Posts about Urban legends

396. familia del carril ◊

01 Mar 2010

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

386. luz maría garcía velloso ◊

05 Feb 2010

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? Get to know the architects of the era, their individual styles & what makes Art Nouveau in Buenos Aires so unique with a 33-page guide from Endless Mile. This tomb is listed in the guide.

Last photo can be viewed larger in Flickr.

346. facelift

28 Aug 2009

Rufina Cambacérès, Recoleta Cemetery

The tomb of Rufina Cambacérès underwent restoration in July 2008. She looks even more attractive than before now that the scaffolding has been removed.

343. ida ◊

21 Aug 2009

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? Get to know the architects of the era, their individual styles & what makes Art Nouveau in Buenos Aires so unique with a 33-page guide from Endless Mile. This tomb is listed in the guide.

312. liliana crociati de szaszak ◊

08 Mar 2009

Liliana Crociati de Szaszak, Recoleta Cemetery

Poor Liliana. She’s filed under urban legends only because no one can get the story straight…

Part of 1960s high society, Liliana went on vacation in Austria when she was 26. She & her husband couldn’t return as planned because winter snow had been exceptionally heavy & roads were blocked. On an early February morning in 1970, an avalanche covered the hotel where she was staying. The force of the snow broke several windows & filled most of her room. Liliana was found on her bed covered in blankets but only lived a few hours after her rescue. Death was attributed to lack of oxygen & exposure to severe cold.

The statue of Liliana with elongated features always draws a crowd. Inscribed on the base is the name of her dog, Sabú. The greenery outside the vault & a modern Neogothic design also make the resting place of Liliana stand out:

Liliana Crociati de Szaszak, Recoleta Cemetery

Through the glass door, an oil portrait of Liliana hangs above the staircase… usually credited to one of Liliana’s friends in the School of Fine Arts:

Liliana Crociati de Szaszak, Recoleta Cemetery

The occasional cat likes to sit with Sabú in the tall grass:

Liliana Crociati de Szaszak, Recoleta Cemetery

So where does the mystery come in? There seem to be more versions of Liliana’s tragic death than even Rufina Cambacérès can claim.

No one mentions what happened to her husband. Did he die in the avalanche? If not, where is he now? Some people say that Sabú died in Buenos Aires on the same day as Liliana. Doubt it. Others say that Sabú passed away earlier but was Liliana’s favorite pet, hence his place with her for eternity. There are even tales of Sabú being added later to the statue… highly unlikely given the position of Liliana’s hands. And apparently to add more tragedy, some versions of the story say that Liliana was on her honeymoon & the garment she wears in the statue is her wedding dress.

Liliana Crociati de Szaszak, Recoleta Cemetery

Liliana Crociati de Szaszak, Recoleta Cemetery

What’s the real scoop? Someone in the family must still be alive to set the record straight. Otherwise, a look through 1970s microfilm of Buenos Aires newspapers might hold a few clues. At least avalanche.org corroborates part of the tragedy; from February 19-24, 1970 a series of avalanches in St. Sigmund im Sellrain near Innsbruck claimed four fatalities. One of those must have been Liliana.

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Update (21 Dec 2009): It’s amazing how an urban legend can quickly get out of control & lead to comments like those for this particular post. After being contacted by Sven Szaszak who claimed to be the son of Juan Szaszak after he remarried, I asked Sven if he could provide any photos of Juan & Liliana together or help in some other way. Immediately someone claiming to be another relative, Trixie, went on a rampage. That didn’t help. So Marcelo visited the newspaper archives in La Plata & found the following facts…

La Nación, 26 February 1970
Argentine tourists—Vienna, 25 (AP) Among the 16,000 tourists blocked by snow in the eastern Austrian provinces of Tirol & Vorarlberg are Juan Szaszak, 31 years old, of Hungarian origin but an Argentine citizen, who squads managed to rescue after 15 minutes of searching. His wife, 24 years old, was pulled from under the snow after one hour of hard labor. It is reported that in spite of her critical condition, doctors trust that they can save her:

Newspaper article, La Nación, Liliana Crociati de Szaszak

La Prensa, 26 February 1970
Difficult situation in Austria for two Argentines—Innsbruck, Austria, 25 (UP) An Argentine couple was buried by an avalanche which happened in the Tirol region but shortly after were rescued alive from the hotel room they occupied. Police informed that Mrs. Liliana Szaszak, 24 years old, is in critical condition. Her husband, Juan, 31 years old born in Hungary was not injured.

