Even though he’s missing an arm, this statue of an Italian immigrant is unique to Recoleta Cemetery. He represents one of the newly arrived in Argentina, stepping off a boat onto dry land. Typical peasant garb of a scarf, pants, & boots make his Italian origins obvious. The short phrase written on the boat provides one final clue: “Ayudate” (Help yourself). It’s a wonderful representation of an immigrant who makes a fresh start in a new country.
The Roveranos came from the region of Genoa, Italy & amassed a small fortune as owners of the now-demolished Confitería del Gas. This famous café in downtown Buenos Aires served customers in the original location of the Café Tortoni. When the Tortoni moved to where it is today, the Roverano family set up their own competing café. In 1882, theirs had the distinction of being the first business in Buenos Aires fitted with electric lamps. Very hi-tech for the time.
The Roveranos also bought property close to the main square & opened a commercial passageway named after them. Their café may not be around these days, but entering the Pasaje Roverano (directly behind the Cabildo) is like going back to the early 20th-century with an old-time barbershop, beautiful stained glass, & nicely preserved woodwork:
The Roveranos decided to change cemeteries in 1919 so this has been vacant for several decades, yet the ideal that brought them to Argentina remains intact. Supposedly they spent over one million pesos to build the new family vault in Chacarita Cemetery:
Update (08 Feb 2012): Much of the Colección Witcomb has been made available online, including photo #369 which shows our favorite Italian immigrant with his arm intact: