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Category: Military

469. manuel josé garcía-mansilla

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, José María García-Mansilla

Tucked into the crowded, central section of the cemetery, the tomb of Rear Admiral Manuel José García-Mansilla is difficult to find… in spite of the impressive statue & many plaques.

Born in Buenos Aires in 1859, Manuel José seemed destined for greatness from birth. His mother, Eduarda, was one of the first women writers in Argentina & sister of Lucio Victorio Mansilla. His father was an original member of the Foreign Service who took Manuel José to the United States at a very young age, later finishing his education in France.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, José María García-Mansilla

García-Mansilla showed an early aptitude for all things naval, likely influenced by his father’s work in purchasing vessels for the Argentine Navy. He decided to remain in France for military training—common in those days since Argentina had yet to found its own naval academy. While in the Red Sea, García-Mansilla heard a “man overboard!!” cry & immediately dived into the water to the rescue. Decorated as a Chevalier in the Legion of Honor for his actions, he wrote a letter to his mother regretting the fact that her gift—a watch—had been ruined in the rescue attempt. But in return, he saved a life & earned the respect of the French.

As he ascended in the military, García-Mansilla helped modernize the Argentine fleet. He became an expert in torpedoes & coastal defense, even making adjustments to British designs. He also drew on his vast experience to standardize the Navy… implementing much needed regulations & adopting a common uniform.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, José María García-Mansilla

Later in life, García-Mansilla became one of the most pretigious directors of Argentina’s own Naval Academy. But his most visible legacy in Buenos Aires was founding the Centro Naval in 1882. Elected as its first president, García-Mansilla believed that the camaraderie formed by social ties in the Navy were fundamental to its success as an institution.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, José María García-Mansilla

The Centro Naval changed location several times before finding its permanent home at the intersection of Avenida Córdoba & Florida in 1914. French architect Gastón Mallet designed a fantastic ballroom, dining facilities & a library for research & investigation. If you aren’t one of the 11,000 members (!) with access to the facilities, be sure to take a guided tour:

Centro Naval, Buenos Aires

Centro Naval, Buenos Aires

Centro Naval, Buenos Aires

After participating in the May 1910 centennial festivities, García-Mansilla passed away on August 18th. As a tribute, the Naval Academy performs a service in Recoleta Cemetery every year on the anniversary of his death… I’ll try to get photos to post here in a couple months. And since 1946, family descendants give the cadet with the most exemplary record a watch in commemoration of García-Mansilla’s dedication.

Complete biography can be found here (in Spanish). The statue is signed J. Lovatalli, Roma 1913 but no data about the sculptor could be found online. Any info would be appreciated!

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448. josé félix uriburu

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, José Félix Uriburu

Born in Salta in 1868, José Félix Uriburu joined the Military Academy located on the outskirts of Buenos Aires at the age of 17. Five years later, he would participate in the birth of civil society in Argentina during the Revolución del 1890. But he would soon part ways with the Radicals.

When President Luis Sáenz Peña resigned in 1895, Vice-President José Evaristo de Uriburu—his uncle—took over. The younger Uriburu became his uncle’s assistant & got first-hand experience in government. In 1905 he helped President Manuel Quintana stifle another attempted Radical coup.

Uriburu continued to move up swiftly through both military & political circles. He was sent to Europe to learn techniques to improve the Argentine military & soon after elected as a representative for his native province of Salta in Congress. After obtaining the rank of Division General, Uriburu retired against his will… but would soon return to be the center of attention.

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Recoleta Cemetery, José Félix Uriburu, golpe militar

Uriburu led the first military coup in Argentina in 1930. Ousting democratically elected Radical President Hipólito Yrigoyen, historians credit Uriburu with starting military involvement in politics… a trend that would lead to a series of military takeovers until 1983. Conservative & very Catholic, Uriburu called for elections but annulled results when the Radicals won. In fact, Uriburu ushered in what historians call the “Infamous Decade” where democracy was only given lip service.

