Skip to content

Category: Urban legends

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. Just 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 move 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.

Leave a Comment

536. familia de viñas

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, De Viñas

Raúl Barón Biza (1899-1964) was many things: writer, cynic, millionaire, politician, lover, pornographer & a victim of suicide. Many online sources dig into his fascinating life, but for this post we’ll limit ourselves to his first love, her tragedy & her burial.

Barón Biza met his first wife, the Swiss actress Myriam Stefford (née Rosa Martha Rossi Hoffmann) during a trip to Europe, & they married on 28 Aug 1930. Myriam grew bored with her new life running a large cattle ranch, so she began taking flight classes. In mid-August 1931 she announced that she was going to visit all 14 provinces in Argentina by airplane. Below is an excerpt of an interview with Luis Pozzo Ardizzi of the high society magazine Caras y Caretas:

— You’re thinking of using an airplane as your method of transportation?
— Of course! I’m training now to begin a quick trip around this country that I love so much.
— Will this be a groundbreaking trip?
— I don’t know –she says smiling– that will be for you to decide. I’m thinking about flying over all 14 provinces. And I’ll do it in my small B.F.W. airplane, with an 80 horsepower Siemens engine.
— You realize that someone else has already flown over all 14 provinces?
— I do. And with time on my side, I’ll do it as well.
— In how many days?
— She answers, smiling: If I can… in three…
— Does your airplane have a unique name?
— A modest name, because I’m starting this trip modestly. I call my airplane “Chingolo”. I want Chingolo to spread its wings for a breathtaking flight…
— Once finished, are you considering another big trip?
— Yes. I will try to show that a small plane, made for tourism, can do some interesting things.
— …?
— I’d like to try to reach North America…
— That’s a risky undertaking.
— It will be. But I’ve got enough enthusiasm to give it a go.
And after this last sentence, the charming movie star who has mastered all types of sport bids us goodbye to resume her training.
(Caras y Caretas 1715, 15 Aug 1931, pg. 18)

That “modest trip” ended tragically on August 26th, two days before Stefford’s first wedding anniversary. Chingolo II (the first had mechanical problems & had to be replaced with another plane) fell from the skies for reasons that were never known near Marayes in San Juan province. For Barón Biza the news was horrific; for the national media, who loved the aviatrix, it was catastrophic, as reflected in La Nación the next day:

La Nación, Chingolo II, Myriam Stefford

La Nación, Chingolo II, Myriam Stefford

La Nación, Chingolo II, Myriam Stefford

Three days after the accident, Stefford (who was never mentioned as “the wife of Barón Biza”, something rare for the time) & her instructor Luis Fuchs were buried in Recoleta Cemetery. The actress/aviatrix was laid to rest in a mausoleum which then belonged to Wilfrid Barón, the father of Barón Biza. The structure was later sold to the Fabre family, & next to its current owner, the De Viñas family.

La Nación, Recoleta Cemetery, Myriam Stefford

Myriam didn’t stay in Recoleta long, since Raúl Barón Biza immediately ordered the construction of the largest sepulchre in the country: a monstrous vault 82 m tall placed in the countryside of Los Cerrillos, near Alta Gracia in Córdoba province. His friend, the engineer Fausto Regino Newton, designed the concrete monument whose meaning remains unclear to many: Is it the profile of a plane’s wing, as is often said? Is it an obelisk, taller than the one in Buenos Aires as many people from Córdoba proudly claim? Or is it an Egyptian symbol of resurrection? Whatever its significance, Myriam Stefford moved there on 22 Nov 1935 & was placed under several meters of cement… that’s when legends began to circulate. It’s said that she was buried with her jewels, among them a 45-carat diamond named the “Cruz del Sur”, with Barón Biza laying traps to prevent anyone from profaning the tomb—including placing explosives—& on the very top a beacon whose light could be seen for several kilometers.

Alta Gracia, Myriam Stefford

Alta Gracia, Myriam Stefford

Alta Gracia, Myriam Stefford

The truth is that the monument remains in place after all these years, after a second great tragedy in the life of Barón Biza: one afternoon in August 1964 in an act of rage, he threw acid on the face of his second wife, Clotilde Sabatini, & immediately afterwards shot himself in the head. He had sold the land where Stefford’s mausoleum sits in Alta Gracia many years earlier.

This is how it looks now, abandoned & alone. A project has been proposed to convert the area into a theme park about the enigmatic writer & his young wife who passed away prematurely. In the meantime, the “wing” attracts the curious, as well as architecture fans & film students… also a number of distraught people who have unfortunately committed suicide by jumping from the tallest window.

Alta Gracia, Myriam Stefford

Alta Gracia, Myriam Stefford

Originally, the monolith displayed the motor of Chingolo II along with many plaques but all have since been removed or stolen. The entrance to the monolith remained opened for many years, but vandalism & attempted profanation prompted officials to solder the door shut permanently. No one now climbs the hundreds of steps to reach the top; supposedly the last time was in 2008. The future of this forgotten monument remains uncertain.

Alta Gracia, Myriam Stefford, mausoleum

Alta Gracia, Myriam Stefford, mausoleum

Thanks to co-author Marcelo Metayer for contributing this post. The original version in Spanish (with additional text & photos) can be found on his blog: El Navegante Solitario.

