Saturday, June 30, 2012

Bullshit Building 9: Every Statue of the Worst Tyrant

After discussing 8 bullshit buildings in Asia, Europe, and Africa, time to move to the continent across the Atlantic: America.

You can see, unlike for my previous bullshit buildings articles, I choose a little bit cryptic title for this one. So let's start this article with a pop quiz: Who do you think is the worse tyrant of all time?

My guess most people will vote for Adolf Hitler, or Joseph Stalin, or Mao Zedong. After those 3, Pol Pot, Vlad the Impaler, Saddam Hussein, and many other infamous dictator who slaughter less people will come second. Not me. My vote goes to Francisco Solano López, the dude in the photo on the right. I am pretty sure most of you will scratch your head when you hear that name or see that photo. I guess, readers who come from or know the history of Brazil and/or Uruguay will nod in agreement with me. As for people who come from Paraguay and Argentina ... it is complicated.

In order to understand the bullshitness of the statue of this man, you have to know his story. This is a story about true love ... and unprecedented horrors.

Before the Tyrant
Its all begun in Paraguay, mid 1850s. Carlos Antonio López ruled Paraguay with iron hand. He was a tyrant, but his people still managed to live under his rule. He built many schools, roads, telephone lines, etc. At the same time, he made Paraguayan army the most powerful army in that region. His jealousy almost instigated wars with Great Britain, USA, and his neighbors, but he always managed to defuse the situation at the last minute. Oh yeah, he also abolished slavery and torture, and releasing all political prisoners jailed by his predecessor. Not bad for a despot.

López Sr. send his oldest son, Francisco Solano, to Europe. His objective: representing his father to buy arms. Of course he had fun too during this tour. In Paris, he met a beautiful Irish prostitute, who was also an ex-wife of a French officer, a very beautiful blonde named Eliza Lynch. And they fell in love. When Solano returned to his home country, Eliza came with him. López Sr. and many other were understandably outraged when they discovered  this. Nevertheless, amor vincit omnia, love conquers all, so Eliza stayed as López Jr.'s mistress.

Quick comparison between the worst tyrants:
In his early years, Hitler experienced hardships: death of his beloved mother, rejection from Vienna University, etc. Combined that with 1st World War, rampant inflation, etc, life is pretty hard for young Adolf. 
Same with Stalin, he was targeted and jailed by the Czars secret police during the chaotic last years of the Romanov's reign.
Mao also experienced similar hardship, living as a poor student during China's tumultuous time, ravaged by civil wars and corruption, full with uncertainty. 
Contrary with them, Francisco Solano López was born with silver spoon in his mouth, due to winning a genetic lottery. What a lucky bastard ...

Then López Sr. dropped dead in 1862 and succeeded by Francisco Solano. To say that "everything went downhill from this point" is a very big understatement. 

The Beginning of the reign
López decided to continue the development. Unfortunately, his delusion of grandeur, combined with the vanity of his mistress means lots of bullshit projects. One example is the Asuncion Opera House, which imitates the La Scala Opera House. This Opera House didn't have any roof for decades. That is one good example of a bullshit building, but the story of that Opera house won't do justice to López since the Opera House was the least problem he created.

At that time, the political world of Latin America was divided by the traditional Blancos vs  western-oriented Colorados dichotomy. At the same time, Brazil and Argentina struggled to become local superpower. López was a Blanco. So did the government of Uruguay. But the government of Brazil of that time was Colorado. So, the Brazillians didn't like the fact that a Blanco government ruled on its southern border, and decided to invade it.

The Triple Alliance War
López decided to help his fellow Blancos in Uruguay. One problem: Paraguay and Uruguay never have a shared border. So López send his army to slaughter and loot everything in Brazilian territory near Paraguayan border, hoping to distract the Brazilian army. Because that area is basically a thick jungle, the Brazilian army didn't even bother to send any major unit to repel López army.

Map of South America
Since his distraction operation failed, López had to cross Argentinian territory to assist Uruguay directly. When he asked permission to do that, president Mitre of Argentina reject him. Even though Mitre was no fans of Brazil, the thought of López army crossing his territory was even more appalling. At that time, February 1865, the Uruguayan government already fell. This was the best chance for López to defuse the situation. López didn't see it that way. It seems he thought that apologizing is for pussy, so he declared war against Argentina, and send his army to slaughter and loot the Argentinians, forcing their way to Uruguay.

Extremely pissed by this, the Argentinian, Brazilian, and Uruguayan government created a "Triple Alliance," hence the name "Triple Alliance War". Yup, you read it correctly, the land locked and small country of Paraguay was at war with similar-size Uruguay plus its 2 gigantic-size neighbors. López managed to unite the Brazilians and Argentinians. Too bad that alliance was meant to hunt his head.