Eventually Uriburu handed the presidency to military colleague General Agustín P. Justo in 1932. Diagnosed with stomach cancer, he went to Paris for treatment but died soon after arrival. His funeral service in the Église Saint-Pierre-de-Chaillot seems extraordinary, especially since the church also held funerals for Guy de Maupassant & Marcel Proust. At least we have an impressive visual record:

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, José Félix Uriburu

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, José Félix Uriburu

After services in Paris, Uriburu’s remains were brought by ocean liner to Buenos Aires. Services held at his residence led to a temporary burial at the tomb of Ramón Falcón… that fact speaks volumes. Just look at the number of people entering the cemetery. Wow.

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, José Félix Uriburu

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, José Félix Uriburu

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, José Félix Uriburu

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, José Félix Uriburu

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, José Félix Uriburu

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, José Félix Uriburu

Currently Uriburu’s mausoleum is unkempt & unadorned… perhaps his family fell on hard times. Whatever the reason, Uriburu’s legacy to Argentine history—good, bad or indifferent—has disappeared from public view in Recoleta Cemetery. Find the plaque below in the photos above… a piece of history few remember:

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, José Félix Uriburu

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, José Félix Uriburu

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, José Félix Uriburu

Update (14 Apr 2013): One important reminder of Uriburu’s legacy remains in the town of Balcarce, about 400 km or 250 mi south of Buenos Aires. Originally meant to glorify, a bit of historical revision has occurred with the only statue of Uriburu in Argentina.

Balcarce, Provincia de Buenos Aires, José Félix Uriburu statue

A new plaque placed in June 2012 reads:

Este monumento fue emplazado en el 6º aniversario del primer golpe de estado en Argentina. El general José Félix Uriburu atentó contra la Constitución Nacional el 6 de septiembre de 1930. Este nefasto acontecimiento abrió paso a una serie de violaciones al estado de derecho y a los derechos humanos de la población, impuesto por los gobiernos de facto que interrumpieron el orden democrático, signando décadas de inestabilidad y autoritarismo en nuestro país.

This monument was erected on the sixth anniversary of the first coup d’etat in Argentina. General José Félix Uriburu defied the national constitution on 06 Sep 1930. This horrific deed opened the way for a series of violations of the rule of law & of the population’s human rights, imposed by de facto governments that interrupted democratic order, ushering in decades of instability & authoritarianism in our country.

Archival photos from the British Library Endangered Archives Programme. Balcarce photo courtesy of Marcelo Metayer.

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443. general juan lavalle

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, General Juan Lavalle

Although very much deserving a spot in Recoleta Cemetery, it’s amazing that Lavalle ever made it here. His remains traveled almost as much as those of Eva Perón.

Juan Galo de Lavalle was born in 1797 in Buenos Aires, a direct descendant of Hernán Cortés. Amazing but true. He spent a good portion of his childhood in Santiago de Chile, but the family returned to Buenos Aires in 1807. Five years later at the age of 15, he joined the Granaderos where he fought under the command of Alvear & eventually served under San Martín in the Ejército de los Andes. Lavalle participated in many of the major battles of independence, reaching the rank of coronel.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, General Juan Lavalle

Lavalle found a moment to marry a woman from Mendoza, but he was soon placed on the battlefield again during the war with Brazil (1825-28). As a result of the war, Uruguay was created as a buffer state between Argentina & Brazil. The peace agreement signed by Manuel Dorrego drew feelings of resentment at the loss of the opposite bank of the Río de la Plata & internal tensions grew.

Salvador del Carril & others convinced Lavalle to support an alternative government, against that of Dorrego & Juan Manuel de Rosas. Even though they had been childhood friends, Lavalle ordered the execution of Dorrego who had been captured. It was a decision he would regret for the rest of his life. Instead of resolving an internal conflict, Dorrego’s execution sparked a civil war.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, General Juan Lavalle

Lavalle went into exile to Uruguay & commanded forces from there in an effort to defeat Rosas. But in 1840, the troops of Rosas managed to chase Lavalle all the way to northwest Argentina. Discovering where Lavalle was spending the night in San Salvador de Jujuy, troops shot at the house & Lavalle was mortally wounded. He died in 1841.

