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Category: Military

436. general enrique mosconi

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, General Enrique Mosconi

Born in Buenos Aires in 1877, Enrique Mosconi spent a couple of years during childhood in Europe but his family eventually returned to Argentina. After finishing elementary school, Mosconi enrolled in the national military academy & graduated at the age of 17. Typical of the era, the military was becoming more professional & Mosconi decided to study in civil engineering. Graduating in 1903, he was sent to learn about energy & communications in Europe & brought the best technology back to Argentina.

In spite of his early contributions, Mosconi would be most remembered for his next assignment beginning in 1922: General Director of Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales (YPF)… Argentina’s state-run petroleum company. Although not an expert in the field at first, Mosconi did his best to improve working conditions in Comodoro Rivadavia where the first discoveries had been made in 1907. Becoming highly influential & respected, Mosconi had the ear of President Marcelo T. de Alvear & usually received anything he requested. As a result, YPF grew as a company & demonstrated that Argentines had the capability to manage every aspect of the petroleum industry… from perforation to refinement.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Enrique Mosconi

Early during his gestion, conflicts rose between Mosconi & companies such as Standard Oil & Royal Dutch Shell. He was determined to keep Argentine oil out of the hands of foreign trusts. Mosconi traveled to many countries in Latin America, where several state-run companies similar to YPF eventually formed, much to his credit. One plaque reminds visitors of Mosconi’s defiance:

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Enrique Mosconi

A few days after the military coup which ousted President Hipólito Yrigoyen in 1930, Mosconi resigned from YPF. Several key government positions were filled with people friendly to foreign oil trusts, & some historians think the coup could have been partially supported by Mosconi’s enemies. Perhaps because of this, Mosconi disappeared from the scene. Despite a stroke which left him partially paralyzed, he traveled extensively & wrote influential books about the petroleum industry, winning many awards abroad for his ideas.

Mosconi passed away in 1940 while living with his older sisters & had only a few pesos to his name. His crypt is a wonderful monument to mid-20th century art, built with YPF funds. Although Mosconi may not have increased production to the extent he projected, he took a marginally run company & made it a source of national pride. No doubt Mosconi would have been horrified if he could have seen into the future when YPF was purchased for U$S 15 billion in 1999 by the Spanish company Repsol.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Enrique Mosconi

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430. julio argentino roca ◊

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Julio Argentino Roca

Few figures in Argentine history have been as influential or as controversial. Everyone seems to have an opinion about Julio Argentino Roca.

Born in 1843 in Tucumán, his military career began at an early age. Roca enlisted when only 15 years old & fought in several decisive battles during the years of national organization. Under the presidency of Bartolomé Mitre, Roca fought in the War of the Triple Alliance & later proved his loyalty to the nation during an attempted coup. Thanks to this action, President Avellaneda promoted Roca to General in his early 30s. He also appointed Roca as his Minister of War after the death of Adolfo Alsina. What a quick rise to power.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Julio Argentino Roca

Roca fought one final battle before retiring his sword. Alsina had made scant progress in controlling the indigenous population, & the issue demanded attention. Roca’s solution was to kill as many as possible while the rest were taken captive. Roca effectively conquered the desert. It was a move that made later generations dislike Roca as well as launched him into national politics. He became the next President, having expanded national territory & resolving a “problem” which had plagued Argentina for decades. Roca’s monument in downtown Buenos Aires is often covered with unflattering graffiti & red paint to symbolize the blood spilled:

Buenos Aires, Monserrat, Diagonal Sur, Monumento a Roca

Once in office, Roca settled another important issue: Buenos Aires became the official capital of Argentina. And not to leave controversy behind, Roca promoted adoption of a series of laws to take several functions out of the hands of the Catholic church. With Sarmiento as Director of the National Board of Education, primary school became free & public, no longer dependent on the church. Acceptance of marriage by civil service also caused some conflict with Rome. In economics, Roca promoted the export of raw materials & large amounts of foreign investment.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Julio Argentino Roca

After Roca’s term ended in 1886, he had no desire to retire. Serving several terms as Senator, Roca became one of the key figures behind the scenes during the 1890 Revolution. Always maintaining important connections & positions of power, Roca attained the presidency for a second term in 1898. During this time, Minister of War Pablo Riccheri instituted obligatory military service & Navy Minister Comodoro Rivadavia helped Roca negotiate peace with Chile over border disputes in 1902. That same year, Luis María Drago published his influential doctrine while serving as Minister of Foreign Relations.

