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Notes on the Geography of Uruguay: Uruguay Cemeteries

In presenting themselves to the world, Americans are slouches compared to Uruguayans. That's true not only in life but also in death. Witness three cemeteries: Montevideo Central, the newer Cementerio del Buceo (with its British neighbor), and the Fray Bentos cemetery.

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The entrance to the Central Cemetery. The cemetery architect, Carlo Zucchi, also did the city's premier Teatro Solis, but this rotunda was added in 1863 by a Swiss architect, Bernardo Poncini. Does it show citizens honoring their forebears? The deceased making their final claim of respectability? Their descendants claiming respectability for themselves through their ancestors?

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Plots are pricey.

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Luis Batlle Berres, 1897-1964, has an ocean view befitting a president of Uruguay (in his case from 1947 to 1951) and perhaps befitting, as well, a nephew of the great José Batlle.

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The earlier and great Batlle instituted many welfare programs. Here's one that came a bit later, in 1935. The acronym stands for Assistance Center of the Medical Union of Uruguay, whose help extends to burial in crypts set in high walls.

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Bouquet placement requires assistance.

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Here's a religiously-themed monument with the unusual sight of a geriatric angel, his wings still in good shape.

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This monument of a miner was sculpted by Enrico Butti (1847-1932), a Milanese who executed a similar figure for a grave in Dusseldorf. Did Juan Nicola strike it rich?

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Here's the side wall of the Buceo cemetery. Yes; the other side is all crypts.

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It's also less packed than the central cemetery.

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A war memorial.

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A memorial to a war hardly known outside the region but one that in 1852 left Brazil the dominant regional power. A few years later a third of Uruguay's population had immigrated from Brazil.

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Like the miner's monument: how does a poor fisherman swing a monument like this? The inscription reads something like: "Just as the waters return to the sea, what is born from the earth returns to its bosom."

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A real eye-catcher, executed by Leonardo Bistolfi (1859-1933) for Angel Giorello, a labor-unionist.

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It's almost alive.

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Which you can't say here. We're across the street, at a separate cemetery for the British residents of Montevideo. Pride of place goes here to... one guess.

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Minus two points if you missed it.

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Efficient but prosaic.

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You probably won't believe me, but this is the municipal cemetery of Fray Bentos, at the corner of 18 de Julio and Alzaibar.

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Here, too, the deceased and/or his/her descendants have put up the best monuments they could afford.

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Some are elaborate; others, simple.

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An immigrant who made good on the land?

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See the bust near the column on the left.

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Its the Young family monument, the same Youngs who funded the Teatro Young in town.

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Find out more? Let me know.

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The inscription is laconic.

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And here's another little mystery, like that of the monuments to the miner and the fisherman.

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How does a laborer rate a fine monument like this? Or is the titan remembering humble beginnings?

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The Mulhalls in their Handbook of the River Plate add some details about John Conder: "The view of the river Uruguay from any of the hills in and around Fray Bentos is exceedingly pretty. The shops here are very good, and commodities of all kinds kept in supply. There are nearly 100 English residents.... There is an English chapel with an excellent parsonage, originally built for a college; here resides the Rev. John Conder, LL.D. (Late Rector of Wendy, Cambs), who has also the supervision of the English congregations through Bando Oriental (Montevideo excepted), and to him application should be made when the services of the Church are required. The Protestants possess a cemetery well laid out and kept, the gift of Mr. James Lowry of Montevideo" (1885 ed., pp. 607-08; odd that Conder died the same year he appeared in the pages of the Handbook).

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Perhaps you remember the street named for Angus Kennedy, over near the Liebig's factory. But which Angus? Father or son?

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Here's a Yankee born on Martha's Vineyard in 1841. He was a son of Captain John O. Morse, a whaler who took sick at sea and was buried in Peru. One of Captain Morse's daughters married another whaler who took her and two of her young brothers to Uruguay. There the whaler sold ice and became the American consul. The two brothers grew up to be captain and first mate of the river steamer "Villa del Salto." How James happened to be buried here I don't know, but the house of his father, Captain Morse, remains a historical site on the Vineyard.

See: https://captainmorsehouse.com/about/history/



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