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AfterLife Posts

499. general doctor benjamín victorica

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Benjamín Victorica

Born in 1831 in Buenos Aires, Benjamín Victorica began a career in law… but after graduation went to work for the military of Juan Manuel de Rosas instead. The change seemed to suit him well, as he was staunchly anti-Urquiza. Victorica even wrote disparaging verse about the leader of the Confederación & famously called him apóstata maldito or “damned turncoat.”

After the defeat of Rosas in the 1852 Battle of Caseros, Urquiza personally requested to see Victorica. They became good friends almost immediately with Victorica even marrying Urquiza’s daughter, Ana Dolores, in 1857. Definitely a change of heart!

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Benjamín Victorica

Victorica decided to stay in the new national military & served as Urquiza’s personal secretary. His rise in power continued when named Minister of War by President Derqui in 1860, followed by a term as Senator, working for the Department of Education & even taught law classes.

Under Roca’s presidency, Victorica once again was named Minister of War & helped establish Argentine outposts in Tierra del Fuego. But his most infamous legacy was leading the campaign against the indigenous tribes in the Chaco region. Winning the conflict, Victorica raised the Argentine flag… topping the mast with the bloody head of Yaloschi, the Toba chief who fought Victorica’s troops.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Benjamín Victorica

Various other offices occupied Victorica—not the least of which was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court—until he passed away in 1913. This crypt has also been used by Victorica’s seven children… tucked away in a quiet corner of the cemetery & covered with symbols of law & military service.

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498. asociación española de socorros mutuos

Buenos Aires, Balvanera, ex-Asociación Española de Socorros Mutuos

A favorite photo from the Colección Witcomb shows quite a different Recoleta Cemetery than the one that can be visited today. A few façades & domes remain to provide orientation, but sadly what was likely the largest mausoleum of that time no longer exists:

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Colección Witcomb

Its identity remained uncertain until the following clip appeared in the excellent collection of images curated by Argentina Vintage:

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Panteón de la Asociación Española de Socorros Mutuos

Just what I’d been looking for! A bit of research & a similar photo can be found in society magazine Caras y Caretas for Columbus Day, Día de la Raza, Día de la Hispanidad… a.k.a. October 12th.

As self-help organizations grew along with immigration, so did the need for burial space. The Asociación Española de Socorros Mutuos moved to Chacarita in 1896, eventually selling their group pantheon in Recoleta. Although demolished today, the new mausoleum by architect Alejandro Christophersen proved to be even more luxurious.

Chacarita Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Asociación Española de Socorros Mutuos, Alejandro Christophersen

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496. familia david costaguta

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Costaguta

Local entrepreneur David Costaguta made most of his fortune from the manufacture & sale of textiles between Argentina & Europe at the end of the 19th century. Like most nouveau riche in Buenos Aires at that time, Costaguta decided to use his wealth to play around in the real estate market. But where to buy??

Plaza Lavalle underwent drastic change just as Costaguta looked to develop. The lot occupied today by the Teatro Colón originally held a train station… the terminus for the first railway built in the nation. In 1890 the station moved further west to Once, tracks were removed & the new opera house built in the same spot. Army barracks were likewise demolished to make room for a new Supreme Court (Tribunales).

Buenos Aires, Plaza Lavalle, Palacio Costaguta, Alfred Massüe, Art Nouveau

Costaguta bought the lot next to Tribunales & hired French architect Alfred Massüe to design a four-story building destined for both business & residential use. Work finished in 1907, & the Palacio Costaguta became another focal point for the plaza. Its tower & dome are still one of the most recognized pieces of Art Nouveau in Buenos Aires… even though a large portion of the building was demolished in 1988 & replaced with a rather horrific, glass office tower. Fortunately the Banco Fotográfico Digital run by the National Library contains a photo of Massüe’s masterpiece before modification:

Buenos Aires, Plaza Lavalle, Palacio Costaguta, Alfred Massüe, Art Nouveau

Costaguta’s tomb supposedly dates from 1907, but the architect responsible is unknown. The statue of a woman in mourning & two back relief panels (both unsigned!) are wonderful works of art. Hopefully more information will come to light in the future about the artists involved.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Costaguta

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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494. “La Recoleta”

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Marcelo Metayer

Jorge Luis Borges often wandered the walkways of Recoleta Cemetery (along with his friend & fellow writer Adolfo Bioy Casares), but his prediction of being buried there never came true. The cemetery, however, makes a remarkable appearance as the topic of one of his first published poems, La Recoleta… appearing in the 1923 collection Fervor de Buenos Aires. Below is the original text in Spanish followed by an English translation found online by Robert Mezey & Richard Barnes.

Convencidos de caducidad
por tantas nobles certidumbres del polvo,
nos demoramos y bajamos la voz
entre las lentas filas de panteones,
cuya retórica de sombra y de mármol
promete o prefigura la deseable
dignidad de haber muerto.

Made certain of impermanence
by so many noble witnesses of dust,
we linger with hushed voices
between the stately rows of mausoleums,
whose rhetoric of shade and marble
promises or foreshadows the appealing
dignity of having died.

Bellos son los sepulcros,
el desnudo latín y las trabadas fechas fatales,
la conjunción del mármol y de la flor
y las plazuelas con frescura de patio
y los muchos ayeres de a historia
hoy detenida y única.

Beautiful, these sepulchers,
the naked Latin and the linked and fatal dates,
flowers touching marble and
the little plazas cool and fresh as a courtyard,
the myriads yesterdays of a story
now cut short and unique.

Equivocamos esa paz con la muerte
y creemos anhelar nuestro fin
y anhelamos el sueño y la indiferencia.
Vibrante en las espadas y en la pasión
y dormida en la hiedra,
sólo la vida existe.

We confuse this peace with death
and we think we long for the end
when all we long for is indifference and sleep.
Vibrant in swords, tremulous in passion,
asleep in the ivy,
life is all there is.

El espacio y el tiempo son normas suyas,
son instrumentos mágicos del alma,
y cuando ésta se apague,
se apagarán con ella el espacio, el tiempo y la muerte,
como al cesar la luz
caduca el simulacro de los espejos
que ya la tarde fue apagando.

Time and space are but the forms it takes,
the magic instruments of the soul,
and when it is snuffed out,
as when the light dies
time & space will be snuffed out with it,
death will be snuffed out,
the semblance in the mirror expires,
which the twilight was already snuffing out.

Sombra benigna de los árboles,
viento con pájaros que sobre las ramas ondea,
alma que se dispersa entre otras almas,
fuera un milagro que alguna vez dejaran de ser,
milagro incomprensible,
aunque su imaginaria repetición
infame con horror nuestros días.

Kindly shade of trees,
bird-streaked wind that ripples through the branches,
soul dispersing itself into other souls,
it must have been a miracle that on a day those souls left off existing,
a miracle that passeth understanding,
even though its imagined repetition
stains our days with horror.

Estas cosas pensé en la Recoleta,
en el lugar de mi ceniza.

These thoughts came to me in La Recoleta,
in the place of my ashes.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Marcelo Metayer

Photos courtesy of Marcelo Metayer.

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