Visiting the Artigas Mausoleum, Montevideo, Uruguay: complex remembrance of a once exiled leader
A pivotal historical figure who continues to make history
The widely acknowledged, leading Independence-era figure of Uruguay, General José Gervasio Artigas (1764-1850) is commemorated extensively throughout the country, and nowhere more poignantly than at his Mausoleum, built below ground at Independence Square (Spanish: Plaza Independencia ), Montevideo.
The architects were Lucas Ríos Demalde y Alejandro Morón, and the work was commissioned in 1974. President Aparicio Méndez (1904-1988) unveiled the monument in 1977. The Mausoleum is executed in black marble.
The centrally placed urn, with General Artigas's dates its side, is placed in such as position as to receive direct sunlight. Soldiers in dress uniform of the Blandengues regiment, in which General Artigas himself served, customarily stand on sentry duty at the Mausoleum.
This is in my view among the most impressive sights in Uruguay. One is conscious of being in a location replete with historic allusion.
What is also interesting is that the history of the Mausoleum itself has shed light on contemporary Uruguay. Recent, elected Presidents of Uruguay have had supporter bases which have been partial to images of the Cuban Revolution. The government of President Aparicio Méndez who unveiled it in 1977, was a civilian-military administration, which, under President Juan María Bordaberry, also commissioned the Mausoleum. More recently, there has been unwillingness in government circles to give credit to a former government in relation to a monument that is central to the history and self-definition of Uruguayans, and there were proposals to move the remains of General Artigas elsewhere. However, there was widespread disquiet at these proposals, and a compromise arrangement was suggested, whereby the remains would stay in the Mausoleum, while quotations from General Artigas on civic matters, now deemed to have been found inconsequential by the former civilian-military administration, were planned to be added to panels at the Mausoleum.
While General Artigas is credited with being the most important Independence-era leader, for the last decades of his life he suffered poor relations with other national figures, and, indeed, spent many years in exile in Paraguay, where he died in 1850. There is also a metaphorical sense, then, that the popular sovereignty ideas with which General Artigas is principally credited, are deemed by the current national leadership to have been in practical exile or abeyance during the years of the civilian-military administration of 1973 to 1985, despite this administration's sponsorship of the Mausoleum.
Above the Mausoleum is a statue of General Artigas, in the centre of Plaza Independencia , which was the work of Ángel Zanelli, inaugurated in 1923.
June 19, 2012
Also worth seeing
Montevideo 's numerous visitor attractions include: the Salvo Palace; the Independence Building facing Plaza Independencia; the Legislative Palace; the main building of the University of the Republic (UdelaR); the Obelisk; the Cerro Fortresss; and many others.
How to get there: LanChile flies to Montevideo , Uruguay from North American destinations including New York and Toronto. Car rental is available at Montevideo Carrasco International airport. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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