Skip to content

Category: Business

548. kevork akrabian

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Kevork Akrabian

Armenians first arrived in Argentina during two periods in the early 20th century, either escaping a horrendous genocide beginning in 1915 during World War I or a continued massacre by the Turks in 1921. Although no accurate numbers exist, an estimated one million people were murdered by the end of violence in 1923.

Born in Marash, Akrabian’s father died defending a German orphanage where various Armenian families had gone for safe haven. Inside the orphanage also happened to be his future wife, Luisa Naldjian… but they wouldn’t meet until much later. Akrabian & other family members managed to escape to the State of Aleppo, but he left in 1924 on a ship bound for Buenos Aires.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Kevork Akrabian

Eventually Akrabian found work at a shoe factory where Luisa Naldjian worked. Her father happened to be the owner, & they’d arrived in Buenos Aires one year earlier. Sounds like fate! They married in their early 20’s, opened their own shoe factory together & became very active in the Armenian community in Buenos Aires. Most Armenians settled in the neighborhood of Palermo where self-help organizations opened & restaurants thrive to this day. One reminder of this community is a monument in the Plazoleta Monte Ararat (Charcas 3500):

Buenos Aires, Palermo, Plazoleta Monte Ararat

In the 1960s, Akrabian purchased the Wilton Hotel in Barrio Norte, near the intersection of Callao & Santa Fe. Flying flags of Armenia & Argentina, the hotel became a hub for Armenians visiting from abroad. Unfortunately flags of other countries are now mixed in with that of Armenia, but I had friends visit in 2003 & stay there… at that time the original flags still flew:

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Kevork Akrabian, Wilton Hotel
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Kevork Akrabian, Wilton Hotel

Two plaques on Akrabian’s tomb commemorate his service as president of the Unión Compatriótica Armenia de Marash:

His wife, Luisa, passed away in 2015 at the age of 100 & is also buried here. For more information about this important family, read this post on the Aurora Prize website.

Leave a Comment

523. familia de emilio saint

Recoleta Cemetery, Emilio Saint, Águila

Roasting coffee beans & making chocolate turned French immigrant Abel Saint into one of the most successful entrepreneurs in Buenos Aires. His business which began in 1880 grew quickly & after a couple of moves around Buenos Aires, the main factory for El Águila settled in the neighborhood of Barracas. Unfortunately Abel passed away two years before the factory opened in 1894, leaving the company to his son, Emilio.

Recoleta Cemetery, Emilio Saint, Águila

In 1905—less than ten years after taking charge of the company—Emilio launched another factory in Uruguay as well as began exporting chocolate to Paraguay. Águila continued to diversify under Emilio’s direction (with over 100 different products!) but gained fame from making chocolate tablets that could be broken into bars… perfect for the classic hot chocolate beverage called a submarino.

Recoleta Cemetery, Emilio Saint, Aguila chocolate

For most of the 20th century, Águila did very well & became a hallmark, national brand. But diet fads of the 1980s reduced the consumption of chocolate, & the company was sold to food industry giant Arcor in 1993. However Arcor maintained the Águila brand, & it continues to be one of the most popular chocolates in Argentina. Much of the main factory has been demolished, but a few remnants exist to keep the memory of the Saint family alive:

Buenos Aires, Barracas, El Águila, chocolate

Buenos Aires, Barracas, El Águila, chocolate

Buenos Aires, Barracas, El Águila, chocolate

Besides his involvement with the family business, Emilio Saint became president of the Automóvil Club Argentino from 1931 until his death four years later. He oversaw one of the most difficult eras for ACA, following the 1929 world economic crisis. Under Saint’s leadership, the club transformed from being composed of purely elite members to include anyone who had a passion for cars. Emilio also invested heavily in real estate, commissioning one of the most remarkable Art Deco skyscrapers in the city: the Torre Saint. An upper-level was dedicated to rooms for the tenants’ personal drivers… easy to understand given Emilio’s love of cars!

Buenos Aires, Once, Torre Saint, Art Deco

Buenos Aires, Once, Torre Saint, Art Deco

Leave a Comment

513. raimundo wilmart de glymes de hollebecque

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Raimundo Wilmart de Glymes de Hollebecque

Tucked away in the seemingly infinite rows of mausoleums in the southern corner of the cemetery, the little information online about Raimundo Wilmart is as surprising as his full name is long.

Born in 1850 in Jodoigne-Souveraine, a small town in the center of Belgium, Wilmart arrived in Argentina at the age of 22. He had a single purpose: to visit the Asociación Internacional del Trabajo (AIT). Recently formed, the industrial union followed European principles based on ideas put forth by Marx & Engels. In short, Raimundo Wilmart came to Argentina to see if scientific socialism was being put into practice in Argentina.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Raimundo Wilmart de Glymes de Hollebecque

Wilmart had previously attended the 1872 AIT conference in The Hague where he was commissioned to travel to Argentina. Immediately after arrival, he scoped out the situation & wrote three letters to Marx. The Argentine AIT had 250 members at the time, but proletarian struggle failed to unite the group. Wilmart reported that the group constantly separated into national cliques, based on the immigrant’s country of origin. He even handed out free copies of Das Kapital but felt like no one ever read the book!

