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Category: Politicians

484. juan bautista alberdi ◊

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Juan Bautista Alberdi

Juan Bautista Alberdi lost his mother during his birth in 1810. Then at the age of 11, his father passed away. Soon after, Alberdi left his native province of Tucumán after receiving a grant for studies in Buenos Aires. But he wasn’t always thrilled with education. Abandoning school for a bit to pursue interests in music, he eventually returned & received a degree in law. Juan Facundo Quiroga offered to pay his further studies in the USA, but at the last moment Alberdi decided not to board the ship.

Remaining in Buenos Aires, Alberdi formed a literary group with Marcos Sastre to debate local politics & European trends. Hugely successful, a loosely-veiled criticism of Juan Manuel de Rosas forced Alberdi into exile in Montevideo. After a brief stay in Paris where he met José de San Martín, Alberdi decided to move to Valparaiso & worked as a lawyer while writing articles for Chilean newspapers.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Juan Bautista Alberdi

Upon hearing of the defeat of Rosas, Alberdi quickly wrote his most influential book: “Bases y puntos de partida para la organización política de la República Argentina” or “Foundations & Points of Reference for the Political Organization of the Argentine Republic.” Sent to Urquiza, the book outlined a basis for a constitution that would be adopted the following year.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Juan Bautista Alberdi

Fully supporting Urquiza’s confederacy, Alberdi was sent to Europe as an official representative of Argentina. During the 24 years he lived abroad, Alberdi met many foreign leaders & gained the new nation the recognition it desired since the days of Rivadavia. But when Bartolomé Mitre defeated Urquiza in 1861 the Confederacy came to end as did Alberdi’s employment. Mitre refused to pay him two years of salary or even his return passage!

Again living in exile, Alberdi supported Paraguay in the War of the Triple Alliance based on the fact that English capital seemed to be behind the conflict. He always stood for law & justice over economic manipulation of politics. Only in 1879 under the presidency of Nicolás Avellaneda could Alberdi finally return to Argentina as a Representative in Congress for his native province of Tucumán.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Juan Bautista Alberdi

Mitre used his influence to oppose Alberdi constantly. Roca decided to name Alberdi as Ambassador to France, but he failed to receive approval from Congress due to intervention from Mitre. Disheartened, he left again for France in 1881 & died there three years later. Alberdi’s remains were repatriated in 1889 to Recoleta Cemetery but moved again in 1991 to Tucumán. This crypt was declared a National Historic Monument in 1946.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Juan Bautista Alberdi

Images shown are a mix of photos taken before & after restoration.

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480. manuel dorrego

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Manuel Dorrego

One of the main protagonists during the complicated birth of Argentina, Manuel Dorrego lived a life full of adventure, battles & exile with an unfortunate, untimely death.

Born in Buenos Aires in 1787, Manuel’s father was an immigrant Portuguese businessman. Dorrego’s early studies were at what’s known today as the Colegio Nacional (just off Plaza de Mayo), but when revolution began in 1810, he was studying law in Santiago de Chile. Dorrego quickly joined local forces & crossed the Andes four times bringing Chilean troops to fight the Spanish.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Manuel Dorrego

Dorrego’s actions got him noticed. Placed in the Ejército del Norte under the command of Manuel Belgrano, he eventually rose to the rank of Coronel & fought in the decisive battles of Tucumán & Salta. Dorrego’s bravery & skill was never questioned, but he was often insubordinate to commanding officers… both Belgrano & San Martín temporarily removed him from service.

As the conflict with Spain was being fought, another was brewing. Disagreements over the role of Buenos Aires in regional government brought Dorrego into conflict with Supreme Director Juan Martín de Pueyrredón. Arrested & sent to Santo Domingo, the ship’s crew went rogue during the voyage, Dorrego was released, & he made his way to Baltimore to meet with other Argentines forced into exile by Pueyrredón.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Manuel Dorrego

A change in government in 1820 allowed Dorrego to return, & his military rank was restored in order to fight again. Pushing for war against Brazil, the Federalist ideas of Dorrego allied him with Simón Bolívar. He was briefly appointed as Governor for Buenos Aires which brought him into another conflict of ideas with Martín Rodríguez & Bernardino Rivadavia. Dorrego often voiced his opinion in favor of male suffrage & economic assistance to the poor.

