians rose up in arms to oust Juárez Celman, battles took place in the heart of Buenos Aires. Fighting continued sporadically for the next few days. General Campos made obvious military mistakes & gave the government ample time to recover & fight back. Alem noted these irregularities at the time but given the difficult situation, deferred to the general’s orders. Violence ended four days later with a truce. Estimates of those killed or wounded range from 300 to over 1,000. While the revolution was not successful in overthrowing the government, the political landscape quickly changed afterwards.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Caídos en la Revolución del 1890

Juárez Celman lost support due to the conflict & resigned, handing the government to Vice-President Carlos Pellegrini. Although no historical record exists of conversations between Campos & Roca, it is taken for fact that Campos made bad tactical decisions on purpose. He threw the revolution so Roca & his elite allies could remain in power. The UC also had difficult times afterwards & split into two groups. One year later the Alem faction transformed into the UCR–Unión Cívica Radical. The UCR still plays an important role in politics as the main alternative to the Peronist party.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Caídos en la Revolución del 1890, plaques

Numerous plaques cover the base of the entire pantheon, housing a few of the fallen during the revolution but many important figures from the UCR: party founder Leandro Alem, President Hipólito Yrigoyen (top casket with flag), & President Arturo Illia (silver casket). During the term of President Frondizi, this tomb was declared a National Historic Monument… even President Alfonsín spent a few months here until his own tomb was under construction.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Caídos en la Revolución del 1890

All subplots & internal division aside, strong civilian support of the attempted revolution marked the beginning of civil society in Argentina & the birth of a radical political party. Every major figure on both sides of the Revolución de 1890 can be found somewhere in Recoleta Cemetery.


463. (nicolás) avellaneda

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Nicolás Avellaneda

Born in San Miguel de Tucumán in 1837, young Nicolás had to cope with the death of his father, Marco Avellaneda, around the time of his fourth birthday. For opposing Rosas, Marco’s severed head was placed on a pike in the main square as an example to all. The family immediately moved to Bolivia.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Nicolás Avellaneda

Nicolás eventually returned to Argentina to study law & became a well-known journalist. His political career began in 1859—at the age of 22—after being elected to serve in Congress. During the presidency of Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, Avellaneda served as Ministro de Justicia, Culto e Instrucción Pública & helped create free, public education in Argentina.

At the end of Sarmiento’s term, Avellaneda was elected President. His main rival, Bartolomé Mitre, claimed electoral fraud & found military support… but Avellaneda quickly ended the rebellion & even pardoned Mitre in order to ease political tension. Avellaneda got to work quickly, getting approval of an immigration law which attracted millions of Europeans to Argentina & changed the country’s identity forever. He also attempted to balance the budget & appointed Julio Argentino Roca to “conquer” the desert lands of Patagonia.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Nicolás Avellaneda

Avellaneda even tackled one of the biggest issues in Argentine history: the federalization of Buenos Aires. It caused another rebellion lead by Carlos Tejedor, forcing the President to abandon BA & move the national government to Belgrano. But Roca eventually defeated Tejedor & by the end of Avellaneda’s term in 1880, Buenos Aires became once & for all the capital of Argentina.

Avellaneda remained in politics, serving as Senator for his native province & establishing autonomy for all national universities. He & his wife traveled to Europe in 1885, hoping to find a cure for his kidney problems, but Avellaneda passed away on the boat trip back to Argentina at the age of 48. He accomplished a lot during his lifetime, including fathering 12 children!

Like neighbor President Roque Sáenz Peña, the cemetery wall serves as a perfect place to hang dedicatory plaques:

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Nicolás Avellaneda

Somewhat hidden at the base of the statue is the Latin phrase: In Dicendo Princeps… roughly translated as “Master of Speech.”

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Nicolás Avellaneda


448. josé félix uriburu

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, José Félix Uriburu

Born in Salta in 1868, José Félix Uriburu joined the Military Academy located on the outskirts of Buenos Aires at the age of 17. Five years later, he would participate in the birth of civil society in Argentina during the Revolución del 1890. But he would soon part ways with the Radicals.

When President Luis Sáenz Peña resigned in 1895, Vice-President José Evaristo de Uriburu—his uncle—took over. The younger Uriburu became his uncle’s assistant & got first-hand experience in government. In 1905 he helped President Manuel Quintana stifle another attempted Radical coup.

Uriburu continued to move up swiftly through both military & political circles. He was sent to Europe to learn techniques to improve the Argentine military & soon after elected as a representative for his native province of Salta in Congress. After obtaining the rank of Division General, Uriburu retired against his will… but would soon return to be the center of attention.

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Recoleta Cemetery, José Félix Uriburu, golpe militar

Uriburu led the first military coup in Argentina in 1930. Ousting democratically elected Radical President Hipólito Yrigoyen, historians credit Uriburu with starting military involvement in politics… a trend that would lead to a series of military takeovers until 1983. Conservative & very Catholic, Uriburu called for elections but annulled results when the Radicals won. In fact, Uriburu ushered in what historians call the “Infamous Decade” where democracy was only given lip service.

Eventually Uriburu handed the presidency to military colleague General Agustín P. Justo in 1932. Diagnosed with stomach cancer, he went to Paris for treatment but died soon after arrival. His funeral service in the Église Saint-Pierre-de-Chaillot seems extraordinary, especially since the church also held funerals for Guy de Maupassant & Marcel Proust. At least we have an impressive visual record:

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, José Félix Uriburu

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, José Félix Uriburu

After services in Paris, Uriburu’s remains were brought by ocean liner to Buenos Aires. Services held at his residence led to a temporary burial at the tomb of Ramón Falcón… that fact speaks volumes. Just look at the number of people entering the cemetery. Wow.

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, José Félix Uriburu

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, José Félix Uriburu

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, José Félix Uriburu

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, José Félix Uriburu

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, José Félix Uriburu

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, José Félix Uriburu

Currently Uriburu’s mausoleum is unkempt & unadorned… perhaps his family fell on hard times. Whatever the reason, Uriburu’s legacy to Argentine history—good, bad or indifferent—has disappeared from public view in Recoleta Cemetery. Find the plaque below in the photos above… a piece of history few remember:

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, José Félix Uriburu

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, José Félix Uriburu

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, José Félix Uriburu

Update (14 Apr 2013): One important reminder of Uriburu’s legacy remains in the town of Balcarce, about 400 km or 250 mi south of Buenos Aires. Originally meant to glorify, a bit of historical revision has occurred with the only statue of Uriburu in Argentina.

Balcarce, Provincia de Buenos Aires, José Félix Uriburu statue

A new plaque placed in June 2012 reads:

Este monumento fue emplazado en el 6º aniversario del primer golpe de estado en Argentina. El general José Félix Uriburu atentó contra la Constitución Nacional el 6 de septiembre de 1930. Este nefasto acontecimiento abrió paso a una serie de violaciones al estado de derecho y a los derechos humanos de la población, impuesto por los gobiernos de facto que interrumpieron el orden democrático, signando décadas de inestabilidad y autoritarismo en nuestro país.

This monument was erected on the sixth anniversary of the first coup d’etat in Argentina. General José Félix Uriburu defied the national constitution on 06 Sep 1930. This horrific deed opened the way for a series of violations of the rule of law & of the population’s human rights, imposed by de facto governments that interrupted democratic order, ushering in decades of instability & authoritarianism in our country.

Archival photos from the British Library Endangered Archives Programme. Balcarce photo courtesy of Marcelo Metayer.