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Category: Science

398. familia federico r. leloir ◊

Luis Federico Leloir, Recoleta Cemetery

Family founder Federico Augusto Rufino Leloir Bernal possessed a large land fortune along the southern coast of the Buenos Aires Province. He & his wife traveled to Paris in 1906 for medical reasons, but unfortunately Federico passed away. One week later, Luis Federico was born… the last of five siblings.

Luis Federico Leloir without doubt became the most famous member of the family. His 1949 discoveries in biochemisty led to a Nobel Prize in 1970. Leloir & his team were the first to identify nucleotide sugars which are instrumental in accumulating energy stores in the human body:

UDP, Leloir

Ten years after his initial discovery, Leloir found that nucleotide sugars are responsible for transferring sugars to molecules which grow to an immense size & become glycogen… seemingly endless chains of glucose waiting to be broken down to provide energy:

glycogen molecule

As his studies progressed, Leloir proved that human biosynthesis is not merely a reversal of breakdown, as had been assumed earlier. On the contrary, they are distinct processes. Leloir’s principle was also shown to be valid with proteins and nucleic acids, leading to discoveries about organ donor rejection & lactose intolerance. Leloir passed away in 1987, five years after receiving a cross from the French Legion of Honor.

The family vault, built in 1906 with opulent Art Nouveau decoration, is one of the tallest in the cemetery:

Luis Federico Leloir, Recoleta Cemetery

What distinguishes the mausoleum are its mosaics. The underneath side of the dome is decorated with an image of Christ surrounded by angels. The mosaic can be seen from the interior of the mausoleum through a skylight… Christ appears dramatically overhead:

Luis Federico Leloir, Recoleta Cemetery

Luis Federico Leloir, Recoleta Cemetery

Luis Federico Leloir, Recoleta Cemetery

The interior is also lavishly decorated with mosaics & Art Nouveau imagery… press your nose to the glass for a look inside:

Luis Federico Leloir, Recoleta Cemetery

Leloir also has one other claim to fame: the invention of a condiment. He came up with salsa golf at the Golf Club at the seaside resort of Mar del Plata. Basically a combination of mayonnaise & ketchup, it remains a popular, non-spicy alternative to cocktail sauce & a key ingredient of a local salad made with hearts of palm.

Like Art Nouveau? Learn about the architects of the era, their individual styles & what makes Art Nouveau in Buenos Aires so unique with a 33-page guide from our sister site, Endless Mile.

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392. familia de luis a. huergo

Luis Huergo, Recoleta Cemetery

Born in Buenos Aires in 1837, Luis Huergo completed his high school education in Maryland, USA then went on to become the first civil engineer to graduate from an Argentine university. He coordinated the construction of bridges throughout the Province of Buenos Aires with British assistance, built sections of new railroad, & improved the infrastructure of a growing nation.

Although he served as a Senator in the 1870’s as well as Dean of what eventually became the Engineering faculty, Huergo is most remembered for a project he never completed: a new cargo port for Buenos Aires. He had already deepened the exit for the shallow Riachuelo, allowing transatlantic liners to enter directly. It was only natural for Huergo to be part of a design contest for the new port.

Luis Huergo, Recoleta Cemetery

Huergo had some tough competition & an alternative plan was proposed by local merchant Eduardo Madero. Madero’s design was accepted over Huergo’s with ships entering through the southern canal, loading & unloading goods in any of four dykes, then exiting north. By the time Puerto Madero was inaugurated in 1897, it was obsolete. Madero’s design did not allow expansion of any kind… much needed when ships were growing larger & larger. Congestion was a considerable problem during Puerto Madero’s heydey with an amazing 32,000 embarkations made in 1910 alone:

Port designs, Luis Huergo & Eduardo Madero

To add capacity to Puerto Madero, Huergo’s design was reworked in 1907 & completed by 1919. The in-and-out design of Puerto Nuevo is more efficient & continues to function as the current port for Buenos Aires. All cruise & container ships dock there, & a gigantic plaque to Huergo highlights his biggest BA contribution:

Luis Huergo, Recoleta Cemetery

Luis Huergo, Recoleta Cemetery

Huergo’s son, Eduardo, also became an engineer & was responsible for the rectification of the Riachuelo. Those curves were replaced by a straight line in Eduardo beginning around 1927:

Eduardo Huergo, Recoleta Cemetery

At the age of 73, Luis Huergo formed part of a national commission dedicated to petroleum exploitation in Patagonia. He advocated government control to avoid the emergence of monopolies like Standard Oil while Dr. Pedro Arata, also part of the five-member board, thought private companies would be a better option. Huergo won in the end as the commission transformed into Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales, remaining a state-run company until 1991. Huergo passed away in 1913 & left a legacy which remains apparent even 100 years after his death.