When the war with Brazil forced Rivadavia to resign, Dorrego became Governor of BA for the second time. He tried to annul an initial peace agreement signed under Rivadavia, continued to fight, but eventually—in part due to British economic & military pressure—was forced to accept peace. The price? Removal of all territory on the opposite bank of the Río de la Plata & the formation of Uruguay in 1828.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Manuel Dorrego

The loss of so much territory as well as conflicting political beliefs generated a conspiracy to remove Dorrego from power. Martín Rodríguez, Salvador del Carril, Juan Cruz Varela & many others convinced General Juan Lavalle to launch an attack against Buenos Aires. Forced to flee, Dorrego turned to Juan Manuel de Rosas who advised Dorrego to go north. Instead, Dorrego’s troops fought Lavalle & lost. Lavalle—who had fought with Dorrego in the early days of independence—ordered Dorrego’s execution by firing squad.

Dorrego’s sacrifice was supposed to bring an end to internal conflict but it only made matters worse. Once Rosas took control the following year, he had Dorrego’s remains moved to Recoleta Cemetery. Red flowers representing the Federalists are often found on his tomb, & an engraving shows what the early cemetery looked like at the time of his burial:

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Manuel Dorrego

In a final letter to Estanislao López, Governor of Santa Fe, Dorrego wrote:

En este momento me intiman morir dentro de una hora. Ignoro la causa de mi muerte; pero de todos modos perdono a mis perseguidores. Cese usted por mi parte todo preparativo, y que mi muerte no sea causa de derramamiento de sangre.

In this moment I’ve been informed that I will die within the hour. I am unsure of the reason for my death; but in any case I forgive my prosecutors. Abandon any reciprocation, so that my death is not the cause of bloodshed.

This mausoleum became a National Historic Monument in 1946.

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476. virgilio m. tedín

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Virgilio Tedín

Born in Salta in 1850, Virgilio Mariano Tedín Tejada joined the local elite by marrying Flor de María Uriburu Arenales—sister of future President José Evaristo de Uriburu… who in turn was uncle to Argentina’s first military dictator, José Félix Uriburu. It’s all in the family.

Seemingly at odds with future cousins, Tedín earned respect as a fair national judge during the complicated 1890’s. After the failed revolution, he did his best to ensure fair treatment of Leandro N. Alem & other activists. Tedín died at the age of 42, & this tomb was paid for by public donations… remarkable for a federal judge:

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Virgilio Tedín

Sculpted in 1899 by Miguel Sansebastiano—also the author of Toribio de Ayerza‘s tomb—a seated female figure representing Justice (find the fallen scales) crowns an angel. Today, the wrought-iron crown (perhaps of laurel?) is missing along with her thumb, but a fuzzy version can be seen in the 1900 photo by Harry Grant Olds. The angel’s book contains three unreadable words, worn over time… looks like “??? y senteacea” but that’s merely a guess. Left & right inscriptions read respectively:

Mantuvo incólume la potestad de la ley en que reposa el verdadero bienestar de la patria / Dio a cada uno lo suyo, vivió honestamente y a nadie dañó.

He upheld authority of the law in which lies the true wellbeing of the nation / He gave himself to each individual, lived honestly & harmed no one.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Virgilio Tedín

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463. (nicolás) avellaneda

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Nicolás Avellaneda

Born in San Miguel de Tucumán in 1837, young Nicolás had to cope with the death of his father, Marco Avellaneda, around the time of his fourth birthday. For opposing Rosas, Marco’s severed head was placed on a pike in the main square as an example to all. The family immediately moved to Bolivia.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Nicolás Avellaneda

Nicolás eventually returned to Argentina to study law & became a well-known journalist. His political career began in 1859—at the age of 22—after being elected to serve in Congress. During the presidency of Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, Avellaneda served as Ministro de Justicia, Culto e Instrucción Pública & helped create free, public education in Argentina.

At the end of Sarmiento’s term, Avellaneda was elected President. His main rival, Bartolomé Mitre, claimed electoral fraud & found military support… but Avellaneda quickly ended the rebellion & even pardoned Mitre in order to ease political tension. Avellaneda got to work quickly, getting approval of an immigration law which attracted millions of Europeans to Argentina & changed the country’s identity forever. He also attempted to balance the budget & appointed Julio Argentino Roca to “conquer” the desert lands of Patagonia.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Nicolás Avellaneda

Avellaneda even tackled one of the biggest issues in Argentine history: the federalization of Buenos Aires. It caused another rebellion lead by Carlos Tejedor, forcing the President to abandon BA & move the national government to Belgrano. But Roca eventually defeated Tejedor & by the end of Avellaneda’s term in 1880, Buenos Aires became once & for all the capital of Argentina.

Avellaneda remained in politics, serving as Senator for his native province & establishing autonomy for all national universities. He & his wife traveled to Europe in 1885, hoping to find a cure for his kidney problems, but Avellaneda passed away on the boat trip back to Argentina at the age of 48. He accomplished a lot during his lifetime, including fathering 12 children!

