Posts about Leyendas urbanas

218. familia de luis dorrego indart • ◊

04 Jul 2008

Dorrego Indart, Recoleta Cemetery

On a winter morning in 1881, Felisa Dorrego de Miró received an unexpected letter at the family mansion in Buenos Aires. Full of eloquent prose & apologies, Felisa read that the cadaver of her recently deceased mother had been stolen from Recoleta Cemetery & a ransom of 2 million pesos was demanded in 24 hours for its return. Shocked & in spite of threats not to involve the police, Felisa reported the theft.

A big, bulky coffin would have been impossible to sneak out without someone noticing, so police deduced the casket must have been hidden somewhere inside the cemetery. Sure enough, a nearby tomb with a broken chain had the coffin of Felisa’s mom stuffed inside. With part of the mystery solved, the police captured the entire gang by paying the ransom & following the trail. The culprits were bored upper-class “gentlemen” looking for a bit of adventure.

Dorrego Indart, Recoleta Cemetery

Unfortunately no punishment existed on the books for the crime committed. Each member recevied two years in prison for related violations of the law, & in response a new law was added. Article 171 of the Argentine Penal Code still states that a sentence of 2 to 6 years will be given to anyone who steals a cadaver & demands a ransom for its return. Seriously.

Another interesting thing about this tomb is the sculpture. Copied from Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, the statue depicts the only demon in Recoleta Cemetery. A rather smug angel carries a soul to heaven while stomping on a devil with bat wings, a curly, gruesome tail & a pitchfork. No doubt who won this contest:

Dorrego Indart, Recoleta Cemetery

Vean la última foto más grande en Flickr.

177. juan facundo quiroga • ◊

15 Apr 2008

Juan Facundo Quiroga, Recoleta Cemetery

Born in La Rioja, Quiroga received the nickname “Tiger of the Plains” based on his adeptness in battle. It was a skill needed during the troubled times of early independence from Spain when Argentina struggled to reach a consensus on national government.

When Argentina broke away from Spain & earned its independence in 1816, some people wanted to invite a European monarch to establish their own kingdom… sort of an Empire of the Río de la Plata. The idea isn’t far-fetched since Brazil was a separate Portuguese empire at the same time. But those in favor of a monarch didn’t have the majority.

The biggest issue centered on the role of Buenos Aires in the new nation, specifically the money it received from port taxes. Unitarios wanted Buenos Aires to become the capital city & keep all revenue from international trade. Opposing federales wanted a confederation—an alliance among equals—which would commit Buenos Aires to give other provinces access to their income. Definitely a touchy issue.

As the major port of the nation, foreign trade brought lots of money into Buenos Aires & exporters wanted to maintain the status quo. By placing the national capital in the same spot as the economic center, Federalists feared that the rest of Argentina would be neglected. In the end, the struggle over Confederation vs. Republic was settled in favor of Buenos Aires. Unitarian predictions came true as national growth has been skewed toward the capital ever since.

A strong supporter of BsAs, Quiroga thought that Rosas could resolve the conflict & pledged his support. But when Rosas began ruling Argentina like a monarch, Quiroga switched sides. Ignoring warnings of a conspiracy against his life, Quiroga was ambushed & killed in central Argentina. Eventually his remains were transferred to Recoleta Cemetery.

His place in history was guaranteed when future President Domingo Sarmiento wrote a harsh biography of Quiroga… still required reading in the Argentine curriculum. For Sarmiento, Quiroga embodied the stereotype of the gaucho: unable to think off his horse, wild, savage, & the opposite of progress. Not the most accurate of depictions, this image of Quiroga served to promote urban development at a time when Argentina needed guidance:

Sarmiento, Facundo, Recoleta Cemetery

Quiroga’s story is interesting but so is his tomb. Although weathered over time, the statue of Mary is a beautiful work of art made of Italian artist Antonio Tantardini. Note the delicate lacework details on her shawl. And yes, you’re seeing double. A miniature copy of this statue crowns the dome of another tomb nearby:

Juan Facundo Quiroga, Recoleta Cemetery

Juan Facundo Quiroga, Recoleta Cemetery

Legend claimed that the coffin of Quiroga was buried upright, perhaps so he would be one of the first out during the Second Coming of Christ. Excavations in 2004 confirmed his fate… Quiroga was indeed buried upright, hidden behind a wall underground. He was controversial enough that family & friends were afraid someone might break into the cemetery to deface his remains. Sure, it’s gruesome, but that’s one way to have the last word… when your opponent can’t fight back.

145. kavanagh

07 Mar 2008

Kavanagh, Recoleta Cemetery

Anyone who has walked around Plaza San Martín in Buenos Aires should recognize this last name. Corina Kavanagh sold two family ranches when she was 39 years old to build Latin America’s first skyscraper. Completed in 1936, the Edificio Kavanagh represents a bold end to Art Deco & a new beginning for racionalismo, or Modernism as it is known in the US. 29 floors of reinforced concrete sit alongside the plaza & give the impression of a steamship inching through the urban landscape. Corina set aside the entire 14th floor for herself—the only floor with a single apartment—but for some unknown reason lived elsewhere in the building:

Edificio Kavanagh, Recoleta Cemetery

Edificio Kavanagh, Recoleta Cemetery

What inspired Corina to fund the construction? A legend exists that Corina fell in love with a son of the Anchorena family whose palatial residence also borders Plaza San Martín. But mom didn’t approve & made sure that her son broke it off with Corina.