Disappointed, Wilmart planned to return to Europe but never did. After studying law in Córdoba, he moved up in social circles & became a judge in Mendoza. In 1899, Wilmart returned to Buenos Aires & joined the law school faculty. He even formed part of the committee which failed to approve the doctoral thesis of Socialist Alfredo Palacios… Wilmart made a 180º turn in his politics, supporting capitalism & failing to sympathize with factory workers.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Héctor de Glymes de Hollebecque

Wilmart visited his homeland in 1909, returned to Argentina & died in Buenos Aires in 1937. Letters he received from Karl Marx were lost forever, burned by his daughter in fear of tarnishing her father’s reputation.

6 Comments

510. j. rodolfo bernasconi y familia

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, J. Rodolfo Bernasconi

For such a wealthy businessman, little information is available online about Juan Rodolfo Bernasconi. Born in Buenos Aires in 1869, he studied in Switzerland, married María Luisa Pini Leonardi & had four children. Most of his money came from agriculture, especially the successful company Bycla which produced blends of cooking oil:

ByCla aceite combestible, J. Rodolfo Bernasconi

As far as my research could ascertain, Bernasconi was not related to Félix Bernasconi of the famous institute founded in Parque Patricios. Then again, there were lots of Bernasconis in Argentina at the time… a very common last name. Most surprising is the interior decoration. Very well-maintained, someone should research the family coat-of-arms:

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, J. Rodolfo Bernasconi

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, J. Rodolfo Bernasconi

Leave a Comment

506. ernesto tornquist

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Tornquist

Ernesto Tornquist, born in 1842 in Buenos Aires, became one of Argentina’s most successful entrepreneurs. His father, born in Baltimore of German immigrants, represented the city of Bremen in Uruguay. Ernesto’s mother, a porteña, passed away in the yellow fever epidemic of 1871.

The following year Tornquist married his niece & they had a numerous family of 14 children. His brother-in-law first introduced Ernesto to management, & he eventually acquired enough shares & confidence to inherit the company. It provided the capital necessary to open a sugar refinery in Rosario, the Bieckert brewery, a ceramic manufacturing plant, metalworking facility… even a margarine factory. Diversity seemed to be Tornquist’s strong point, & his fortune grew accordingly.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Ernesto Tornquist

A close friendship with both Julio Argentino Roca & Carlos Pellegrini likely helped Tornquist influence political decisions… or at least know what would happen before anyone else. Some historians have hinted that he may have even inspired Roca to take on the Conquista del Desierto in order to acquire land. What is certain is that after the removal of indigenous tribes, Tornquist bought thousands of hectares of confiscated land & established colonies for German immigrants. This large area just north of Bahía Blanca still bears his name.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Ernesto Tornquist

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Ernesto Tornquist, lion

Tornquist built several visible reminders of his wealth in Buenos Aires, most notably the Plaza Hotel—today the Marriott—on Plaza San Martín. In the heart of the banking district, Alejandro Bustillo designed the Banco Tornquist in 1928. As of 2000, Banco Tornquist had been absorbed by Banco Santander Río & the building has remained closed to the public since then. Plans to house the yearly interior design fair (Casa FOA) there in 2013 will provide a unique opportunity to view the bank’s interior. Ornamental figures above the entrance were sculpted by Troiano Troiani.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, La City, Banco Tornquist

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, La City, Banco Tornquist

Tornquist passed away in 1908 in Buenos Aires. His remains—along with those of his wife—were transferred in 1992 to the city which bears his name, leaving only a dusty reminder in Recoleta Cemetery of one of Argentina’s biggest names in business.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Tornquist

Leave a Comment

502. juan berisso

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Berisso

Between 1869 & 1871, Buenos Aires endured two disastrous epidemics: first, cholera, that left 9,000 dead & second, yellow fever, which claimed 14,000 victims. The city government put into practice new sanitation practices, including the removal of tanneries & slaughterhouses from residential areas. Business owners received big tax breaks if they agreed to relocate.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Berisso

Due to those incentives, Juan Bautista Berisso—an Genovese immigrant born in 1834—purchased 28 hectares in Ensenada, near the future location of La Plata. He established a successful tannery & in following years acquired a distillery, a vegetable oil factory, dock facilities & a number of cattle ranches.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Berisso

Berisso passed away in 1893 & is buried in an extraordinary family plot rarely seen by tourists because of its somewhat hidden location. Beautiful works by Italian sculptor Alessandro Biggi decorate the mausoleum, with Chronos (Father Time) on the left, a female angel with an anchor on the right & two lions guarding the entrance:

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Berisso

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Berisso

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Berisso

In La Plata, another branch of the Berisso family built the largest mausoleum in the cemetery, currently abandoned:

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Berisso

1 Comment