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Category: Politicians

503. coronel juan de dios rawson

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Coronel Juan de Dios Rawson

Coronel Juan de Dios Rawson, whose father came from Massachusetts, fought in several battles during Argentina’s early years of organization, including the Guerra de la Triple Alianza. He was also the half brother of Dr. Guillermo Rawson. But his great-grandson, Arturo Rawson, became President of Argentina… for only 72 hours.

Rawson had a long career in the military & rose to the rank of General after several decades of service. As commanding officer of the cavalry, he possessed the troops needed to stage a successful coup d’etat already planned by the GOU (Grupo de Oficiales Unidos) in 1943. This secret, informal collection of officers aimed to end the Década Infame where electoral fraud kept the same people in power year after year.

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, General Arturo Rawson

On 04 Jun 1943, Rawson marched 10,000 soldiers into Buenos Aires & took control of the country. While naming fellow officers to government positions & before he was sworn in as de facto President, the GOU realized they had made a mistake in asking Rawson for help. He supported the Allies in World War II while the GOU thought Argentina should remain neutral. Juan Domingo Perón, along with other GOU members, forced Rawson to resign & General Pedro Ramírez took his place.

For a brief period Rawson served as ambassador to Brazil. He also supported an attempted coup to overthrow Perón’s government in 1951. Rawson died of a heart attack the following year & did not live to see the eventual ousting of Perón in 1955.

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501. florencio varela

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Florencio Varela

Florencio Varela was born in Buenos Aires in 1807 (pre-independence), with his father passing away when he was only 11 years old. As a child, he earned a grant to attend the Unión del Sur school, recently founded by General Juan Martín de Pueyrredón. His university studies began four years later, & in 1827 he obtained a doctorate in Law.

While studying, Varela wrote his first literary piece & was published in newspapers edited by his older brother, the famous poet Juan Cruz Varela. Florencio’s brother also inspired Unitarian ideas that led him to leave Argentina in 1829 after Lavalle ordered the execution of Manuel Dorrego. Complicated times.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Florencio Varela

Exiled in Montevideo, Varela married Justa Cané, had 11 children & spent most of his time working as a lawyer. But during this period, Varela came to be known as much for his literary talent as for his flair for politics. He participated in early elections in Uruguay, supporting Fructuoso Rivera over General Manuel Oribe who shared ideas similar to those of Juan Manuel de Rosas.

In 1843 while Montevideo remained under siege by Oribe, Varela was sent to Europe in an attempt to obtain English & French support against the growing influence of Rosas. The UK turned a deaf ear to Varela although he took advantage of the trip to visit museums, monuments & factories. Later in Paris, he met with Alphonse Thiers, & the French Congress agreed to put the struggles in the Río de la Plata on their agenda.

In the French capital, he also conversed with the aging General José de San Martín & met Louis Daguerre who explained to Varela details of the latest invention: photography. He brought back to the Río de la Plata one of the first early cameras. The daguerrotype below is of Varela & his daughter, María, taken by an unknown author in 1847.

Florencia Varela, daguerrotype

Immediately after returning to Montevideo, Varela founded the newspaper “El Comercio del Plata,” fighting Rosas from its pages & supporting European intervention in the region. Miguel Cané (father) & Valentín Alsina collaborated with Varela, & Alsina would become editor after Varela’s death.

On 20 Mar 1848, Florencio Varela was stabbed in the back & murdered. His assassin declared on trial that he had been sent by Oribe’s men. Interestingly enough, Florencio Varela’s ashes lie among many members of his family, but his wife is not here. After the assassination of Varela, Justa Cané married again—to Doctor Andrés Somellera—and her remains are in that family’s vault. Justa survived Varela by more than half a century, passing away in 1910.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Florencio Varela

One of the most populated areas of the Province of Buenos Aires commemorates the reporter since 1891. In 1883, that same province also issued a bill with portraits of Valentín Alsina & Florencio Varela with the value of 2 gold pesos.

1883 billete 2 pesos florencio varela

The currency shown above is courtesy of Billetes Argentinos.

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499. general doctor benjamín victorica

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Benjamín Victorica

Born in 1831 in Buenos Aires, Benjamín Victorica began a career in law… but after graduation went to work for the military of Juan Manuel de Rosas instead. The change seemed to suit him well, as he was staunchly anti-Urquiza. Victorica even wrote disparaging verse about the leader of the Confederación & famously called him apóstata maldito or “damned turncoat.”

After the defeat of Rosas in the 1852 Battle of Caseros, Urquiza personally requested to see Victorica. They became good friends almost immediately with Victorica even marrying Urquiza’s daughter, Ana Dolores, in 1857. Definitely a change of heart!

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Benjamín Victorica

Victorica decided to stay in the new national military & served as Urquiza’s personal secretary. His rise in power continued when named Minister of War by President Derqui in 1860, followed by a term as Senator, working for the Department of Education & even taught law classes.