Wanting revenge, Corina bought land in front of the Basílica del Santísimo Sacramento (meant to be the family mausoleum for the Anchorenas) & had the Kavanagh built so tall that the family wouldn’t be able to look out their windows to see the church. Sounds good but a little too good to be true. Since the Anchorena mom died in 1920 & the Kavanagh was built in 1936, the story is most likely someone’s invention. Corina passed away in 1984.

126. solari parravicini ◊

17 Feb 2008

Solari Parravicini, Recoleta Cemetery

While the Parravicini tomb may not be the most elaborate, Benjamín made some astonishing predictions about world events. Whether you’re a believer or not, Parravicini is recognized as Argentina’s most accomplished psychic.

Born in 1898, Parravicini was surrounded by paranormal events his whole life. But in the 1930s he began to receive messages… he compared it to someone whispering in his ear. These voices guided him in something he termed “psychographies”—sketches drawn without any conscious thought. Devoutly Catholic & horrified by his apparent gift, he destroyed many of these drawings. But quite a few survived & a large percentage have become true. Events that Parravicini predicted include the development & use of the atomic bomb, the invention of television, the Cold War & even cloning.

The most recent & shocking event Parravicini predicted was the destruction of the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. Two of his drawings are surprisingly accurate. The first is a sketch of the Statue of Liberty dated 1939 with the following text: “The liberty of North America will lose its light. Its torch will no longer shine as it once did & the monument will be attacked two times.”

Another sketch shows a jumbled New York City skyline with the Statue of Liberty split into two separate towers. The crown appears to be an explosion. Critics would say that Parravicini wasn’t 100% accurate, but believers think that he merged the image of the Towers (not yet built) with that of the Statue of Liberty:

Solari Parravicini, Recoleta Cemetery

Intrigued? Doubtful? More biographical information & further predictions can be found here. Many of the events to come concern aliens: the discovery of an alien base on the dark side of the moon, alien visitors coming to obtain sea algae they need for food, & aliens will cure all of mankind’s diseases. It’s a much friendlier type of contact than “War of the Worlds” or “Independence Day” would have us believe.

092. juan alleno • ◊

14 Jan 2008

David Alleno, Recoleta Cemetery

Although this skinny, narrow mausoleum doesn’t stand out, an urban legend lurks inside. Peek through the door to find the sculpture of David Alleno—caretaker in Recoleta Cemetery from 1881 to 1910.

Like the caretakers of today, David had a certain sector which he maintained & apparently became obsessed over where his final resting place would be. Members of the Alleno family claim that David’s brother, Juan, had already purchased this plot for his family… perhaps that inspired David to be buried in Recoleta Cemetery as well. After saving over a lifetime, he was able to have a sculpture made of himself at work, complete with keys, broom & watering can:

David Alleno, Recoleta Cemetery

David Alleno, Recoleta Cemetery

Urban legend claims that when the sculpture arrived from Italy & was placed in the tomb, David was so eager to complete the project that he went home & committed suicide… knowing that he would soon rest in peace here. Whether the motive is true or not, David Alleno is now locked in with the elite residents of Recoleta Cemetery:

David Alleno, Recoleta Cemetery

Update (07 Nov 2010): Thanks to an investigation by Guada Aballe, we know a few more facts about the life of David Alleno… & she found photos too! One of the best resources for early 20th century Buenos Aires history is Caras & Caretas, a local magazine with political & social commentary. In the 10 Apr 1909 edition, Recoleta Cemetery workers were concerned about a change in administration. Various caretakers were photographed & David Alleno appeared in the article:

David Alleno, Recoleta Cemetery

David Alleno, Recoleta Cemetery

David Alleno spent 28 years working at Recoleta Cemetery & according to his death certificate—also amazingly uncovered by Guada—he passed away on 31 Aug 1915. The cause of death is listed as “trauma & cerebral contusion.” Of course whether or not the head injury was self-inflicted does not appear on the death certificate. But we’re one step closer to uncovering the truth behind the urban legend. Thanks, Guada!!

024. arturo gramajo

04 Nov 2007

Arturo Gramajo, Recoleta Cemetery

Mayors of Buenos Aires have been hand-picked by the President (pending Senate approval, much like US Supreme Court justices) for most of Argentine history. Only in 1996 did porteños obtain the right to elect their top position. Arturo Gramajo served as BA mayor from Feb 1915 to Nov 1916 under the presidency of Victorino de la Plaza. Solid & stoic, this elegant tomb stands like an island in the northern section of the cemetery.

Arturo Gramajo, Recoleta Cemetery

But there’s another Arturo Gramajo famous for changing the cuisine scene in Argentina. Could it be the same guy? We’ll probably never know…

Arturo Gramajo, Recoleta Cemetery

As a wealthy playboy who loved good living, Gramajo was staying at the Hotel Ritz in Paris when he got a little peckish. However, it was late & the kitchen was closed. Going with an assistant, he looked over what was lying around, threw everything in sight together & invented the revuelto Gramajo: scrambled eggs mixed with ham & French fries. The dish became popular after his return to Buenos Aires. Of course, even that story is up for debate. Some claim that Coronel Artemio Gramajo who served with General Roca decided to break the monotony of army fare & created the dish that bears his name.

Whether it was a mayor, playboy or coronel who invented the revuelto Gramajo, it’s one of the heartiest plates on traditional Argentine menus. Photo below found here:

Revuelto Gramajo