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Category: Literati

190. juan cruz varela

Juan Cruz Varela, Recoleta Cemetery

Born in Buenos Aires in 1794, Juan Cruz Varela was sent by his parents to Córdoba to become a priest. But Varela completed his studies in 1816 just as Argentina won its independence from Spain & so chose to participate politics & literary ventures instead. Many scholars have classified his odes & tragedies as the best early Argentine literature written. Works often tackled the topics of the day, mainly the revolutionary wars & struggles of the new nation. In “Canto lírico al triunfo de Ituzaingó,” Varela describes General Carlos Alvear‘s victorious battle against Brazil & later wrote a eulogy for Manuel Belgrano:

¿Oh, dónde habitas, militar guerrero?
¿Cómo te fuiste, y huérfana dejaste
tu amada patria, que a la vez libraste
con los cortantes filos de tu acero?

Cómo le has dado el golpe postrimero,
e insensible a su llanto te ausentaste,
abandonando al último contraste
su libertad, su honor, su bien entero.

Que se encienda de nuevo, que se encienda
la antorcha de tu vida. Y si es en vano
nuestro justo clamor en la contienda

de tu afligida patria, pon la mano
sobre quien te suceda, y la defienda.
¡Pero quien te sucede, gran Belgrano!

As a friend & admirer of first President Bernardino Rivadavia, Varela was forced into exile with Rivadavia’s political defeat & the rise of Rosas. He died in Montevideo in 1839, & his remains were brought to Recoleta Cemetery after the defeat of Rosas.

Juan Cruz Varela, Recoleta Cemetery

An equally interesting descendant of Varela also buried in the family tomb is Dalmiro Varela Castex. A large plaque hints to his importance:

Dalmiro Varela Castex, Recoleta Cemetery

Dalmiro imported the first vehicle to Argentina in 1888, a steam-powered De Dion Bouton tricycle. In 1895 he imported a petrol-powered Benz four-wheeled vehicle & sold the tricycle to Marcelo T de Alvear. Importing & selling vehicles would become Dalmiro’s passion. In 1904, he founded the first automotive group, the Automovil Club Argentino (ACA) & was issued the first driver’s license in the nation:

Dalmiro Varela Castex, Recoleta Cemetery

For more info on Dalmiro & the history of automobiles in Argentina, Daniel Costa Deschamps has written an interesting memoir on the topic (in English). Above photo courtesy of prewarbuick.com. This tomb was declared a National Historic Monument in 1946.

Update (08 Feb 2012): Apparently this tomb was downsized. Part of the original gate was maintained & the mourning woman statue placed on top of the whole structure. It’s always looked a bit odd to me & thanks to photo #371 of the Witcomb Collection now I understand why:

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Juan Cruz Varela, Colección Witcomb

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177. juan facundo quiroga ◊

Juan Facundo Quiroga, Recoleta Cemetery

Born in La Rioja, Quiroga received the nickname “Tiger of the Plains” based on his adeptness in battle. It was a skill needed during the troubled times of early independence from Spain when Argentina struggled to reach a consensus on national government.

When Argentina broke away from Spain & earned its independence in 1816, some people wanted to invite a European monarch to establish their own kingdom… sort of an Empire of the Río de la Plata. The idea isn’t far-fetched since Brazil was a separate Portuguese empire at the same time. But those in favor of a monarch didn’t have the majority.

The biggest issue centered on the role of Buenos Aires in the new nation, specifically the money it received from port taxes. Unitarios wanted Buenos Aires to become the capital city & keep all revenue from international trade. Opposing federales wanted a confederation—an alliance among equals—which would commit Buenos Aires to give other provinces access to their income. Definitely a touchy issue.

As the major port of the nation, foreign trade brought lots of money into Buenos Aires & exporters wanted to maintain the status quo. By placing the national capital in the same spot as the economic center, Federalists feared that the rest of Argentina would be neglected. In the end, the struggle over Confederation vs. Republic was settled in favor of Buenos Aires. Unitarian predictions came true as national growth has been skewed toward the capital ever since.