Officers were ordered to decapitate Lavalle’s body & display the head publicly, but troops loyal to Lavalle took his body further north. The next bit is particularly gruesome. Decaying & difficult to manage, they removed Lavalle’s flesh from the bones, placed his heart in a jar with alcohol & his head in a jar of honey. Lavalle was eventually laid to rest in Potosí, Bolivia. The following year Lavalle was moved to Valparaiso, Chile & only in 1861—after the destitution of Rosas—could Lavalle return to Buenos Aires & be buried in Recoleta Cemetery.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, General Juan Lavalle

The tomb should be better maintained, but one nice feature is a Granadero statue standing guard. The sword has been broken off several times (now in the admin office for safekeeping), & a plaque states:

Granadero! Vela su sueño y, si despierta, dile que su patria lo admira!

Soldier! Guard his sleep &, if he wakes, tell him that his country admires him!

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, General Juan Lavalle

Some sources claim that the statue is a work of Luis Perlotti, but after examining the sculpture closely there is no visible signature. Perlotti typically signed all his work, like the statue of Luis Ángel Firpo & a large number of plaques. The base display the following text: Arsenal Naval, B. Aires, Dársena Norte, so the Navy likely funded the statue. More research to be done…

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, General Juan Lavalle

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436. general enrique mosconi

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, General Enrique Mosconi

Born in Buenos Aires in 1877, Enrique Mosconi spent a couple of years during childhood in Europe but his family eventually returned to Argentina. After finishing elementary school, Mosconi enrolled in the national military academy & graduated at the age of 17. Typical of the era, the military was becoming more professional & Mosconi decided to study in civil engineering. Graduating in 1903, he was sent to learn about energy & communications in Europe & brought the best technology back to Argentina.

In spite of his early contributions, Mosconi would be most remembered for his next assignment beginning in 1922: General Director of Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales (YPF)… Argentina’s state-run petroleum company. Although not an expert in the field at first, Mosconi did his best to improve working conditions in Comodoro Rivadavia where the first discoveries had been made in 1907. Becoming highly influential & respected, Mosconi had the ear of President Marcelo T. de Alvear & usually received anything he requested. As a result, YPF grew as a company & demonstrated that Argentines had the capability to manage every aspect of the petroleum industry… from perforation to refinement.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Enrique Mosconi

Early during his gestion, conflicts rose between Mosconi & companies such as Standard Oil & Royal Dutch Shell. He was determined to keep Argentine oil out of the hands of foreign trusts. Mosconi traveled to many countries in Latin America, where several state-run companies similar to YPF eventually formed, much to his credit. One plaque reminds visitors of Mosconi’s defiance:

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Enrique Mosconi

A few days after the military coup which ousted President Hipólito Yrigoyen in 1930, Mosconi resigned from YPF. Several key government positions were filled with people friendly to foreign oil trusts, & some historians think the coup could have been partially supported by Mosconi’s enemies. Perhaps because of this, Mosconi disappeared from the scene. Despite a stroke which left him partially paralyzed, he traveled extensively & wrote influential books about the petroleum industry, winning many awards abroad for his ideas.

Mosconi passed away in 1940 while living with his older sisters & had only a few pesos to his name. His crypt is a wonderful monument to mid-20th century art, built with YPF funds. Although Mosconi may not have increased production to the extent he projected, he took a marginally run company & made it a source of national pride. No doubt Mosconi would have been horrified if he could have seen into the future when YPF was purchased for U$S 15 billion in 1999 by the Spanish company Repsol.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Enrique Mosconi

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430. julio argentino roca ◊

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Julio Argentino Roca

Few figures in Argentine history have been as influential or as controversial. Everyone seems to have an opinion about Julio Argentino Roca.

