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Visiting the Luis Alberto de Herrera Monument, Montevideo, Uruguay: statue by Edmundo Prati remembering a veteran leader
Commemorating a personality who was an institution in his own right
This statue commemorates Uruguayan Dr. Luis Alberto de Herrera y Quevedo (1873-1959), whose several careers over many decades combined to make him a distinguished historical personality.
The statue's creator in 1970 was the Uruguayan sculptor Edmundo Prati (1889-1970), who — remarkably — completed this work shortly before his death at the age of 81.
It is executed in bronze, and mounted on a grey, marble plinth. The sculptor was assisted by V. Habegger and Jorge Durán Mattos.
The work stands at the intersection of General Flores and Dr. Luis Alberto de Herrera Avenues, in Montevideo.
It is sometimes said that Luis Alberto de Herrera was a conservative leader, this is undoubtedly true in essence, but it may also be stated that in some ways the Uruguayan political tradition defies easy classification. In other countries, Dr de Herrera might simply have been regarded as an opposition leader who never achieved office for his party except near the end of his life. But particularly given the complex Uruguayan political system, he at times exercised considerable influence over a long career. For example, in 1933, he led many of his party to support the coup-d'état by the sitting Colorado President, Dr Gabriel Terra; thus the historic, binary division between Colorados and Nacionalistas , dating from the Uruguayan Civil War era, was complemented by the division among those Colorados and Nacionalistas who supported the coup and those who did not. Thus also, in no small measure, Dr de Herrera contributed to the situation whereby nominal opponents had in practical terms more in common with each other than with strict constitutionalists within their own parties (1).
Traditionally the two main parties in Uruguay were the Colorado (coloured) and National (Spanish: Nacional ) or Blanco (white) parties. Defining the distinction between these parties is not easy; an oversimplification would be to say that the Colorados have been mainly urban liberals while the Nacionalistas have been conservatives with a strong, rural base. But as important as these not wholly accurate distinctions would be the links that these parties had with the intermittent civil wars which recurred in Uruguay up until the last formal battle, which occurred at Masoller in 1904, at which Dr de Herrera was wounded.
Dr de Herrera was also an historian, journalist and a military figure, but it is as a political leader that he is chiefly remembered. Interestingly, it was in opposition to the regular army that he became identified with armed conflict in his youth, particularly during the 1897 Revolution, in the ranks of the Revolutionary Army of the National Party (Spanish: Ejército revolucionario del Partido Nacional ). Throughout his life, Dr de Herrera was proud to have been associated in his youth with Aparicio Saravia (2), the Blanco caudillo , with whom he fought. Many years later, he served as a General in the Paraguayan army, during the Chaco War. Thus, while a background in recurring armed conflicts was central to his persona, yet a strict distinction between Dr de Herrera's civilian and military identities is hard to maintain.
Despite Dr. de Herrera having been predominantly conservative in outlook, one of the ideas with which he was closely identified was anti-colonialism. This may seem odd to some North American and European observers, but in fact there is a deep tradition of somewhat conservative political figures in Latin America basing their appeal on anti-colonial (and anti-American) rhetoric.
He is also commemorated at a museum, based in his former residence, located at Avenida Dr. Luis Alberto de Herrera 3760 (formerly Avenida Larrañaga )(3).
The de Herrera extended family has produced some other prominent, Uruguayan political figures. A grandson of Dr Luis Alberto de Herrera, Dr. Luis Alberto Lacalle de Herrera (1941-) served as President of Uruguay from 1990 to 1995. A great-grandson, Dr Luis Alberto Lacalle Pou (1973-) has recently served as President of the Chamber of Representatives (Spanish: Presidente de la Cámara de Representantes ).
June 12, 2012
(1) Uruguay has also at various times used the double simultaneous vote (by a law known as the Ley de lemas). What are sometimes known as D'Hondt-influenced electoral systems have been used variously in Belgium, Honduras and Northern Ireland, and have sometimes been known to produce unusual situations, when applied. (For example, from 2007, longtime antagonists Dr. Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness served as Northern Ireland's First Minister and Deputy First Minister respectively, in a highly improbable alliance.) Dr de Herrera's unique status as an opposition leader owes much to the fact that Uruguay, emerging from its Civil Wars in the early 20th century, was rather susceptible to the application of a d'Hondt-influenced, proportional system. It may also be pointed out that as a result of a series of complex compromises which arose from events of the Civil War, the Nacionalistas were at various times given control of sizable parts of the country. While some contemporary observers of the more recent Uruguayan political scene are pleased to classify some more recent personalities as either Constitutional or de facto rulers, this to some extent belies an at times recurring tradition from 19th century Civil War times of governing arrangements, the strict constitutionality of which has been somewhat blurred.
(2) Interestingly, one of Dr de Herrera's early associates was Florencio Sánchez, a journalist and playwright who — as did Dr de Herrera — fought with the conservative, rural-based Nacionalista leader Aparicio Saravia in 1897. Sánchez could be somewhat classified as an anarcho-conservative, somewhat in the mold of France's nationalist leader Maurice Barrès, whose thought I have elsewhere discussed.
(3) As a matter of fact, I once lived in this street, close to this museum.
Also worth seeing
Among Montevideo 's numerous visitor attractions are: the Legislative Palace; the Salvo Palace; the Independence Building facing Plaza Independencia; 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 . The Uruguayan airline PLUNA, which codeshares with VARIG, flies to a number of Latin American regional destinations. Car rental is available at Montevideo Carrasco International airport. You are advised to 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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