Skip to content

Category: Urban legends

306. pedro benoit ◊

Pedro Benoit, Recoleta Cemetery

As one of the most important architects in Argentine history, Benoit is not recognized for the sheer number of buildings he constructed but instead for designing a city completely from scratch. Given the opportunity of a lifetime, Benoit was awarded the commission by Dardo Rocha to build the capital of the Province of Buenos Aires.

When Buenos Aires became the national capital & a separate federal unit, it had to relinquish control over an enormous area of land. This territory became the Province of Buenos Aires & needed its own capital city. Named La Plata, a site was chosen 30 km (17 mi) south of Buenos Aires & the foundation stone was laid in 1882. Benoit designed its grid plan criss-crossed by diagonals as well as most of the city’s government buildings & major churches:

Plano, Ciudad de La Plata

Catedral, La Plata

Obvious architecture/Masonic symbols & a plaque from the Comisión Pro-Templo in Mar del Plata hint to his social activities, both secular & religious:

Pedro Benoit, Recoleta Cemetery

Pedro Benoit, Recoleta Cemetery

If Benoit’s accomplishments weren’t enough, his father claimed to be the Dauphin—the last Bourbon king of France. Since the French Revolution it was widely believed that Louis XVII, son of Louis XVI & Marie Antoinette, was secretly removed from prison at a young age & a sick boy replaced him who later died. By way of Haiti, Louis XVII arrived in Buenos Aires under the pseudonym Pierre Benoit in 1818. Maybe.

Maintaining his supposed royal past a secret, Benoit served in the Argentine Navy, married, & had two sons… one of them named after him: Pedro Benoit. One day Pedro’s father received a childhood friend from France. Immediately afterwards, Benoit was noticeably shaken & his health took a turn for the worse. No one knows what was said between the two, but Pierre Benoit died within 24 hours. On his deathbed, he confessed to be Louis XVII. That would make Pedro, the architect son of Pierre, French royalty. Maybe.

Pedro Benoit, Recoleta Cemetery

Only recently has the fate of Louis XVII been settled. “The Lost King of France” by Deborah Cadbury (2002) chronicles the French Revolution & closely examined events afterwards. After the autopsy of  the sick boy in prison, his heart was removed & kept by a doctor with royal sympathies. Recently submitted for DNA testing, the heart proved to be of the same lineage as Marie Antoinette… confirming that the boy who died under horrible conditions in solitary confinement was indeed Louis XVII. No child had been substituted for the real Dauphin.

Regardless, Pedro Benoit is a legend in his own right for good urban planning… royalty or not. The vault was declared a National Historic Monument in 1983.

2 Comments

218. familia de luis dorrego indart ◊

Dorrego Indart, Recoleta Cemetery

On a winter morning in 1881, Felisa Dorrego de Miró received an unexpected letter at the family mansion in Buenos Aires. Full of eloquent prose & apologies, Felisa read that the cadaver of her recently deceased mother had been stolen from Recoleta Cemetery & a ransom of 2 million pesos was demanded in 24 hours for its return. Shocked & in spite of threats not to involve the police, Felisa reported the theft.

A big, bulky coffin would have been impossible to sneak out without someone noticing, so police deduced the casket must have been hidden somewhere inside the cemetery. Sure enough, a nearby tomb with a broken chain had the coffin of Felisa’s mom stuffed inside. With part of the mystery solved, the police captured the entire gang by paying the ransom & following the trail. The culprits were bored upper-class “gentlemen” looking for a bit of adventure.

Dorrego Indart, Recoleta Cemetery

Unfortunately no punishment existed on the books for the crime committed. Each member recevied two years in prison for related violations of the law, & in response a new law was added. Article 171 of the Argentine Penal Code still states that a sentence of 2 to 6 years will be given to anyone who steals a cadaver & demands a ransom for its return. Seriously.