Born in 1843 in Tucumán, his military career began at an early age. Roca enlisted when only 15 years old & fought in several decisive battles during the years of national organization. Under the presidency of Bartolomé Mitre, Roca fought in the War of the Triple Alliance & later proved his loyalty to the nation during an attempted coup. Thanks to this action, President Avellaneda promoted Roca to General in his early 30s. He also appointed Roca as his Minister of War after the death of Adolfo Alsina. What a quick rise to power.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Julio Argentino Roca

Roca fought one final battle before retiring his sword. Alsina had made scant progress in controlling the indigenous population, & the issue demanded attention. Roca’s solution was to kill as many as possible while the rest were taken captive. Roca effectively conquered the desert. It was a move that made later generations dislike Roca as well as launched him into national politics. He became the next President, having expanded national territory & resolving a “problem” which had plagued Argentina for decades. Roca’s monument in downtown Buenos Aires is often covered with unflattering graffiti & red paint to symbolize the blood spilled:

Buenos Aires, Monserrat, Diagonal Sur, Monumento a Roca

Once in office, Roca settled another important issue: Buenos Aires became the official capital of Argentina. And not to leave controversy behind, Roca promoted adoption of a series of laws to take several functions out of the hands of the Catholic church. With Sarmiento as Director of the National Board of Education, primary school became free & public, no longer dependent on the church. Acceptance of marriage by civil service also caused some conflict with Rome. In economics, Roca promoted the export of raw materials & large amounts of foreign investment.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Julio Argentino Roca

After Roca’s term ended in 1886, he had no desire to retire. Serving several terms as Senator, Roca became one of the key figures behind the scenes during the 1890 Revolution. Always maintaining important connections & positions of power, Roca attained the presidency for a second term in 1898. During this time, Minister of War Pablo Riccheri instituted obligatory military service & Navy Minister Comodoro Rivadavia helped Roca negotiate peace with Chile over border disputes in 1902. That same year, Luis María Drago published his influential doctrine while serving as Minister of Foreign Relations.

Roca’s later years are complex & raise quite a few questions. Serving as ambassador to Brazil for President Sáenz Peña, Roca spent much time away from Argentina. He was oddly absent from centennial celebrations in 1910. In 1914 while on one of his estates in Córdoba province, Roca passed away suddenly after a coughing fit at the age of 71.

The tomb was declared a National Historic Monument in 1946. There is no doubt that Roca made some of the most important decisions in Argentina’s history, although by what some consider questionable methods. But his legacy can’t be escaped—Roca’s Conquest of the Desert decorates the reverse side of the old 100 peso bill!

100 peso note, Roca

Interior photo courtesy of Mike De Ghetto. Thanks!

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427. aramburu ◊

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Aramburu

Designed by architect Alejandro Bustillo, the crypt of Pedro Aramburu occupies a very important spot: the end of the cemetery’s main axis & at the feet of President Carlos Pelligrini. Intended to inspire, one of the quotes on the side of the tomb reads:

El progreso, fundamento del bienestar general, es obra de los pueblos y resultado de la riqueza justamente distribuida.

Progress, the foundation of general well-being, is the work of the people & the result of equal distribution of wealth.

Furthermore, an entire series of values is represented around the entire crypt. Included are depictions of Justice, Austerity, Liberty & Equality:

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Aramburu

Pedro Aramburu became the de facto President after the Revolución Libertadora & the brief, 50-day term of Eduardo Lonardi. He governed from 1955 to 1958. Democracy returned after Aramburu left office, but the political & economic situation in Argentina was a disaster in the 1960’s. Periods of military rule alternated with democratically elected leaders like a revolving door. Aramburu even ran unsuccessfully for President in 1963… fate had something else planned for him.

An organization known as the Montoneros formed in the late 1960’s as a Catholic, pro-Perón paramilitary group. Perón backed their terrorist actions… at least while he remained in Spain. In their very first public act—the Montonero debut on the political scene—they kidnapped Aramburu from his Barrio Norte apartment (Montevideo 1053, original building now demolished, a supermarket built in its place).

Disguised as fellow military personnel & claiming the need to take him to a safe haven, in reality they questioned him about the location of Eva’s remains & held him responsible for anti-Perón actions while in office. Aramburu revealed nothing about Eva & paid a heavy price. He was shot & left dead in a field in 1970, to be buried later in Recoleta Cemetery.

General Pedro Aramburu, Recoleta Cemetery

Aramburu’s corpse was stolen from Recoleta Cemetery in 1974 by the same group who murdered him & later recovered by authorities near Parque Las Heras. For the rest of the story, read “The Return of Aramburu“… truth is definitely stranger than fiction.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Aramburu

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