The couple slept in their third floor room at the Piz Buin hotel in the Zuers winter resort, 64 km west of Innsbruck, when the snow from the avalanche entered through the window & filled their room. Szaszak was rescued in less than 15 minutes, but his wife could only be found after searching for one hour & had to be revived with oxygen.

Another avalanche in the Austrian Alps caused the death of four people at the beginning of the week. Innsbruck police said that around 14,000 tourists were stranded in the area due to avalanches which have blocked roads & railways. Helicopters are taking supplies to some areas, but bad weather impedes rescue operations in small villages, where it has been confirmed that residents are without bread:

Newspaper article, La Prensa, Liliana Crociati de Szaszak

Obituary, La Nación
Liliana Crociati de Szaszak, RIP, passed away in Austria on 27 February 1970 with help of the holy religion & papal blessing (c. a. s. r. y b. p. are initials for “con los auxilios de la santa religión y bendición papal“) — Her husband, Juan Szaszak; her parents José Crociati & María Adriana Ana Balduino; her in-laws Juan Szaszak & Gabriela Persoczy; her brother-in-law Ladislao A. Szaszak; aunts & uncles, nieces & nephews; her cousins & other relatives invite those interested to accompany her remains to Chacarita Cemetery today at 10:00. Funeral home:  Paraná 1255, Casa Mirás:

Obituary, La Nación, Liliana Crociati de Szaszak

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Update (23 Jun 2017): Public records can reveal amazing things. Thanks to a reader who requested to remain anonymous, we now have family photos from a 1954 trip to Brazil to share. Since these are not private documents, I decided to publish them for anyone who is interested. Below are Liliana’s parents, Guiseppe Crociati & Maria Adriana Balduino de Crociati, as well as Liliana when she was 11. I’ve also emailed the tourism information office in Zuers to see if they have any information about the avalanche from local sources.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Giuseppe Crociati

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Maria Adriana Balduino de Crociati

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Liliana Crociati

306. pedro benoit ◊

24 Feb 2009

Pedro Benoit, Recoleta Cemetery

As one of the most important architects in Argentine history, Benoit is not recognized for the sheer number of buildings he constructed but instead for designing a city completely from scratch. Given the opportunity of a lifetime, Benoit was awarded the commission by Dardo Rocha to build the capital of the Province of Buenos Aires.

When Buenos Aires became the national capital & a separate federal unit, it had to relinquish control over an enormous area of land. This territory became the Province of Buenos Aires & needed its own capital city. Named La Plata, a site was chosen 30 km (17 mi) south of Buenos Aires & the foundation stone was laid in 1882. Benoit designed its grid plan criss-crossed by diagonals as well as most of the city’s government buildings & major churches:

Plano, Ciudad de La Plata

Catedral, La Plata

Obvious architecture/Masonic symbols & a plaque from the Comisión Pro-Templo in Mar del Plata hint to his social activities, both secular & religious:

Pedro Benoit, Recoleta Cemetery

Pedro Benoit, Recoleta Cemetery

If Benoit’s accomplishments weren’t enough, his father claimed to be the Dauphin—the last Bourbon king of France. Since the French Revolution it was widely believed that Louis XVII, son of Louis XVI & Marie Antoinette, was secretly removed from prison at a young age & a sick boy replaced him who later died. By way of Haiti, Louis XVII arrived in Buenos Aires under the pseudonym Pierre Benoit in 1818. Maybe.

Maintaining his supposed royal past a secret, Benoit served in the Argentine Navy, married, & had two sons… one of them named after him: Pedro Benoit. One day Pedro’s father received a childhood friend from France. Immediately afterwards, Benoit was noticeably shaken & his health took a turn for the worse. No one knows what was said between the two, but Pierre Benoit died within 24 hours. On his deathbed, he confessed to be Louis XVII. That would make Pedro, the architect son of Pierre, French royalty. Maybe.

Pedro Benoit, Recoleta Cemetery

Only recently has the fate of Louis XVII been settled. “The Lost King of France” by Deborah Cadbury (2002) chronicles the French Revolution & closely examined events afterwards. After the autopsy of  the sick boy in prison, his heart was removed & kept by a doctor with royal sympathies. Recently submitted for DNA testing, the heart proved to be of the same lineage as Marie Antoinette… confirming that the boy who died under horrible conditions in solitary confinement was indeed Louis XVII. No child had been substituted for the real Dauphin.

Regardless, Pedro Benoit is a legend in his own right for good urban planning… royalty or not. The vault was declared a National Historic Monument in 1983.