Roca’s later years are complex & raise quite a few questions. Serving as ambassador to Brazil for President Sáenz Peña, Roca spent much time away from Argentina. He was oddly absent from centennial celebrations in 1910. In 1914 while on one of his estates in Córdoba province, Roca passed away suddenly after a coughing fit at the age of 71.

The tomb was declared a National Historic Monument in 1946. There is no doubt that Roca made some of the most important decisions in Argentina’s history, although by what some consider questionable methods. But his legacy can’t be escaped—Roca’s Conquest of the Desert decorates the reverse side of the old 100 peso bill!

100 peso note, Roca

Interior photo courtesy of Mike De Ghetto. Thanks!

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427. aramburu ◊

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Aramburu

Designed by architect Alejandro Bustillo, the crypt of Pedro Aramburu occupies a very important spot: the end of the cemetery’s main axis & at the feet of President Carlos Pelligrini. Intended to inspire, one of the quotes on the side of the tomb reads:

El progreso, fundamento del bienestar general, es obra de los pueblos y resultado de la riqueza justamente distribuida.

Progress, the foundation of general well-being, is the work of the people & the result of equal distribution of wealth.

Furthermore, an entire series of values is represented around the entire crypt. Included are depictions of Justice, Austerity, Liberty & Equality:

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Aramburu

Pedro Aramburu became the de facto President after the Revolución Libertadora & the brief, 50-day term of Eduardo Lonardi. He governed from 1955 to 1958. Democracy returned after Aramburu left office, but the political & economic situation in Argentina was a disaster in the 1960’s. Periods of military rule alternated with democratically elected leaders like a revolving door. Aramburu even ran unsuccessfully for President in 1963… fate had something else planned for him.

An organization known as the Montoneros formed in the late 1960’s as a Catholic, pro-Perón paramilitary group. Perón backed their terrorist actions… at least while he remained in Spain. In their very first public act—the Montonero debut on the political scene—they kidnapped Aramburu from his Barrio Norte apartment (Montevideo 1053, original building now demolished, a supermarket built in its place).

Disguised as fellow military personnel & claiming the need to take him to a safe haven, in reality they questioned him about the location of Eva’s remains & held him responsible for anti-Perón actions while in office. Aramburu revealed nothing about Eva & paid a heavy price. He was shot & left dead in a field in 1970, to be buried later in Recoleta Cemetery.

General Pedro Aramburu, Recoleta Cemetery

Aramburu’s corpse was stolen from Recoleta Cemetery in 1974 by the same group who murdered him & later recovered by authorities near Parque Las Heras. For the rest of the story, read “The Return of Aramburu“… truth is definitely stranger than fiction.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Aramburu

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416. carlos pellegrini ◊

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Carlos Pellegrini

As son of highly educated Swiss immigrants, there is little surprise that Carlos Pellegrini grew up with an advantage. Schooled by family members, his talent for language & expression would serve him well in the future.

After attending law school for two years, Pellegrini put his studies on hold to fight in the War of the Triple Alliance in Paraguay, returned to finish his degree & began a life in politics. Pellegrini served in both houses of Congress before becoming Vice-President under Miguel Juárez Celman in 1886.

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Carlos Pellegrini

Argentina faced troubled times during Pellegrini’s lifetime. Buenos Aires began receiving millions of European immigrants. As the population soared, so did national debt. Arrival of a large workforce helped the economy expand at first, but infrastructure demands led to an economic & social crisis. While Pelligrini was in office, foreign debt doubled, salaries dropped, unemployment grew & strikes were commonplace. The fact that President Juárez Celman continued the upper class tradition of electoral fraud made matters even worse.

