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Category: Politicians

096. carlos f. melo

Carlos Francisco Melo, Recoleta Cemetery

Born in the province of Entre Ríos in 1872, legal studies brought Carlos Francisco Melo to Buenos Aires by the end of the 19th century… just when the city & the nation were coming into their own. Melo received acclaim for his doctorate thesis & was rewarded with important government positions. A brief stint as a representative in Congress for the UCR party lead to appointment as president of the University of La Plata in 1920. Melo returned to politics as candidate for Vice-President in national elections but his ticket failed to get the vote. After the military coup of 1930, he was appointed head of the National Library, a position Melo held until his death in 1931.

Carlos Francisco Melo, Recoleta Cemetery

Besides his political & educational duties, Carlos Melo was recognized during his lifetime as a writer & poet. Although his works are not yet available online, a short verse from Melo’s “Piedras Rotas” (Broken Stones) can be found over his tomb:

Cuida tu hora. Porque hay en cada vida una hora única, es la de la gracia, o de la caída, de la justicia o de la iniquidad, la del amor, de la inspiración, de la torpeza, la de la muerte. Descuidado: cuida tu hora.

“Take care of your hour. Because there is in each life one unique hour, it is that of grace or of downfall, of justice or of vice, of love, of inspiration, of clumsiness, that of death. Careless one: take care of your hour.”

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089. sepulcro obligado y familia

Pastor Obligado, Recoleta Cemtery

A small gallery of niches holds the remains of Pastor Obligado, a key player in national politics after gaining independence from Spain. Born in 1818 in Buenos Aires, Obligado studied law & received his degree in 1845. Juan Manuel de Rosas ruled the new nation with an iron fist at that time, & Obligado was a firm supporter due to his upper-class background. But as time passed, he made allies with the anti-Rosas faction but continued to defend the rights of Buenos Aires above that of the nation. Obligado associated with fellow cemetery residents Adolfo Alsina, Valentín Alsina, José Mármol, & Carlos Tejedor. He also made friends with future presidents Bartolomé Mitre & Domingo Sarmiento.

All the above alliances paid off for Obligado in 1853 when Rosas was forced into exile. Obligado became the Governor of Buenos Aires & maintained the province’s separation from the Confederación Argentina. In 1857, he presided of the inauguration of the first train line in the city of Buenos Aires & made major improvements in providing basic utilities such as water & gas.

Remaining active in national events after his term as Governor ended in 1858, he later served in Congress as well as in the military. Obligado died in Córdoba while on vacation in 1870. He forms part of a long list of historical figures that were very important in their day but unfortunately have faded away from public memory.

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070. passo

Juan José Paso, Recoleta Cemetery

A lawyer who became politically active after the First British Invasion in 1806, Juan José Paso was one of the most outspoken founding fathers of Argentine independence.

Lack of free trade as well as the occupation of Spain by France were key factors in Argentina proclaiming independence. Paso worked in the tax office for the Viceroy but did not hesitate to join the nascent revolution. Forming part of the 9-member Primera Junta (First Council) on May 25, 1810, Juan José Paso served as one of the secretaries. Soon after in Montevideo, he tried to convince the sister city of Buenos Aires that independence was in everyone’s best interest. Not many were willing to listen. Disagreement among factions in the region would lead to the collapse of the council.

Paso later became part of a brief-lived triumvirate, then joined sides with independence heroes José de San Martín & Carlos Alvear. Missions to Chile & defending Admiral Guillermo Brown in court occupied his time soon after. Even though Paso never resumed a top political position after the triumvirate, he was a key figure in the new nation’s development. Paso worked on the first draft of the Argentine constitution in 1819 & continued to represent the interests of Buenos Aires in Congress for the remainder of his life.

Juan José Paso died in 1833 with little fortune to show for the service given to his country. In fact, the Governor of Buenos Aires at the time decided to raise funds for this tomb in gratitude for Paso’s dedication.

There are two distinct spellings of his last name: Paso & Passo. With ancestors from northern Spain, their last name in gallego was Do Pazo. The “z” was later replaced with either one “s” or two. Take your pick.