After some victories in the early stages of the wars, the destruction of Paraguay Navy in the Battle of Riachuelo totally changed the war. Paraguay army was retreating, and repeatedly defeated by the alliance's forces. The alliance were also losing soldiers, but with their massive population and resources, they could replace it. Paraguay on the other hand, started to run out of adult male, so they were forced to recruit minors. Adult males were not the only thing they ran out. Remember the fact that Paraguay is a land-locked country? The Paraguayan army had difficulties in replacing their used ammunitions since most of their ammo were imported. Lòpez and his rag-tag army were  forced to flee from the capital, to the jungle.

Like a typical tyrant, he was sure that he was destined for greatness, so all this defeats had to be due to conspiracies! He blamed his advisors, officials, military officers, and all the foreigners. He even begun slaughtering his own families. His 2 brothers and 2 brothers-in-laws were all killed. See, Stalin, Hitler, and Mao had slaughtered millions, but butchering their own family directly? Nah, those amateurs never go that far!

But wait, that was not all! López mother suddenly revealed one terrible secret: he is literally a bastard, fathered out of wedlock. He went ballistic. His own mother even conspired against him! His reaction was swift and brutal. His old mother was caged, together with his sisters, and flogged along their journey deep inside Paraguayan jungle. Remember, we are talking about his mother here, the woman who bring him to this world!

There is an adage "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter," but no one say "one man's mother torturer is another man's hero." So now you see why even a maniac like Hitler suddenly looks like Florence Nightingale in comparison to Francisco Solano López. No. Forget those 3 amateurs. I am pretty sure that López supervised the devil himself when Satan wrote his dissertation about "Cruelty". Poor Satan definitely need some guidance from López!

During his flee, finally López was cornered by the Brazillian army. He was killed at 1st of March 1870 when the Brazillians tried to disarm him. His last words were Muero con mi patria! or "My nation die with me!" He got a point there. Eliza Lynch was forced to dig her lover's grave with her bare hand before kicked out of the country.

The Aftermath
Paraguay Territorial Loss
After the death of López, Paraguay lost almost everything. At that time, Paraguay was known as "The country of woman" since for some years adult male were generally absent. A large part of its territory was annexed by Argentina and Brazil, including areas where the very important yerba mate cash crops were cultivated. The Alliance army also practically occupied Paraguay until 1876. Of course Paraguay had to pay reparation to Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. 

Despite winning the war, the Alliance got crippled by their debts. Brazil, for example, only managed to pay off their debt in the 1950s. So, in essence, López ruined 4 countries, while slaughtering most of the male population of his own country and his own brothers, and as the final act, he also tortured his own sisters and mother. López put the bar very high for any future dictator who are interested in replacing him as "The worst tyrant of all time."

Oh yeah, his true love, Eliza Lynch also tried to come back to Paraguay some years later, when she thought she could reclaimed some of "her" properties. She was kicked out again, this time permanently. She died in obscurity in Paris in 1886.

Today's situation
So, you already know the life of Francisco Solano López. Maybe you wonder "Who the hell want to make a statue of this monster?"

Remember in the beginning of this article when I said that Argentinians and Paraguayans view of him is complicated?

Fast forward to the 1930s. At that time, Paraguay faced another war. This time against Bolivia. They need to rally the people. They need an unifying figure, a hero ... a legend. Desperate to found one, they finally settle with Francisco Solano López. Paraguay politicians eagerly re-visioned history to make him look as heroic as possible, whitewashing everything. They even moved his remains to "National Pantheon of Heroes," and designates his date of death as "Heroes Day." The dictator of Paraguay in 20th century, Stroessner, also took the remains of Eliza Lynch, declared her "national heroine," and buried her in a notable grave in Asuncion. So, despite the fact that López is the dude who flogged his own mother, he is until today (2012), considered as the greatest Paraguayan hero! That's why they built him some statues! Wow, imagine your reaction if you saw someone built a statue to respect Hitler in Israel or in his hometown ...

Not only the Paraguayans, the Argentinian revered him too! As sign of respect, in 2009, the Argentinians even named one of their Armored Artillery Group after López! Huh? How come? That is because he and his father repeatedly ranted against the British. For those of you who forgot, Argentina is still pissed by the British after the Falkland War.

No wonder everybody said politic is dirty, bloody, and above all ... disgusting ...

Previous Bullshit Building Article: Chinese Ghost Towns
Next Bullshit Building: Ion Storm's Office

The "War Nerd" article on the War of Triple Alliance
South America map from:
Paraguayan territorial loss map from:

Photos of Statues from Panoramio:

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