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Category: Presidents

348. luis saénz peña

Luis Saénz Peña, Recoleta Cemetery

Born in Buenos Aires in 1822, not only did Luis Saénz Peña have to choose sides during the difficult period of national organization under Rosas, but he also had to choose a career. His parents wanted a doctor in the family while he had a preference for law. Saénz Peña did both. Some of his illustrious classmates in med school were Guillermo Rawson & José María Bosch while he was accompanied in law school by Bernardo de Irigoyen & Rufino de Elizalde.

Only after the expulsion of Rosas did Saénz Peña come into the public eye. In 1860 he formed part of the Convención de Buenos Aires, responsible for a new draft of the constitution & firmly believed that BA should form part of the Argentine Confederation.

Luis Saénz Peña, Recoleta Cemetery

Twenty years later, Saénz Peña held a variety of provincial & national posts—too many to mention here—with the most important being a representative/diputado in the National Congress, then head of the Supreme Court. After the 1890 Revolution, he sided with Roca & Pellegrini… & as a result later became involved in a family scandal.

During 1892 presidential elections, the liberal UCR party thought Bartolomé Mitre would be a sure win while conservatives under Roca’s influence thought it best to continue to support Pellegrini. Some conservatives broke away from Roca & presented Roque Saénz Peña—the son of Luis—as their candidate. Intimidated by the change Roque would bring, Mitre, Pellegrini & Roca formed an alliance to present Luis Saénz Peña as their alliance candidate. Tricky, tricky.

Of course Roque would not run against his own father, so Luis became President. His term is known for modernizing the nation, but eventually Saénz Peña lost Roca’s support, faced a series of uprisings & eventually resigned to let his Vice-President José Evaristo Uriburu take over in 1895.

Luis Saénz Peña, Recoleta Cemetery

Leaving public life for good, Luis Saénz Peña quietly passed away in 1907… three years before his son became President. The tomb has been neglected for a long time but remains interesting for its history & a Biblical quote in Latin above the door from Job 19:25:

Scio enim quod redemptor meus vivit et in novissimo die de terra surrecturus sum.

I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.

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338. progress for alfonsín

Raúl Alfonsín, Recoleta Cemetery

Over the past four months, a lot of progress has been made for the future burial spot of former President Raúl Alfonsín. Engravings are finished as well as a plaque in place quoting one of Alfonsín’s most famous speeches. Although the stained glass dome is not of high quality, at least it adds a bit of color:

Raúl Alfonsín, Recoleta Cemetery

No official word as to when the transfer will take place. At least barricades have been removed from the UCR Pantheon where Alfonsín is currently buried, & everyone can now get a look at his casket:

UCR Pantheon - Alfonsín, Recoleta Cemetery

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332. pedro inchauspe

Pedro Inchauspe, Recoleta Cemetery

Many people who visit Recoleta Cemetery have heard about Perón’s policy of allowing Nazi war criminals safe haven in Argentina after World War II. But there is another, often neglected part of the story. Argentina could have easily been on the Allied side long before Perón came to power.

Argentina consulted the UK about declaring war on Axis powers in 1939 under the presidency of Roberto Ortiz. England had been Argentina’s chief creditor for decades & one of the major importers of Argentine grain & livestock. But Argentina was advised to maintain neutrality so they could continue to supply food to a nation at war. As a contrast to Ortiz’s willingness to involve Argentina in a conflict in another hemisphere, his government also issued an order to deny visas to any Jewish person trying to escape the Holocaust. His interests were obviously only economic.

Acción Argentina, Recoleta Cemetery

In a response to the horrors of Axis domination in Europe, Acción Argentina formed in 1940 led by ex-President Marcelo T. de Alvear. Although their motives were different than those of Ortiz, they might have been successful in taking Argentina to war if the US had not been attacked in 1941. Dropping their isolationist policy, the US requested at a conference in Rio de Janeiro that all American nations form a united front against Axis powers. To many —including Argentina foreign minister & Nobel Laureate Carlos Saavedra Lamas— the US request sounded like a way to extend their own power to South America & the request was rejected.

Other members of Acción Argentina included Victoria Ocampo, Nicolás Repetto, Alicia Moreau de Justo, & former President Agustín P. Justo. Although total membership was under 500, elite members gave the organization a strong voice.

For more info, check out a book by Andrés Bisso titled “Acción Argentina y las estrategias de movilización del antifascismo liberal-socialista en torno a la Segunda Guerra Mundial, 1940-1946.” Under US pressure, Perón’s predecessor declared war on Germany about 6 months before the conflict was over.

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326. death of a president, day 4

Service entrance, Recoleta Cemetery

After the burial & the three official days of mourning were complete, Recoleta Cemetery once again opened to the public. A steady stream of people found their way to the back wall to pay their last respects:

Panteón UCR, Recoleta Cemetery

Panteón UCR, Recoleta Cemetery

However the UCR Pantheon will only be a temporary resting place for Alfonsín. His personal tomb has been under construction for some time, but unfortunately workers were unable to finish before he passed away. As reported by Clarín, no one is sure when the tomb will be complete or when transfer of the body will take place. The large, modern tomb occupies the space of several former smaller vaults & currently has no door:

Raúl Alfonsín, Recoleta Cemetery

Raúl Alfonsín, Recoleta Cemetery

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325. death of a president, day 3

After ending the wake around 10:00, a mass for Alfonsín was said by his cousin, Archbishop José María Arancedo, on the steps of the National Congress:

Misa para Alfonsín, Congreso Nacional, Buenos Aires

Misa para Alfonsín, Congreso Nacional, Buenos Aires

Accompanied by the mounted Honor Guard, the casket moved slowly up Avenida Callao toward Recoleta Cemetery. Barricades disappeared by the time the casket reached Avenida Corrientes, & several hundred people followed the funeral procession:

Entierro de Alfonsín, Callao & Corrientes

Entierro de Alfonsín, Callao & Corrientes

Entierro de Alfonsín, Callao & Corrientes

Entierro de Alfonsín, Callao & Corrientes

Meanwhile, everything was under control at Recoleta Cemetery, but somehow a few people had made it past the Policia Federal. Crowds of eventually three to four people deep waited for the procession to arrive at the intersection with Guido:

Entierro de Alfonsín, Recoleta Cemetery

Entierro de Alfonsín, Avenida Callao

Entierro de Alfonsín, Avenida Callao

The motorcycle brigade announced Alfonsín’s arrival, blaring their sirens & making sure the way was clear:

Entierro de Alfonsín, Avenida Callao

Then the Horse Guard came into sight:

Entierro de Alfonsín, Avenida Callao

Entierro de Alfonsín, Avenida Callao

So many people accompanied the casket at this point (friends, family, followers, & what seemed like hundreds of press photographers), that it was difficult to see. The pics didn’t turn out very well, & at one point I stopped trying to capture a good shot in order to experience what was going on around me.

Trying to get as close to the entrance gate as possible, we went around Vicente López & found ourselves face to face with the Horse Guard. The horses were surprisingly calm given the amount of activity around them:

Entierro de Alfonsín, Recoleta Cemetery

Then we realized that the casket was still making its way to the cemetery. Everyone wanted a photo; everyone wanted one last look at Alfonsín. Police cars, horses & human barricades began to clear a path for the casket to keep moving. In the process, I was separated from Jeff… the police really had no idea what they were doing as throngs of people were pushed around & for several minutes the procession was stuck. At least I got a better look at the casket & a few decent pics:

Entierro de Alfonsín, Recoleta Cemetery

Entierro de Alfonsín, Recoleta Cemetery

Entierro de Alfonsín, Recoleta Cemetery

Unable to find Jeff, I opted to return home & see the rest on tv. There was little chance of entering the cemetery given the general confusion. Some family members didn’t even make it inside before the gate was shut. Two hours & eight eulogies later, the casket was finally taken into the crypt… not an easy task since the staircase has about a 60º angle! The Granaderos had to let the cemetery caretakers do their job:

Entierro de Alfonsín, Recoleta Cemetery

Entierro de Alfonsín, Recoleta Cemetery

Entierro de Alfonsín, Recoleta Cemetery

Entierro de Alfonsín, Recoleta Cemetery

Photo credits: 1-5 by Marcelo Metayer / 6 + 18-20 by EFE / 7-17 by Robert Wright.

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324. death of a president, day 2

Velatorio de Alfonsín, Congreso Nacional, Buenos Aires

From early morning, hundreds of people queued to pay their final respects to former President Raúl Alfonsín who had passed away the night before. His casket was brought to the National Congress at 10:00 & after a brief ceremony, the public began to pour in. Vice-President Julio Cobos was present during most of the morning:

Velatorio de Alfonsín, Congreso Nacional, Buenos Aires

Velatorio de Alfonsín, Congreso Nacional, Buenos Aires

Velatorio de Alfonsín, Congreso Nacional, Buenos Aires

The wake was open casket, & Alfonsín had been decorated with two trademarks of the Presidency: a sash replicating the Argentine flag & a bastón. The public filed by at the foot of the casket, just out of reach. Special guests such as relatives, local & foreign politicians, or friends were able to access the body & express their condolences to  family members present. All this time cameras rolled & the entire event broadcast live on Senado TV, Canal 7 & several of the news networks:

Velatorio de Alfonsín, Congreso Nacional, Buenos Aires

When crowds grew larger throughout the day, the decision was made to keep Congress open all night. An estimated 30,000+ people were able to express their gratitude one last time to Alfonsín.

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With the funeral scheduled for 12:00 the following day, Recoleta Cemetery was surprisingly calm. At the 1890 Revolution pantheon where Alfonsín would be laid to rest, the only person to be seen was the caretaker. He descended a staircase to the entrance & came up a few moments later. When asked if everything was ready for tomorrow, he said: “Sure. It’s all taken care of.”

Panteón Caídos Revolución 1890, Recoleta Cemetery

Looking inside, it didn’t seem as if anyone had been moved to accomodate Alfonsín. Yrigoyen was still top center. Only a few flowers & a decorative ribbon with the UCR political party’s colors decorated the door:

Panteón Caídos Revolución 1890, Recoleta Cemetery

Asking around, it turned out that the cemetery was to be closed to the public the following day. Scaffolding was going up immediately in front of the entrance gate where several people had been invited to speak about Alfonsín. The Policia Federal were getting a little antsy… they even told Flor she had to stop selling maps at 16:30 so they could get to work. Maybe there would be a way inside tomorrow…

Photo credits: 1 – Aníbal Greco, La Nación • 2 & 3 – Federico Guastavino, La Nación • 4 – EFE • 5 – Rafael Saralegui, Europa Press • 6 & 7 – Robert Wright

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