ASUNCION – Asuncion’s Recoleta Cemetery holds many historic figures that today lie in deteriorated, seldom visited mausoleums, an element of the nation’s collective memory that a cultural society seeks to rescue by offering visits there after dark.
“People who visit the cemetery can learn about Paraguay’s entire history through the eminences interred there,” Eduardo Nakayama, a member of the Mandua’ra Cultural Association, told EFE.
The group, which takes its name from the Guarani word for memory, organizes the nighttime visits.
Among the remains entombed there are those of a woman who left a significant mark on Paraguayan history, Irish-born Eliza Lynch, wife of Brigadier Gen. Francisco Solano Lopez, the Paraguayan president who died with sword in hand during the 1864-1870 War of the Triple Alliance.
Years after that war, the remains of Madame Lynch, as she is known in Paraguay, were brought back from Paris, where the president’s wife settled with her children to escape all memory of the battles that left the South American country devastated.
That destructive conflict, which pitted Paraguay against an alliance forged by Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, is also memorialized by the tomb of Gen. Jose Eduvijis Diaz, who led the Paraguayan army to one of the greatest victories, the battle of Curupayty in 1867.
Diaz died months later, after being wounded while on an espionage mission among opposing forces, and in 1939 his remains were placed in the Pantheon of Heroes in downtown Asuncion, where those of Solano Lopez also lie.
The War of the Triple Alliance also had consequences for Recoleta Cemetery, where the most luxurious mausoleums were plundered and defiled, some of which held jewels and valuable objects that were stolen.
Despite these vicissitudes, the cemetery continues to be the historic final resting place of the nation’s leaders like President Emilio Aceval, who governed from 1898 to 1902, and President Higinio Morinigo, who served from 1940 to 1948.
Also entombed there are musicians like Herminio Gimenez, considered one of the pillars of Paraguayan music, and Paraguay’s first female attorney, Serafina Davalos.