Like neighbor President Roque Sáenz Peña, the cemetery wall serves as a perfect place to hang dedicatory plaques:

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Nicolás Avellaneda

Somewhat hidden at the base of the statue is the Latin phrase: In Dicendo Princeps… roughly translated as “Master of Speech.”

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Nicolás Avellaneda

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448. josé félix uriburu

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, José Félix Uriburu

Born in Salta in 1868, José Félix Uriburu joined the Military Academy located on the outskirts of Buenos Aires at the age of 17. Five years later, he would participate in the birth of civil society in Argentina during the Revolución del 1890. But he would soon part ways with the Radicals.

When President Luis Sáenz Peña resigned in 1895, Vice-President José Evaristo de Uriburu—his uncle—took over. The younger Uriburu became his uncle’s assistant & got first-hand experience in government. In 1905 he helped President Manuel Quintana stifle another attempted Radical coup.

Uriburu continued to move up swiftly through both military & political circles. He was sent to Europe to learn techniques to improve the Argentine military & soon after elected as a representative for his native province of Salta in Congress. After obtaining the rank of Division General, Uriburu retired against his will… but would soon return to be the center of attention.

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Recoleta Cemetery, José Félix Uriburu, golpe militar

Uriburu led the first military coup in Argentina in 1930. Ousting democratically elected Radical President Hipólito Yrigoyen, historians credit Uriburu with starting military involvement in politics… a trend that would lead to a series of military takeovers until 1983. Conservative & very Catholic, Uriburu called for elections but annulled results when the Radicals won. In fact, Uriburu ushered in what historians call the “Infamous Decade” where democracy was only given lip service.

Eventually Uriburu handed the presidency to military colleague General Agustín P. Justo in 1932. Diagnosed with stomach cancer, he went to Paris for treatment but died soon after arrival. His funeral service in the Église Saint-Pierre-de-Chaillot seems extraordinary, especially since the church also held funerals for Guy de Maupassant & Marcel Proust. At least we have an impressive visual record:

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, José Félix Uriburu

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, José Félix Uriburu

After services in Paris, Uriburu’s remains were brought by ocean liner to Buenos Aires. Services held at his residence led to a temporary burial at the tomb of Ramón Falcón… that fact speaks volumes. Just look at the number of people entering the cemetery. Wow.

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, José Félix Uriburu

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, José Félix Uriburu

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, José Félix Uriburu

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, José Félix Uriburu

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, José Félix Uriburu

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, José Félix Uriburu

Currently Uriburu’s mausoleum is unkempt & unadorned… perhaps his family fell on hard times. Whatever the reason, Uriburu’s legacy to Argentine history—good, bad or indifferent—has disappeared from public view in Recoleta Cemetery. Find the plaque below in the photos above… a piece of history few remember:

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, José Félix Uriburu

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, José Félix Uriburu

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, José Félix Uriburu

Update (14 Apr 2013): One important reminder of Uriburu’s legacy remains in the town of Balcarce, about 400 km or 250 mi south of Buenos Aires. Originally meant to glorify, a bit of historical revision has occurred with the only statue of Uriburu in Argentina.

Balcarce, Provincia de Buenos Aires, José Félix Uriburu statue

A new plaque placed in June 2012 reads:

Este monumento fue emplazado en el 6º aniversario del primer golpe de estado en Argentina. El general José Félix Uriburu atentó contra la Constitución Nacional el 6 de septiembre de 1930. Este nefasto acontecimiento abrió paso a una serie de violaciones al estado de derecho y a los derechos humanos de la población, impuesto por los gobiernos de facto que interrumpieron el orden democrático, signando décadas de inestabilidad y autoritarismo en nuestro país.

This monument was erected on the sixth anniversary of the first coup d’etat in Argentina. General José Félix Uriburu defied the national constitution on 06 Sep 1930. This horrific deed opened the way for a series of violations of the rule of law & of the population’s human rights, imposed by de facto governments that interrupted democratic order, ushering in decades of instability & authoritarianism in our country.

Archival photos from the British Library Endangered Archives Programme. Balcarce photo courtesy of Marcelo Metayer.

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434. crotto

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Crotto

One of the founding members of the Unión Cívica Radical political party, José Camilo Crotto participated in the 1890 Revolution. He continued to be active in politics his entire life, first as Senator for the city of Buenos Aires & later as Governor of the province.

During the presidency of fellow UCR member Hipólito Yrigoyen, Crotto was chosen as the party’s national chairman. He named various ministers for Yrigoyen who weren’t to everyone’s liking. Controversy brewed. Crotto eventually broke away from the UCR & formed his own splinter political party.

But he is most famous for approving a 1920 law that allowed rural workers to ride cargo trains free of charge in order to help with the harvest. Nicknamed “crotos” after the governor’s last name, the term later referred to anyone who was homeless & remains a part of local Argentine slang.

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