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Category: Science

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

View third photo larger on Flickr.

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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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262. francisco javier muñiz ◊

Francisco Muñiz, Recoleta Cemetery

Born in 1795 in what are now the northern suburbs of Buenos Aires, Francisco Javier Muñiz dedicated his life to serving Argentina & became one of its first internationally acclaimed scientists.

Muñiz was only 12 years old when the British invaded for the second time in 1807. Although technically too young to fight, he defended the city & received a bullet wound in his left leg… this seemed to foreshadow a lifelong involvement with the military. He opted to study medicine at the age of 19 when Cosme Argerich opened the Instituto Médico-Militar in 1814 to train surgeons for military service. Muñiz remained under the tutelage of Argerich until transferring to the medical school at the newly-created University of Buenos Aires in 1822.

His first major assignment came under Coronel Juan Lavalle in early campaigns to take territory from the indigenous population. Muñiz did more than lead the medical unit; he studied customs of the indigenous people & made his first forays in natural history. The 1826 war with Brazil took Muñiz to foreign lands where he was ordered by General Alvear to accompany Lavalle’s troops once again. Lavalle took a bullet in the leg, & Muñiz was fortunately there to save him. Returning to Argentina, Muñiz received multiple honors.

Francisco Muñiz, Recoleta Cemetery

In 1828 Muñiz married & settled down in Luján, just west of Buenos Aires. Better for his health & given the opportunity to engage in scientific study, Muñiz put to practice everything he had learned while on the battlefield. His most significant contribution to Argentina was being the first to use cowpox serum as a vaccination against smallpox. In fact, Muñiz experimented at the same time as Edward Jenner… his results granted Muñiz membership in the Royal Jennerian Society.

Francisco Muñiz, Recoleta Cemetery

Living in Luján also gave Muñiz time to pursue his other great interest: paleontology. During his first service with Lavalle, Muñiz discovered remains of a glyptodont… the first ever recovered. A 10,000 year-old version of today’s armadillo, glyptodonts resembled a mix between a beaver & a turtle & some were as big as a Volkswagen Beetle. Similar fossils have been uncovered in Buenos Aires while building new subway stations. Displays can be found on the D Line (Juramento) & on the B Line (Tronador):

Glyptodont fossil, Subte, Juramento station

Unfortunately Muñiz did not publicly document his discovery & a French explorer 13 years later took credit for finding a new species. Undeterred, Muñiz received praise for sending 11 boxes of fossil specimens to Paris & even corresponded occasionally with Charles Darwin. Darwin wrote to Muñiz in 1847:

Your pamphlet on the scarlet fever I will present to the Royal College of Surgeons. I cannot adequately say how much I admire your continued zeal, situated as you are without means of pursuing your scientific studies and without people to sympathise with you, for the advancement of natural history; I trust that the pleasure of your pursuits affords you some reward for your exertions.

Francisco Muñiz, Recoleta Cemetery

Muñiz eventually returned to Buenos Aires where he directed the medical school & served as a member in both houses of Congress until the start of the War of the Triple Alliance. Even though he was 70 years old, Muñiz offered to go to the front lines. When refused, he disguised himself as a peasant, took surgical equipment & went anyway. Muñiz remained in northern Argentina fighting a cholera epidemic until his wife passed away in 1868.

Francisco Muñiz, Recoleta Cemetery

Returning once again to Buenos Aires, Muñiz officially retired but decided to come to the rescue once again when a massive outbreak of yellow fever hit the city in 1871. Catching yellow fever himself, Muñiz became one of the 14,000 casualties. After his death, the private collection of Muñiz became the foundation of the Museum of Natural Sciences located in Parque Centenario in the neighborhood of Caballito:

Museo de Ciencias Naturales, Caballito

The crypt became a National Historic Monument in 1946. The enormous sculpture of a woman holding the rod of Asclepius in one hand & a sword in the other (medicine + military) was Ettore Ximenez—the same Roman sculptor responsible for Manuel Belgrano’s tomb in the patio of the Iglesia de Santo Domingo:

Francisco Muñiz, Recoleta Cemetery

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