Under Roca’s presidency, Victorica once again was named Minister of War & helped establish Argentine outposts in Tierra del Fuego. But his most infamous legacy was leading the campaign against the indigenous tribes in the Chaco region. Winning the conflict, Victorica raised the Argentine flag… topping the mast with the bloody head of Yaloschi, the Toba chief who fought Victorica’s troops.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Benjamín Victorica

Various other offices occupied Victorica—not the least of which was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court—until he passed away in 1913. This crypt has also been used by Victorica’s seven children… tucked away in a quiet corner of the cemetery & covered with symbols of law & military service.

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492. caídos en la revolución del 1890 ◊

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Caídos en la Revolución del 1890

After becoming President in 1886, Miguel Juárez Celman began to distance himself from political supporters & preferred to do things his own way. Concentrating power in his own hands, the public referred to the term of Juárez Celman as a unicato… a one-man rule. After three years in office & with inflation out of control, diverse groups expressed their discontent with Juárez Celman. Upper class families, members of the clergy, university leaders, senators & the emerging middle class joined forces to form the Unión Cívica. Their main goal was to defeat the Juárez Celman in upcoming elections. But at the same time, preparations were being made for a coup d’etat.

Leading the Unión Cívica, Leandro Alem conspired with an influential general, Manuel Campos (brother of Luis María Campos). Planned for July 21st, the revolution was aborted by the arrest of key figures… someone had leaked information about the surprise attack. General Campos was taken under custody & while in prison received a visit by none other former President Roca. More sneaky plans were underway.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Caídos en la Revolución del 1890

From his cell, Campos sent word to Alem to go ahead with their plans & fighting broke out early on 26 July 1890. Government forces used Retiro as their base of operations while Alem’s men were concentrated in Plaza Lavalle, now home of the Supreme Court.

As civilians rose up in arms to oust Juárez Celman, battles took place in the heart of Buenos Aires. Fighting continued sporadically for the next few days. General Campos made obvious military mistakes & gave the government ample time to recover & fight back. Alem noted these irregularities at the time but given the difficult situation, deferred to the general’s orders. Violence ended four days later with a truce. Estimates of those killed or wounded range from 300 to over 1,000. While the revolution was not successful in overthrowing the government, the political landscape quickly changed afterwards.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Caídos en la Revolución del 1890

Juárez Celman lost support due to the conflict & resigned, handing the government to Vice-President Carlos Pellegrini. Although no historical record exists of conversations between Campos & Roca, it is taken for fact that Campos made bad tactical decisions on purpose. He threw the revolution so Roca & his elite allies could remain in power. The UC also had difficult times afterwards & split into two groups. One year later the Alem faction transformed into the UCR–Unión Cívica Radical. The UCR still plays an important role in politics as the main alternative to the Peronist party.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Caídos en la Revolución del 1890, plaques

Numerous plaques cover the base of the entire pantheon, housing a few of the fallen during the revolution but many important figures from the UCR: party founder Leandro Alem, President Hipólito Yrigoyen (top casket with flag), & President Arturo Illia (silver casket). During the term of President Frondizi, this tomb was declared a National Historic Monument… even President Alfonsín spent a few months here until his own tomb was under construction.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Caídos en la Revolución del 1890

All subplots & internal division aside, strong civilian support of the attempted revolution marked the beginning of civil society in Argentina & the birth of a radical political party. Every major figure on both sides of the Revolución de 1890 can be found somewhere in Recoleta Cemetery.

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489. familia duarte plaques

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Eva Perón plaque

Naturally, most plaques on the Duarte family mausoleum pay homage to its most famous member: Eva Perón. Varied organizations, such as the large CGT workers’ union & residents of her home town, make expected appearances. However, the most surprising of the bunch would be the Sindicato de Peones de Taxis… the taxi drivers’ union. I wonder what connections they had in order to obtain family permission to post a plaque:

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Eva Perón plaque

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Eva Perón plaque

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Eva Perón plaque

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Eva Perón plaque

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Eva Perón plaque

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Eva Perón plaque

Other family members also share the limited space. Eva’s brother, Juan Duarte, supposedly committed suicide, but several historians have proposed that he fell out of favor with Perón after Eva died… perhaps with Perón even ordering Juan’s murder. We will likely never know the truth:

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Juan Duarte plaques

Finally, three plaques are for Major Alfredo Arrieta, husband of Eva’s sister, Elisa. He retired from the military in 1938 then served as senator for the Province of Buenos Aires from 1946 until his death in 1950:

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Major Alfredo Arrieta plaques

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487. miguel estanislao soler

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Miguel Estanislao Soler

Promoted to the rank of general during the independence wars, Miguel Estanislao Soler switched hats between military officer & politician several times during the nation’s early years. Soler passed away in 1849, but his monument was erected in 1929 & paid for by the city of Buenos Aires. At the top of the column, places & dates of military campaigns tell visitors a bit about the man’s service to his country.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Miguel Estanislao Soler

But the statue—generally attributed to Torcuato Tasso—is breathtaking. Situated at the entrance gate, it is one of the first pieces of art seen by visitors. A few allegories are present: military action (the sword), victory (a wreath of laurel) & Argentina (shield with the nation’s coat-of-arms). Although it’s tempting to rush inside & wander the walkways of the cemetery, stop for a moment & examine this beautiful statue before diving in.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Miguel Estanislao Soler

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Miguel Estanislao Soler

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Miguel Estanislao Soler

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Miguel Estanislao Soler

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