A strong supporter of BsAs, Quiroga thought that Rosas could resolve the conflict & pledged his support. But when Rosas began ruling Argentina like a monarch, Quiroga switched sides. Ignoring warnings of a conspiracy against his life, Quiroga was ambushed & killed in central Argentina. Eventually his remains were transferred to Recoleta Cemetery.

His place in history was guaranteed when future President Domingo Sarmiento wrote a harsh biography of Quiroga… still required reading in the Argentine curriculum. For Sarmiento, Quiroga embodied the stereotype of the gaucho: unable to think off his horse, wild, savage, & the opposite of progress. Not the most accurate of depictions, this image of Quiroga served to promote urban development at a time when Argentina needed guidance:

Sarmiento, Facundo, Recoleta Cemetery

Quiroga’s story is interesting but so is his tomb. Although weathered over time, the statue of Mary is a beautiful work of art made of Italian artist Antonio Tantardini. Note the delicate lacework details on her shawl. And yes, you’re seeing double. A miniature copy of this statue crowns the dome of another tomb nearby:

Juan Facundo Quiroga, Recoleta Cemetery

Juan Facundo Quiroga, Recoleta Cemetery

Legend claimed that the coffin of Quiroga was buried upright, perhaps so he would be one of the first out during the Second Coming of Christ. Excavations in 2004 confirmed his fate… Quiroga was indeed buried upright, hidden behind a wall underground. He was controversial enough that family & friends were afraid someone might break into the cemetery to deface his remains. Sure, it’s gruesome, but that’s one way to have the last word… when your opponent can’t fight back.

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163. coronel estanislao del campo

Estanislao del Campo, Recoleta Cemetery

Online biographical information about this career soldier is unfortunately sparse, but after the independence wars Juan Estanislao del Campo allied with Lavalle against Rosas. Fighting in several battles, he was one of the few to accompany Lavalle on the flight through northern Argentina.

The son of Estanislao del Campo & his wife, Gregoria Luna, became a recognized gauchesco writer, most known for a hilarious farce titled “Fausto.” Coronel Estanislao del Campo passed away in 1861, & this tomb was declared a National Historic Monument in 1946.

Estanislao del Campo, Recoleta Cemetery

Estanislao del Campo, Recoleta Cemetery

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135. masllorens

Masllorens, Recoleta Cemetery

There’s not a more authentic Catalán name to be found in Recoleta Cemetery than Masllorens i Payerols. Substitute the “i” for a “y” for the Spanish version. Not much info is around as to why Pablo came from Catalunya to Buenos Aires, but the results of his labor are well known. Establishing the Emilio Ramírez publishing house, plaques come from former employees & managers, including one by artist Luis Perlotti:

Masllorens, Recoleta Cemetery

Masllorens, Recoleta Cemetery

What makes this tomb noteworthy is that the company founded by Masllorens compiled & sold the first edition of a major science fiction comic, “El Eternauta.” Originally published as a weekly series from 1957 to 1959, the whole strip was printed as a magazine by the Editorial Emilio Ramírez in 1961:

El Eternauta

Here’s the plot… As an extraterrestrial invasion of Earth takes place, a few people in Buenos Aires figure out how to survive using specially made suits, protecting them from a deadly alien snowfall. A resistance army forms & battles are fought, but it becomes obvious that the true invaders aren’t around… they control everything from a distance. Juan Salvo, the protagonist, attempts to escape with his wife & daughter but accidentally triggers a time-travel device. The remainder of the series is about him trying to find them in the time continuum.

