Posts about Presidents

503. coronel juan de dios rawson

05 Jun 2013

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.

492. caídos en la revolución del 1890 ◊

06 Feb 2013

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

08 Apr 2012

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

18 Dec 2011

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.

430. julio argentino roca ◊

14 Aug 2011

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Julio Argentino Roca

Few figures in Argentine history have been as influential or as controversial. Everyone seems to have an opinion about Julio Argentino Roca.

Born in 1843 in Tucumán, his military career began at an early age. Roca enlisted when only 15 years old & fought in several decisive battles during the years of national organization. Under the presidency of Bartolomé Mitre, Roca fought in the War of the Triple Alliance & later proved his loyalty to the nation during an attempted coup. Thanks to this action, President Avellaneda promoted Roca to General in his early 30s. He also appointed Roca as his Minister of War after the death of Adolfo Alsina. What a quick rise to power.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Julio Argentino Roca

Roca fought one final battle before retiring his sword. Alsina had made scant progress in controlling the indigenous population, & the issue demanded attention. Roca’s solution was to kill as many as possible while the rest were taken captive. Roca effectively conquered the desert. It was a move that made later generations dislike Roca as well as launched him into national politics. He became the next President, having expanded national territory & resolving a “problem” which had plagued Argentina for decades. Roca’s monument in downtown Buenos Aires is often covered with unflattering graffiti & red paint to symbolize the blood spilled:

Buenos Aires, Monserrat, Diagonal Sur, Monumento a Roca

Once in office, Roca settled another important issue: Buenos Aires became the official capital of Argentina. And not to leave controversy behind, Roca promoted adoption of a series of laws to take several functions out of the hands of the Catholic church. With Sarmiento as Director of the National Board of Education, primary school became free & public, no longer dependent on the church. Acceptance of marriage by civil service also caused some conflict with Rome. In economics, Roca promoted the export of raw materials & large amounts of foreign investment.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Julio Argentino Roca

After Roca’s term ended in 1886, he had no desire to retire. Serving several terms as Senator, Roca became one of the key figures behind the scenes during the 1890 Revolution. Always maintaining important connections & positions of power, Roca attained the presidency for a second term in 1898. During this time, Minister of War Pablo Riccheri instituted obligatory military service & Navy Minister Comodoro Rivadavia helped Roca negotiate peace with Chile over border disputes in 1902. That same year, Luis María Drago published his influential doctrine while serving as Minister of Foreign Relations.

Roca’s later years are complex & raise quite a few questions. Serving as ambassador to Brazil for President Sáenz Peña, Roca spent much time away from Argentina. He was oddly absent from centennial celebrations in 1910. In 1914 while on one of his estates in Córdoba province, Roca passed away suddenly after a coughing fit at the age of 71.

The tomb was declared a National Historic Monument in 1946. There is no doubt that Roca made some of the most important decisions in Argentina’s history, although by what some consider questionable methods. But his legacy can’t be escaped—Roca’s Conquest of the Desert decorates the reverse side of the 100 peso bill!

100 peso note, Roca

Interior photo courtesy of Mike De Ghetto. Thanks!

427. aramburu ◊

24 Jul 2011

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Aramburu

Designed by architect Alejandro Bustillo, the crypt of Pedro Aramburu occupies a very important spot: the end of the cemetery’s main axis & at the feet of President Carlos Pelligrini. Intended to inspire, one of the quotes on the side of the tomb reads:

El progreso, fundamento del bienestar general, es obra de los pueblos y resultado de la riqueza justamente distribuida.

Progress, the foundation of general well-being, is the work of the people & the result of equal distribution of wealth.

Furthermore, an entire series of values is represented around the entire crypt. Included are depictions of Justice, Austerity, Liberty & Equality:

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Aramburu

Pedro Aramburu became the de facto President after the Revolución Libertadora & the brief, 50-day term of Eduardo Lonardi. He governed from 1955 to 1958. Democracy returned after Aramburu left office, but the political & economic situation in Argentina was a disaster in the 1960’s. Periods of military rule alternated with democratically elected leaders like a revolving door. Aramburu even ran unsuccessfully for President in 1963… fate had something else planned for him.

An organization known as the Montoneros formed in the late 1960’s as a Catholic, pro-Perón paramilitary group. Perón backed their terrorist actions… at least while he remained in Spain. In their very first public act—the Montonero debut on the political scene—they kidnapped Aramburu from his Barrio Norte apartment (Montevideo 1053, original building now demolished, a supermarket built in its place).

Disguised as fellow military personnel & claiming the need to take him to a safe haven, in reality they questioned him about the location of Eva’s remains & held him responsible for anti-Perón actions while in office. Aramburu revealed nothing about Eva & paid a heavy price. He was shot & left dead in a field in 1970, to be buried later in Recoleta Cemetery.

General Pedro Aramburu, Recoleta Cemetery

Aramburu’s corpse was stolen from Recoleta Cemetery in 1974 by the same group who murdered him & later recovered by authorities near Parque Las Heras. For the rest of the story, read “The Return of Aramburu“… truth is definitely stranger than fiction.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Aramburu