190. juan cruz varela

09 May 2008

Juan Cruz Varela, Recoleta Cemetery

Born in Buenos Aires in 1794, Juan Cruz Varela was sent by his parents to Córdoba to become a priest. But Varela completed his studies in 1816 just as Argentina won its independence from Spain & so chose to participate politics & literary ventures instead. Many scholars have classified his odes & tragedies as the best early Argentine literature written. Works often tackled the topics of the day, mainly the revolutionary wars & struggles of the new nation. In “Canto lírico al triunfo de Ituzaingó,” Varela describes General Carlos Alvear‘s victorious battle against Brazil & later wrote a eulogy for Manuel Belgrano:

¿Oh, dónde habitas, militar guerrero?
¿Cómo te fuiste, y huérfana dejaste
tu amada patria, que a la vez libraste
con los cortantes filos de tu acero?

Cómo le has dado el golpe postrimero,
e insensible a su llanto te ausentaste,
abandonando al último contraste
su libertad, su honor, su bien entero.

Que se encienda de nuevo, que se encienda
la antorcha de tu vida. Y si es en vano
nuestro justo clamor en la contienda

de tu afligida patria, pon la mano
sobre quien te suceda, y la defienda.
¡Pero quien te sucede, gran Belgrano!

As a friend & admirer of first President Bernardino Rivadavia, Varela was forced into exile with Rivadavia’s political defeat & the rise of Rosas. He died in Montevideo in 1839, & his remains were brought to Recoleta Cemetery after the defeat of Rosas.

Juan Cruz Varela, Recoleta Cemetery

An equally interesting descendant of Varela also buried in the family tomb is Dalmiro Varela Castex. A large plaque hints to his importance:

Dalmiro Varela Castex, Recoleta Cemetery

Dalmiro imported the first vehicle to Argentina in 1888, a steam-powered De Dion Bouton tricycle. In 1895 he imported a petrol-powered Benz four-wheeled vehicle & sold the tricycle to Marcelo T de Alvear. Importing & selling vehicles would become Dalmiro’s passion. In 1904, he founded the first automotive group, the Automovil Club Argentino (ACA) & was issued the first driver’s license in the nation:

Dalmiro Varela Castex, Recoleta Cemetery

For more info on Dalmiro & the history of automobiles in Argentina, Daniel Costa Deschamps has written an interesting memoir on the topic (in English). Above photo courtesy of prewarbuick.com. This tomb was declared a National Historic Monument in 1946.

Update (08 Feb 2012): Apparently this tomb was downsized. Part of the original gate was maintained & the mourning woman statue placed on top of the whole structure. It’s always looked a bit odd to me & thanks to photo #371 of the Witcomb Collection now I understand why:

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Juan Cruz Varela, Colección Witcomb

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