Leave a Comment

396. familia del carril ◊

Salvador María del Carril, Recoleta Cemetery

A gigantic mausoleum commemorates the life of Salvador María del Carril, an important figure in the early days of Argentine history. Born in San Juan in 1798, Del Carril studied law & moved to Buenos Aires to participate in national politics. He firmly supported President Rivadavia & encouraged General Juan Lavalle to shoot his childhood friend, Manuel Dorrego, thinking it would prevent civil war. It didn’t.

Salvador María del Carril, Recoleta Cemetery

Del Carril lived in Uruguay during the Rosas period & met his wife, Tiburcia, there… 25 years younger than him. His political life continued to grow in spite of being in exile. Good friends with Justo José de Urquiza, Del Carril was selected as his Vice-President and godfather of the general’s first-born son. In later years, Bartolomé Mitre appointed him to the Supreme Court. Del Carril passed away in 1883, & Tiburcia had this elaborate construction built to honor his memory.

Salvador María del Carril, Recoleta Cemetery

In spite of Del Carril’s decades of participation in Argentine politics, he is also well-known for having major marital problems. Tiburcia apparently liked to spend Del Carril’s fortune… to a point where he published a letter in several major newspapers claiming that he would no longer be responsible for his wife’s debts. That obviously didn’t go over well with Tiburcia:

Salvador María del Carril, Recoleta Cemetery

Rumor has it that before she passed away in 1898—fifteen years after her husband—Tiburcia requested that her bust look away from Del Carril for eternity. To this day, the unhappy couple have their backs to each other:

Salvador María del Carril, Recoleta Cemetery

3 Comments

386. luz maría garcía velloso ◊

Luz María García Velloso, Recoleta Cemetery

Close to the entrance gate, the Art Nouveau effigy of Luz María García Velloso draws a lot of attention. Beautiful & in a highly visible location, it only seems natural that an urban legend would develop around her death.

Luz María García Velloso, Recoleta Cemetery

Supposedly a victim of leukemia at the age of 15, Luz María’s mom spent several  night vigils at the cemetery… actually sleeping inside the vault. Much later, men walking near Recoleta Cemetery reported an encounter with a young woman dressed completely in white. The most common version claims this woman would accompany them to a bar, get a chill then ask to borrow her date’s jacket. Next she would accidentally stain it with whatever they were drinking & take the jacket with her when they said goodnight.

The following day the man somehow contacts her mother to get the jacket back, & she explains that the young woman is already dead! In desperation, he goes to the cemetery & finds his jacket draped over the effigy. While none of the above has been confirmed, it makes for an interesting story… probably one of the most common urban legends in the world.

Luz María García Velloso, Recoleta Cemetery

Fortunately some factual information about the rest of the family —also buried here— is available. Luz María’s father, Enrique García Velloso, was of Basque descent & heavily involved in the arts at the beginning of the 20th century in Buenos Aires. He directed the first movie version of Amália by José Marmol in 1914. Two years later he wrote Mamá Culepina about the barracks following the troops of Lucio V. Mansilla.

Enrique García Velloso, Recoleta Cemetery

All this artistic activity led Enrique to be named the first President of the Casa del Teatro—an actors association/retirement organization based on Avenida Santa Fe. Still possessing a popular theater,  the fantastic Art Deco building was designed by Alejandro Virasoro… the same architect who built the Defferrari family vault.

Enrique’s cultural connections expressed their sorrow for the death of Luz María with poetic plaques on the left side of the family vault:

Luz María García Velloso, Recoleta Cemetery

Unfortunately the elaborate interior painting is missing these days, but the ceiling’s stained glass remains intact:

Luz María García Velloso, Recoleta Cemetery

Second to last photo courtesy of the Archivo General de la Nación. Like Art Nouveau? Learn about the architects of the era, their individual styles & what makes Art Nouveau in Buenos Aires so unique with a 33-page guide from our sister site, Endless Mile.

11 Comments

343. ida ◊

Ida, Recoleta Cemetery

Ida rarely gets a visitor since she shares the same row as Eva Perón… nothing like being upstaged by the cemetery’s most well-known resident. Perhaps due to Ida’s proximity to Evita, an urban legend developed around her death based on the evocative statue of a young woman reaching for a fallen rose.

Unable to confirm any factual evidence, most guides claim Ida fell to death from an upper story balcony… hence the statue. Seems like someone had an overactive imagination, but the best part about this mausoleum is that it contains some of the most overlooked Art Nouveau in Recoleta Cemetery.

The door is difficult to appreciate given the narrow width of sidewalk in front but is quite an impressive work of art:

Ida, Recoleta Cemetery

Interior photos are difficult due to glass reflections & low light levels, but peeking inside is easy. The mosaics & carved marble tomb shouldn’t be missed:

Ida, Recoleta Cemetery

Ida, Recoleta Cemetery

After seeing Eva Perón, wander toward the wall instead of returning to the main walkway. Ida is on the right-hand side waiting for some attention too.

Like Art Nouveau? Learn about the architects of the era, their individual styles & what makes Art Nouveau in Buenos Aires so unique with a 33-page guide from our sister site, Endless Mile.

1 Comment