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308. toribio de ayerza ◊

Toribio de Ayerza, Recoleta Cemetery

Looming along the back wall of the cemetery, the memorial for Toribio de Ayerza stands out for its oversized sculptures & the surrounding greenery… quite different from the norm in Recoleta Cemetery. Toribio surely saw a lot of sleepless nights, & his bust reflects that. The accompanying angel gazes innocently toward the heavens:

Toribio de Ayerza, Recoleta Cemetery

Toribio de Ayerza, Recoleta Cemetery

A Basque doctor who trained in Madrid & Paris, Ayerza arrived in Argentina in 1845 & brought with him the trachaeotomy—instrumental in relieving symptoms of diphtheria in children. The bacteria responsible for the disease causes thick mucous membranes to form in the airway. By inserting a tube in the windpipe, the patient gains valuable time for other treatment to be administered. Symbols of Ayerza’s profession & those children he helped decorate the lower part of the tomb:

Toribio de Ayerza, Recoleta Cemetery

Toribio de Ayerza, Recoleta Cemetery

Along with Guillermo Rawson, Ayerza founded the Argentine Red Cross in 1880 but his public activities weren’t solely dedicated to medicine. As part of a growing Basque community in Buenos Aires, he also helped found Laurak-Bat—a Basque club with a restaurant that remains popular today (Avenida Belgrano 1169). The name translates to “the four are one,” meaning that the four Basque regions of Gipuzkoa, Bizkaia, Araba & Nafarroa share a common identity. The four individual coats-of-arms are combined on the front of the building along with a Basque flag:

Laurak Bat, Buenos Aires

Laurak Bat, Buenos Aires

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304. arata

Pedro Arata, Recoleta Cemetery

A little bit of Egypt in Argentina, several members of the Arata family are buried here but none as recognized as Pedro Narciso Arata. The unfinished pyramid implies the same symbolism as a truncated column: a life ended with many tasks undone. Freemason fanatics shouldn’t get too excited; Arata died the same year that Tutankhamun’s tomb was discovered (1922) & Egyptian design had become fashionable.

Born in Buenos Aires in 1849 & related to the wealthy Unzué clan, Arata’s early years of school were in Paris. Naturally. He returned to Argentina for high school & university, tutoring many of his classmates in science including future President Roque Sáenz Peña. Arata quickly became part of the scientific elite & enrolled in medical school while teaching at the Faculty of Exact Sciences. Combining his knowledge chemistry & medicine in the improvement of city hygiene, Arata created the Municipal Chemical Office in 1883:

Pedro Arata, Recoleta Cemetery

On closer inspection, the left side reveals a faint image of a woman & child doing some sort of chemistry with a snake eager to participate. Crudely etched on the the bottom is a Latin phrase “Alii quidem equos am ant, alii oves, alii feros; mihi vero a puerulo mirandum acquirendi et possidendi libros insedit desiderium.” Fourth century Roman emperor Julian placed this quotation over every library he opened & obviously refers to Arata’s work to expand the University of Buenos Aires:

Arata became Dean of the School of Agriculture & Veterinary Sciences (Facultad de Agronomía) in 1904. His massive library of 60,000 books eventually became part of the university’s collection & a train station named after him greets students today. The campus occupies a huge section of the city, complete with horses & llamas:

Facultad de Agronomía, Buenos Aires

For all his accomplishments, Arata’s political beliefs tended toward the conservative as evidenced by a dedicatory plaque from the Liga Patriótica Argentina… maybe there is a bit of Masonic influence in the design after all:

Pedro Arata, Recoleta Cemetery

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293. octavio bunge

Octavio Bunge, Recoleta Cemetery

The wealthy & prolific Bunge family have several vaults scattered around the cemetery. Finding where each family member is buried can be a challenge. Two plaques on this tomb are dedicated to Carlos Octavio Bunge, one of Argentina’s most recognized sociologists. He applied Darwin’s theory of evolution to Latin American societies & their struggles with modernization. Carlos passed away in 1918. A single plaque pays homage to another important family member also buried here:

Jorge Bunge, Recoleta Cemetery

Born in San Isidro, Jorge Bunge completed art & architecture studies in Germany thanks to a government grant. On his return, Bunge built numerous residential high-rises in Buenos Aires. His most visible work was the main site for the Banco Francés in the banking district downtown. With one of the largest domes around, beautiful Beaux-Arts details often go unnoticed during hectic business hours. Go on the weekend for a better look:

Banco Francés, La City, Buenos Aires

Banco Francés, La City, Buenos Aires

Another Bunge building in BA is the former Cristalerías Rigolleau factory on Paseo Colón. Although utilitarian & less decorative, Bunge included relief panels depicting various stages of glassmaking. Unfortunately this structure has been chopped into a parking garage & a hamburger joint today:

Cristalerías Rigolleau, Buenos Aires

Bunge is most remembered for a project 370 km south of Buenos Aires. He, his friend Rigolleau & other wealthy investors created the seaside resort town Pinamar. The original landowner had always wanted to plant pine trees near the sandy dunes & in 1941 Bunge made it work. Thanks to helpful weather conditions & quick construction, Pinamar received its first tourists in 1943 & remains very popular today for summer vacation. Marcelo has been often & offered the following photos:

Pinamar

Pinamar

Pinamar

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277. josé pérez mendoza ◊

José Pérez Mendoza, Recoleta Cemeter

One of the few structures in Recoleta Cemetery shaped like a pyramid & often attributed to Masonic origins, the story of the José Pérez Mendoza is much more interesting than any supposed secret society membership.

Egyptian motifs are likely due to the style of the era—late Art Deco—since Mendoza passed away in 1937. One of the plaques clarifies his contribution to porteño society: founder of the Sarmiento Animal Protection Society:

José Pérez Mendoza, Recoleta Cemeter

Named after President Sarmiento who supported the first animal rights laws in Argentina, the 1902 society began to care for abandoned & overworked animals. Located on the 600 block of Santiago del Estero, the building is surprisingly still standing… and still operating. The ground floor has been completely altered & now houses a mini-market/garage while the upper floor seems to house the office portion:

Sociedad Protectora de Animales Sarmiento

Sociedad Protectora de Animales Sarmiento

They offer basic services such as education, adoption, spaying, neutering & often collaborate with the School of Veterinary Sciences in the neighborhood of Agronomía.

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