Sounds a bit normal now, but for the late 1950s the plot was very innovative. Various authors & artists have contributed to this successful story since then, & a single place in Buenos Aires pays tribute to El Eternauta… the subway station Uruguay on the B Line (north side, direction Alem). A tile mural depicts one of the comic panels. The first image is from Wikipedia & the rest are from Robert:

Subte, Línea B, estación Uruguay, El Eternauta

Subte, Línea B, estación Uruguay

Subte, Línea B, estación Uruguay

Subte, Línea B, estación Uruguay

Subte, Línea B, estación Uruguay

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096. carlos f. melo

Carlos Francisco Melo, Recoleta Cemetery

Born in the province of Entre Ríos in 1872, legal studies brought Carlos Francisco Melo to Buenos Aires by the end of the 19th century… just when the city & the nation were coming into their own. Melo received acclaim for his doctorate thesis & was rewarded with important government positions. A brief stint as a representative in Congress for the UCR party lead to appointment as president of the University of La Plata in 1920. Melo returned to politics as candidate for Vice-President in national elections but his ticket failed to get the vote. After the military coup of 1930, he was appointed head of the National Library, a position Melo held until his death in 1931.

Carlos Francisco Melo, Recoleta Cemetery

Besides his political & educational duties, Carlos Melo was recognized during his lifetime as a writer & poet. Although his works are not yet available online, a short verse from Melo’s “Piedras Rotas” (Broken Stones) can be found over his tomb:

Cuida tu hora. Porque hay en cada vida una hora única, es la de la gracia, o de la caída, de la justicia o de la iniquidad, la del amor, de la inspiración, de la torpeza, la de la muerte. Descuidado: cuida tu hora.

“Take care of your hour. Because there is in each life one unique hour, it is that of grace or of downfall, of justice or of vice, of love, of inspiration, of clumsiness, that of death. Careless one: take care of your hour.”

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084. josé mármol

José Mármol, Recoleta Cemetery

Although labeled as the Sepulcro Milano, one of the first great literary figures of Argentina is buried here—José Mármol. Born in 1818, Mármol became involved in politics at an early age. He didn’t complete his law degree due to fierce opposition & activism against the dictatorial style of Juan Manuel de Rosas. After being imprisoned for arguing with members of the Rosas family, Mármol decided to leave Buenos Aires. He met other anti-Rosas comrades in Montevideo & was inspired to write. When the forces of Rosas invaded Montevideo, Mármol moved even further away… this time to Rio de Janeiro. By the time Rosas was removed from Argentina, Mármol had been away from Buenos Aires for 13 years. From 1845 to 1868, he occupied several government positions. His last duty before going blind & passing away in 1871 was director of the National Library.

In spite of a life dedicated to serving his nation, José Mármol is most remembered for his first novel, Amália. Published in serial form beginning in 1844, the 75-chapter novel successfully mixed romance with current events so well that readers weren’t sure if they were reading fact or fiction.

A quick plot summary: Eduardo Belgrano is wounded in an attempt to escape Buenos Aires & the rule of Rosas. A friend, Daniel, saves Eduardo’s life & gives him refuge in the house of his cousin… a young widow named Amália. Daniel & Amália pretend to support Rosas in order to keep Eduardo safe, & of course this gives time for Eduardo & Amália to fall in love. But as they try to flee Buenos Aires, both are killed by the right-hand man of Rosas. This classic is usually required reading in most Argentine schools, & Mármol’s entire body of work can be found online for free in the public domain.

The tomb is a wonderful interpretation of Art Nouveau, full of curves, vines & depictions of plant life:

José Mármol, Recoleta Cemetery

A plaque on the right was given by a cultural center inspired by Mármol:

José Mármol, Recoleta Cemetery

And an oval image of man being swallowed by a crowned “serpent” appears to be a loose interpretation of the Visconti coat-of-arms… surely because this mausoleum was used by Milanese descendants. But how did José Marmol end up here?

José Mármol, Recoleta Cemetery

Like Art Nouveau? Learn about the architects of the era, their individual styles & what makes Art Nouveau in Buenos Aires so unique with a 33-page guide from our sister site, Endless Mile.

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