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067. panteón de don manuel alcorta

Manuel Alcorta, Recoleta Cemetery

Manuel Alcorta, Recoleta Cemetery

Governor of the province of Santiago del Estero in 1830, Manuel Alcorta relocated near Buenos Aires after being ousted from office by a local military uprising. He & his brother, Amancio, owned much of the land west of Buenos Aires, later becoming the district of Moreno. Now part of the urban sprawl surrounding the capital city, Moreno is 17 km directly west of BA.

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050. josé maría guido

José María Guido, Recoleta Cemetery

The short Presidential term of José María Guido—only 1.5 years—began with one of the strangest coup d’états in Argentine history.

In 1962, President Arturo Frondizi reinstated the Peronistas as a political party after Perón was forced to flee Argentina in 1955. Perón himself was banned from participating in elections, but loyal followers voted for Peronista candidates in 10 of 14 provinces. Seven years of Peronist prohibition did not weaken the party as the military had hoped, so they took matters in their own hands.

While the military held an obstinate Frondizi captive on Isla Martín García (he stated, “I will not commit suicide, I will not resign & I will not leave the country”), Guido decided to take charge. Frondizi’s Vice-President had previously resigned, leaving the Head of the Senate as the next-in-command… & that was Guido’s position. Supported by members of the Supreme Court, Guido was quickly sworn in as President much to the surprise of the armed forces.

José María Guido, Recoleta Cemetery

When they found out what had happened, the military agreed to let Guido keep his new post on one condition—that he annul recent elections. Guido convened a special session of Congress, they annulled the Peronist victory, & Congress went into permanent recess. Elections were held in 1963 & the UCR candidate, Arturo Illia, won. Democracy was briefly restored until the next military coup in 1966.

José María Guido, Recoleta Cemetery

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042. victorino de la plaza

Time for a little revisionist history.

When asked, most Argentines would say that President Roque Sáenz Peña made universal male suffrage national law in 1912. Without a doubt it was his administration that passed the law, but Roque Sáenz Peña died while in office, supposedly from diabetes. As Vice-President, Victorino de la Plaza inherited the difficult job of making sure the new electoral system would be honored. If he had caved in to pressure from the elite & not complied with the new law, Argentine history would be very different today.

Victorino de la Plaza grew up in poverty in the northern province of Salta but always did well in school. So well that he managed to obtain free education in the best schools in the country. He worked in the law office of Vélez Sarfield as an assistant during the writing of Argentina’s civil code, but he actually contributed much more than his title implied. De la Plaza first met Roque Sáenz Peña in that law office, & they remained friends for a lifetime. After fighting in the war with Paraguay, the costs for his education were waived since he was one of the best in his class.

From that moment, De la Plaza’s political career took off. He was appointed to several positions in both educational institutions, provincial & national government (including representative of his native Salta in Congress) & later a number of important foreign ministry & economic positions. De la Plaza spent 21 years in London, promoting Argentina every chance he could. While in the UK, he obtained important railroad investment & debt restructuring which helped Argentina become one of most modern nations in Latin America by the beginning of the 20th century.

Soon after returning to Argentina in 1907, Victorino de la Plaza ran as Vice-President on the Roque Sáenz Peña ticket. Sáenz Peña was in office from 1910 to 1914; De la Plaza completed the last 2 years of the 6-year term after the President passed away. Thanks to De la Plaza’s ability as a statesman, Argentina maintained neutrality throughout WWI & universal male suffrage successfully began in 1916.

But where is he? Multiple sources claim that he is buried in Recoleta Cemetery, but I’ve yet to see definitive proof. An old city government handout puts him near Marcelina Alen de Yrigoyen. Her tomb is pictured below. No plaque belongs to him there & the neighboring mausoleum is empty & undergoing repairs (note the scaffolding on the left):

Marcelina Alen de Yrigoyen, Recoleta Cemetery

Surely they wouldn’t disturb a President. A few tombs away is Victorino’s brother with a “De la Plaza y Castañeda Vega” nameplate (pix below). No Argentine flag is inside so Victorino is MIA. Any info would be appreciated:

De la Plaza y Castañeda Vega, Recoleta Cemetery

De la Plaza y Castañeda Vega, Recoleta Cemetery

Update: Mystery solved in January 2008.

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