Another interesting thing about this tomb is the sculpture. Copied from Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, the statue depicts the only demon in Recoleta Cemetery. A rather smug angel carries a soul to heaven while stomping on a devil with bat wings, a curly, gruesome tail & a pitchfork. No doubt who won this contest:

Dorrego Indart, Recoleta Cemetery

Leave a Comment

177. juan facundo quiroga ◊

Juan Facundo Quiroga, Recoleta Cemetery

Born in La Rioja, Quiroga received the nickname “Tiger of the Plains” based on his adeptness in battle. It was a skill needed during the troubled times of early independence from Spain when Argentina struggled to reach a consensus on national government.

When Argentina broke away from Spain & earned its independence in 1816, some people wanted to invite a European monarch to establish their own kingdom… sort of an Empire of the Río de la Plata. The idea isn’t far-fetched since Brazil was a separate Portuguese empire at the same time. But those in favor of a monarch didn’t have the majority.

The biggest issue centered on the role of Buenos Aires in the new nation, specifically the money it received from port taxes. Unitarios wanted Buenos Aires to become the capital city & keep all revenue from international trade. Opposing federales wanted a confederation—an alliance among equals—which would commit Buenos Aires to give other provinces access to their income. Definitely a touchy issue.

As the major port of the nation, foreign trade brought lots of money into Buenos Aires & exporters wanted to maintain the status quo. By placing the national capital in the same spot as the economic center, Federalists feared that the rest of Argentina would be neglected. In the end, the struggle over Confederation vs. Republic was settled in favor of Buenos Aires. Unitarian predictions came true as national growth has been skewed toward the capital ever since.

A strong supporter of BsAs, Quiroga thought that Rosas could resolve the conflict & pledged his support. But when Rosas began ruling Argentina like a monarch, Quiroga switched sides. Ignoring warnings of a conspiracy against his life, Quiroga was ambushed & killed in central Argentina. Eventually his remains were transferred to Recoleta Cemetery.

His place in history was guaranteed when future President Domingo Sarmiento wrote a harsh biography of Quiroga… still required reading in the Argentine curriculum. For Sarmiento, Quiroga embodied the stereotype of the gaucho: unable to think off his horse, wild, savage, & the opposite of progress. Not the most accurate of depictions, this image of Quiroga served to promote urban development at a time when Argentina needed guidance:

Sarmiento, Facundo, Recoleta Cemetery

Quiroga’s story is interesting but so is his tomb. Although weathered over time, the statue of Mary is a beautiful work of art made of Italian artist Antonio Tantardini. Note the delicate lacework details on her shawl. And yes, you’re seeing double. A miniature copy of this statue crowns the dome of another tomb nearby:

Juan Facundo Quiroga, Recoleta Cemetery

Juan Facundo Quiroga, Recoleta Cemetery

Legend claimed that the coffin of Quiroga was buried upright, perhaps so he would be one of the first out during the Second Coming of Christ. Excavations in 2004 confirmed his fate… Quiroga was indeed buried upright, hidden behind a wall underground. He was controversial enough that family & friends were afraid someone might break into the cemetery to deface his remains. Sure, it’s gruesome, but that’s one way to have the last word… when your opponent can’t fight back.

3 Comments

145. kavanagh

Kavanagh, Recoleta Cemetery

Anyone who has walked around Plaza San Martín in Buenos Aires should recognize this last name. Corina Kavanagh sold two family ranches when she was 39 years old to build Latin America’s first skyscraper. Completed in 1936, the Edificio Kavanagh represents a bold end to Art Deco & a new beginning for racionalismo, or Modernism as it is known in the US. 29 floors of reinforced concrete sit alongside the plaza & give the impression of a steamship inching through the urban landscape. Corina set aside the entire 14th floor for herself—the only floor with a single apartment—but for some unknown reason lived elsewhere in the building:

Edificio Kavanagh, Recoleta Cemetery

Edificio Kavanagh, Recoleta Cemetery

What inspired Corina to fund the construction? A legend exists that Corina fell in love with a son of the Anchorena family whose palatial residence also borders Plaza San Martín. But mom didn’t approve & made sure that her son broke it off with Corina.