The violent 1890 Revolution removed Juárez Celman from power, & Pellegrini became President. Although in office for only two years, conditions improved so much that Argentines attributed him with navigating the country through the storm.

Carlos Pellegrini, Recoleta Cemetery

Further contributions by Pelligrini include founding the Jockey Club, an elite social organization for horseracing fans which became a symbol of the oligarchy’s hold on the country. As its first President, references can be found everywhere on the vault. A bronze relief at eye level depicts the Jockey Club façade on Florida Street before it was burned to the ground in 1953 by Perón supporters. No doubt this hatred prevented Pellegrini’s tomb from being declared a National Historic Monument in 1946… that would have to wait until 1964:

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Carlos Pellegrini, Jockey Club

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Carlos Pellegrini, Jockey Club

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Carlos Pellegrini, Jockey Club

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Carlos Pellegrini, Jockey Club

Pellegrini also established the Banco de la Nación, helping strengthen Argentina’s fiscal policy & consolidate national debt. The main branch on Plaza de Mayo would later be constructed by Alejandro Bustillo:

Banco de la Nación, Plaza de Mayo, Alejandro Bustillo

Although without doubt a defender of the upper class, Pellegrini began to understand the need for incorporating other groups in the political process. In part, it was this realization that drove him away from former ally President Roca… also the fact that Pellegrini fought hard in Congress to get Roca’s foreign debt consolidation loan approved which Roca later withdrew without consulting Pellegrini. Passing away in 1906 at the age of 59, today he is remembered mainly for encouraging industrial progress & electoral reform.

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Carlos Pellegrini

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413. homenaje a guillermo brown

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Guillermo Brown

Although Admiral Guillermo (William) Brown died on 03 Mar 1857, Navy officials waited until St. Patrick’s Day to perform a memorial service. Students from Irish Catholic schools were present as was the current Irish ambassador to Argentina, James McIntyre (center, with glasses, in the row of five people below).

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Guillermo Brown

The ceremony lasted about 15 minutes as a military band played both the Argentina & Ireland national anthems & a wreath was laid at the base of Brown’s tomb:

The last piece played by the band was “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes. In spite of the fact that none of Brown’s descendants participated in the ceremony, it is commendable that 154 years after Brown’s death, the country paid homage to one of its most important immigrants… very nice to see.

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Guillermo Brown

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Guillermo Brown

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396. familia del carril ◊

Salvador María del Carril, Recoleta Cemetery

A gigantic mausoleum commemorates the life of Salvador María del Carril, an important figure in the early days of Argentine history. Born in San Juan in 1798, Del Carril studied law & moved to Buenos Aires to participate in national politics. He firmly supported President Rivadavia & encouraged General Juan Lavalle to shoot his childhood friend, Manuel Dorrego, thinking it would prevent civil war. It didn’t.

Salvador María del Carril, Recoleta Cemetery

Del Carril lived in Uruguay during the Rosas period & met his wife, Tiburcia, there… 25 years younger than him. His political life continued to grow in spite of being in exile. Good friends with Justo José de Urquiza, Del Carril was selected as his Vice-President and godfather of the general’s first-born son. In later years, Bartolomé Mitre appointed him to the Supreme Court. Del Carril passed away in 1883, & Tiburcia had this elaborate construction built to honor his memory.

Salvador María del Carril, Recoleta Cemetery

In spite of Del Carril’s decades of participation in Argentine politics, he is also well-known for having major marital problems. Tiburcia apparently liked to spend Del Carril’s fortune… to a point where he published a letter in several major newspapers claiming that he would no longer be responsible for his wife’s debts. That obviously didn’t go over well with Tiburcia:

Salvador María del Carril, Recoleta Cemetery

Rumor has it that before she passed away in 1898—fifteen years after her husband—Tiburcia requested that her bust look away from Del Carril for eternity. To this day, the unhappy couple have their backs to each other:

Salvador María del Carril, Recoleta Cemetery

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