514. the guardian, best city blogs

16 Feb 2014

The Guardian, AfterLife recommendation

It’s nice to know that our years of research & coverage of Recoleta Cemetery have not gone unnoticed. We were recently contacted by the British newspaper The Guardian, expressing a desire to include this blog in a new project that they hope will be:

“a hub for fresh ideas, thoughtful discussion and brilliant writing about urban life and the future of cities around the world.”

Any chance to spread the word about Recoleta Cemetery is more than welcome. Their recommendations were published on 27 Jan 2014, & we are honored to be considered a leading voice on Buenos Aires. Gracias!

513. raimundo wilmart de glymes de hollebecque

21 Oct 2013

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Raimundo Wilmart de Glymes de Hollebecque

Tucked away in the seemingly infinite rows of mausoleums in the southern corner of the cemetery, the little information online about Raimundo Wilmart is as surprising as his full name is long.

Born in 1850 in Jodoigne-Souveraine, a small town in the center of Belgium, Wilmart arrived in Argentina at the age of 22. He had a single purpose: to visit the Asociación Internacional del Trabajo (AIT). Recently formed, the industrial union followed European principles based on ideas put forth by Marx & Engels. In short, Raimundo Wilmart came to Argentina to see if scientific socialism was being put into practice in Argentina.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Raimundo Wilmart de Glymes de Hollebecque

Wilmart had previously attended the 1872 AIT conference in The Hague where he was commissioned to travel to Argentina. Immediately after arrival, he scoped out the situation & wrote three letters to Marx. The Argentine AIT had 250 members at the time, but proletarian struggle failed to unite the group. Wilmart reported that the group constantly separated into national cliques, based on the immigrant’s country of origin. He even handed out free copies of Das Kapital but felt like no one ever read the book!

Disappointed, Wilmart planned to return to Europe but never did. After studying law in Córdoba, he moved up in social circles & became a judge in Mendoza. In 1899, Wilmart returned to Buenos Aires & joined the law school faculty. He even formed part of the committee which failed to approve the doctoral thesis of Socialist Alfredo Palacios… Wilmart made a 180º turn in his politics, supporting capitalism & failing to sympathize with factory workers.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Héctor de Glymes de Hollebecque

Wilmart visited his homeland in 1909, returned to Argentina & died in Buenos Aires in 1937. Letters he received from Karl Marx were lost forever, burned by his daughter in fear of tarnishing her father’s reputation.

512. julio dormal

06 Oct 2013

Mausoleo de San Martín, Catedral Metropolitana, Buenos Aires

Recognized Argentine architects like Julián García Núñez & Alejandro Christophersen helped build Recoleta Cemetery and were buried there as well. But surprisingly few burial sites for major architects are known today. Perhaps they shared a similar fate as that of Julio Dormal…

Born in 1846 in Liège (Belgium), Jules Dormal Godet arrived in Argentina after studying architecture in Paris. Early business deals failed but after settling in Buenos Aires in 1870, Dormal’s timing & contacts could not have been better. Sarmiento hired him to design a new park—Parque 3 de Febrero—previously occupied by the estate of the President’s arch-enemy, Juan Manuel de Rosas.

Many more projects followed. In fact, Dormal was responsible for several landmarks still visible today in Buenos Aires. He designed the tomb to house the remains of General San Martín inside the cathedral (top photo above). After the assassination of architect Victor Meano, he continued construction of the National Congress:

Buenos Aires, Congreso Nacional

Meano also left the Teatro Colón incomplete, so Dormal took over as well & designed much of the interior:

Buenos Aires, Teatro Colón

Buenos Aires, Teatro Colón, Jules Dormal

Buenos Aires, Teatro Colón, Jules Dormal

In following years, Dormal completed or executed from start to finish many of the aristocratic mansions in the northern sector of the city. The Palacio Pereda now houses the Brazilian embassy:

Buenos Aires, Palacio Pereda

Unfortunately many of those grand houses have since been demolished. But the residence for Julio Peña still stands on Calle Florida, now occupied by the Sociedad Rural Argentina. Non-members can get a peek at the luxury inside by going for lunch at the restaurant:

Buenos Aires, Palacio Julio Peña, Sociedad Rural Argentina, Julio Dormal

Buenos Aires, Palacio Julio Peña, Sociedad Rural Argentina, Julio Dormal

Not limited to only Buenos Aires, Dormal also built several notable structures in other cities. Perhaps his most emblematic work outside the capital is the very afrancesado Casa de Gobierno in La Plata:

La Plata, Casa de Gobierno, Julio Dormal

La Plata, Casa de Gobierno, Julio Dormal

La Plata, Casa de Gobierno, Julio Dormal

Dormal passed away in 1924 & was buried in Recoleta Cemetery inside the mausoleum belonging to his wife, Elena Sosa Díaz. But his remains were cremated in 1989 and, according to cemetery records, were likely placed inside the Dolmas Arévalo vault. Why? No one knows. However, neither the Sosa Díaz tomb nor that of Dolmas Arévalo exist today.

