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Category: Education

283. petronila rodríguez

Petronila Rodríguez, Recoleta Cemetery

As a descendant of Nicolás Rodríguez Peña, Petronila inherited four centrally located city blocks in Buenos Aires. On her death in 1882, she willed the entire lot to the city government with very specific instructions. A church should be built as well as an attached Catholic school & a separate, 3-story school for 700 girls complete with a museum, library & other rooms decided to teaching art, music & science.

The wishes of Petronila were fulfilled & all the requested buildings constructed. The enormous girls’ school was occupied briefly by the Supreme Court until becoming the Ministry of Education in 1903. Not far from the busy intersection of Avenidas Córdoba & Callao, the Ministry became popularly known as the Palacio Pizzurno for 3 brothers who improved education in Argentina:

Palacio Pizzurno, Buenos Aires

Palacio Pizzurno, Buenos Aires

Petronila’s school eventually found a home in the distant neighborhood of Parque Chas in 1934 where it continues to function today:

Escuela Petronila Rodríguez, Parque Chas

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251. emma nicolay de caprile ◊

Emma Nicolay de Caprile, Recoleta Cemetery

One of the most under-investigated periods of Argentine history—fundamental to its growth as a nation—may receive more attention thanks to a book recently published by Julio Crespo. “Las Maestras de Sarmiento” recounts the story of US teachers who were given grants to come to Argentina & found schools, give women the opportunity to be educated & train others to follow in their footsteps.

Prior to Domingo Sarmiento’s election as President, Mitre nominated him to represent Argentina in the US in 1865… just after the assassination of Lincoln. Sarmiento’s contact with the intellectual elite, most notably Horace Mann, inspired him to replicate American system of free, public education in Argentina. When he became President in 1868, Sarmiento encouraged US teachers to help him make his dream a reality.

Although he wanted 1,000, only 65 teachers arrived (61 of which were women). Among them was one of Polish descent, Emma Nicolay de Caprile. Arriving in 1870, de Caprile became the first director of the Escuela Normal de Maestras de la Provincia de Buenos Aires located in Barracas on the Cambacérès estate. By 1880, the school had a new location in Recoleta on Avenida Córdoba & Riobamba, just opposite the Palacio de Aguas Corrientes:

Escuela Normal de Maestras, Recoleta

When de Caprile passed away in 1884, even Sarmiento attended her funeral & this crypt was declared a National Historic Monument in 1982. She helped introduce modern education methods & trained a generation of respected teachers. The sculpture by Lucio Correa Morales is particularly evocative:

Emma Nicolay de Caprile, Recoleta Cemetery

Emma Nicolay de Caprile, Recoleta Cemetery

For more info about how US teachers shaped Argentina’s future, a synopsis of Crespo’s work can be found in the newspaper Página/12 (in Spanish).

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246. another dellepiane

Dellepiane, Recoleta Cemetery

As if the first & second Dellepiane weren’t enough, a third vault with an Art Deco-inspired door can also be found… plaques mention a Luis F. Dellepiane who worked in the Colegio Nacional Central:

Dellepiane, Recoleta Cemetery

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245. dellepiane

Antonio Dellepiane, Recoleta Cemetery

Lots of Dellepiane tombs are scattered through the cemetery, but this vault holds two of the most important family members. Antonio Dellepiane chose not to practice law after graduating with honors & much praise in 1892. Instead, he focused on education in criminology. As first professor of the newly-established Sociology department at the Universidad de Buenos Aires, Antonio traveled to Europe to bring back the latest theories & teachings to Argentina.

Several books & faculty positions later, Antonio excelled in another field: history. In the early 1920s, he was named Director of the Museo Histórico Nacional & used his position to write several historical biographies. With access to original documentation, Antonio discovered the lives of two important women, María Sánchez de Thompson & Carmen Nóbrega de Avellaneda (wife of President Nicolás Avellaneda). He passed away in 1939 & a plaque was donated by master sculptor Rogelio Yrurtia on the first anniversary of his death:

Antonio Dellepiane, Recoleta Cemetery

During the 1919 Semana Trágica, Lieutenant General Luis J. Dellepiane restored order to Buenos Aires after a metalworkers’ union strike spiraled out of control. He had previously been in charge of the city’s police force after the 1909 assassination of Ramón Falcón & remained in that position until 1912. By 1919, Luis had assumed command of the Second Division of the Argentine army stationed in Campo de Mayo. Luis marched his troops into Buenos Aires to engage striking workers at the request of the Minister of War. Violence continued & almost 1,000 people died in the most violent social uprising ever seen in the city.

Luis would later be appointed Minister of War during Hipólito Yrigoyen’s second term & resigned when fellow general José Félix Uriburu ousted the President in 1930. Oddly enough, Luis also studied to be a civil engineer & did the first geodetic studies of Argentina. Only two plaques commemorate Luis, none of which mention his role in the Semana Trágica:

Luis J. Dellepiane, Recoleta Cemetery

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170. familia pizzurno

Familia Pizzurno, Recoleta Cemetery

Another vault tucked away in the middle of a narrow walkway, the Pizzurno family reformed the education system in Argentina at the turn of the 20th century. Pablo Pizzurno, born in Buenos Aires in 1865, reached a professional limit at home so went to Europe to learn more about education there. After visiting several countries, Pablo returned to Argentina & implemented major changes: a focus on manual tasks, physical education classes, field trips, music recitals… in short, anything to make the student an active participant in their own education.

Appointed Inspector General of secondary education, more reforms began in 1900. Pablo Pizzurno eventually occupied top education positions in a number of provinces throughout Argentina & spread his ideas further. After publishing several books & teaching others about his experience, Pablo passed away in 1940. Most of the plaques on the family tomb are accordingly late Art Deco:

Familia Pizzurno, Recoleta Cemetery

Familia Pizzurno, Recoleta Cemetery

Apart from Pablo, brothers Juan Tomás & Carlos Higinio were also educators. In honor of their collective contribution to Argentina, the one-block street in front of the national Ministry of Culture & Education is named after them:

Calle Pizzurno plaque

It’s an appropriate honor. The building which houses the Ministry was built in the 1880s by request of Petronila Rodríguez de Rojas as a primary girls’ school for 700 students… the largest private grant to Argentina at the time. It served as a school only for a few years before being occupied by the Supreme Court until their building was complete on Plaza Lavalle. Afterwards, it became home to the Ministry of Education. Often referred to as the Palacio Pizzurno, it’s hard to miss. The exterior remains spectacular in spite of both interior & exterior modifications:

Palacio Pizzurno

Palacio Pizzurno

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