Wanting revenge, Corina bought land in front of the Basílica del Santísimo Sacramento (meant to be the family mausoleum for the Anchorenas) & had the Kavanagh built so tall that the family wouldn’t be able to look out their windows to see the church. Sounds good but a little too good to be true. Since the Anchorena mom died in 1920 & the Kavanagh was built in 1936, the story is most likely someone’s invention. Corina passed away in 1984.

5 Comments

126. solari parravicini ◊

Solari Parravicini, Recoleta Cemetery

While the Parravicini tomb may not be the most elaborate, Benjamín made some astonishing predictions about world events. Whether you’re a believer or not, Parravicini is recognized as Argentina’s most accomplished psychic.

Born in 1898, Parravicini was surrounded by paranormal events his whole life. But in the 1930s he began to receive messages… he compared it to someone whispering in his ear. These voices guided him in something he termed “psychographies”—sketches drawn without any conscious thought. Devoutly Catholic & horrified by his apparent gift, he destroyed many of these drawings. But quite a few survived & a large percentage have become true. Events that Parravicini predicted include the development & use of the atomic bomb, the invention of television, the Cold War & even cloning.

The most recent & shocking event Parravicini predicted was the destruction of the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. Two of his drawings are surprisingly accurate. The first is a sketch of the Statue of Liberty dated 1939 with the following text: “The liberty of North America will lose its light. Its torch will no longer shine as it once did & the monument will be attacked two times.”

Another sketch shows a jumbled New York City skyline with the Statue of Liberty split into two separate towers. The crown appears to be an explosion. Critics would say that Parravicini wasn’t 100% accurate, but believers think that he merged the image of the Towers (not yet built) with that of the Statue of Liberty:

Solari Parravicini, Recoleta Cemetery

Intrigued? Doubtful? More biographical information & further predictions can be found here. Many of the events to come concern aliens: the discovery of an alien base on the dark side of the moon, alien visitors coming to obtain sea algae they need for food, & aliens will cure all of mankind’s diseases. It’s a much friendlier type of contact than “War of the Worlds” or “Independence Day” would have us believe.

Leave a Comment

092. juan alleno ◊

David Alleno, Recoleta Cemetery

Although this skinny, narrow mausoleum doesn’t stand out, an urban legend lurks inside. Peek through the door to find the sculpture of David Alleno—caretaker in Recoleta Cemetery from 1881 to 1910.

Like the caretakers of today, David had a certain sector which he maintained & apparently became obsessed over where his final resting place would be. Members of the Alleno family claim that David’s brother, Juan, had already purchased this plot for his family… perhaps that inspired David to be buried in Recoleta Cemetery as well. After saving over a lifetime, he was able to have a sculpture made of himself at work, complete with keys, broom & watering can:

David Alleno, Recoleta Cemetery

David Alleno, Recoleta Cemetery

Urban legend claims that when the sculpture arrived from Italy & was placed in the tomb, David was so eager to complete the project that he went home & committed suicide… knowing that he would soon rest in peace here. Whether the motive is true or not, David Alleno is now locked in with the elite residents of Recoleta Cemetery:

David Alleno, Recoleta Cemetery

Update (07 Nov 2010): Thanks to an investigation by Guada Aballe, we know a few more facts about the life of David Alleno… & she found photos too! One of the best resources for early 20th century Buenos Aires history is Caras & Caretas, a local magazine with political & social commentary. In the 10 Apr 1909 edition, Recoleta Cemetery workers were concerned about a change in administration. Various caretakers were photographed & David Alleno appeared in the article:

David Alleno, Recoleta Cemetery

David Alleno, Recoleta Cemetery

David Alleno spent 28 years working at Recoleta Cemetery & according to his death certificate—also amazingly uncovered by Guada—he passed away on 31 Aug 1915. The cause of death is listed as “trauma & cerebral contusion.” Of course whether or not the head injury was self-inflicted does not appear on the death certificate. But we’re one step closer to uncovering the truth behind the urban legend. Thanks, Guada!!

15 Comments