Hopefully Jules Dormal continues to rest in peace wherever he may be.

Photos of the Casa de Gobierno in La Plata courtesy of Marcelo Metayer.

511. valentín alsina

23 Sep 2013

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Valentín Alsina

Born in 1802—a few years before independence from Spain—Valentín Alsina studied law & obtained his first government post under the presidency of Bernardino Rivadavia. Short-lived, politics became much more complicated after Rosas took charge in 1829. Although Alsina formed part of the opposition to Rosas, he was protected by his father-in-law, Manuel Vicente Maza… an early Rosas supporter who switched sides & was eventually assassinated by Rosas’ troops.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Valentín Alsina

Arrested & imprisioned, Alsina managed to escape to Uruguay in 1837 where he continued to oppose Rosas in the newspapers, along with other exiles like his neighbor in Recoleta Cemetery, Florencio Varela. After the defeat of Rosas in 1852, Alsina returned to Buenos Aires to oppose Urquiza as well. He was elected Governor of Buenos Aires but served for only a brief period due to another uprising.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Valentín Alsina

The following year Alsina presided over the committee which adopted the first provincial constitution, separating Buenos Aires from the rest of Urquiza’s Confederación Argentina. During this period, he oversaw the opening of the first rail line in Argentina & brought back the remains of his former boss, President Rivadavia, for burial in Recoleta Cemetery.

After winning the 1859 Battle of Cepeda, Urquiza forced Buenos Aires to join the confederacy & Alsina had to step down. But he continued in government & occupied the top spot in the national Senate where Valentín sweared in his son, Adolfo Alsina, as Vice-President under Domingo Faustino Sarmiento. He passed away soon after in 1869. Of his numerous contributions to Argentina, Alsina is probably best known for being the first director of the provincial institution which would later become the National Library as well as the author of the nation’s first penal code.

Alsina’s statue by Belgian sculptor Jacques de Braekeleer shines after a thorough cleaning in 2011:

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Valentín Alsina

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Valentín Alsina

Update (19 Aug 2014): The Biblioteca Digital Trapalanda (part of the Biblioteca Nacional) recently made the following image from 1876 by photographer Christiano Junior available. Wish those trees were still around!

Valentín Alsina, Christiano Junior, Biblioteca Digital Trapalanda

510. j. rodolfo bernasconi y familia

09 Sep 2013

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, J. Rodolfo Bernasconi

For such a wealthy businessman, little information is available online about Juan Rodolfo Bernasconi. Born in Buenos Aires in 1869, he studied in Switzerland, married María Luisa Pini Leonardi & had four children. Most of his money came from agriculture, especially the successful company Bycla which produced blends of cooking oil:

ByCla aceite combestible, J. Rodolfo Bernasconi

As far as my research could ascertain, Bernasconi was not related to Félix Bernasconi of the famous institute founded in Parque Patricios. Then again, there were lots of Bernasconis in Argentina at the time… a very common last name. Most surprising is the interior decoration. Very well-maintained, someone should research the family coat-of-arms:

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, J. Rodolfo Bernasconi

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, J. Rodolfo Bernasconi

509. otto krause

26 Aug 2013

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Otto Krause

Born in 1856, Otto Krause grew up in Chivilcoy, a town about two hours west of Buenos Aires. Both his parents arrived from Prussia & worked hard to make the small town grow. Sarmiento spoke at the opening of a local church in 1857 & impressed Krause’s father so much that newborn twins were christened with the names Domingo & Faustino!

Education—a central theme in the life of Krause—took him to Buenos Aires where he graduated from the School of Exact Sciences. Afterwards he became one of Argentina’s first civil engineers with a dissertation about railroad traction. It got him noticed & was soon hired to work on several sections of Argentina’s rapidly expanding rail network. Krause even designed the railway workshops in Tolosa for the Ferrocarril del Sud… not as grand as those in Remedios de Escalada but useful until the 1940s when engineers designed a new, modern steam engine there.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Otto Krause, stained glass

After several years of teaching at the University of Buenos Aires, Krause established a high school focused on training students for industrial careers. He saw the rapid development of German technical know-how as a model for Argentina’s future. Krause also began reformulating curriculums all over the nation, as well as traveling to Europe to investigate the newest tech schools. In 1909 he was named director of the Escuela Industrial de la Nación & inaugurated the new building in Buenos Aires:

Escuela Industrial de la Nación Otto Krause

Escuela Industrial de la Nación Otto Krause

Krause continued to work in various government capacities until his death in 1920. The school he helped found adopted his name in 1925, & many important figures have since studied there such as architect Alejandro Bustillo. The school even had Luis Perlotti as Art Director for several years in the 1940s.