The Rotonda of Illustrious Men
by Angie Galicia
In Mexico as in the rest of the world, there are women and men whose acts make them exceptional human beings, and they forever remain in the memory of society. In order to honor them, in 1872, Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada, the president of Mexico at the time, created a special place in the Dolores cemetery of Mexico City to honor all the Mexicans who gave “prestige to the Nation.”
Ever since, other distinguished members of society have been added to this select circle. Military men such as, Generals Juan Alvarez and Mariano Arista, both ex-presidents of Mexico, were added to the list. Gabino Barreda, who introduced Augusto Comte’s idea of positivism to Mexico, and famous historian Francisco José Clavijero are also respected members of the circle.
However, it is in the area of art, specifically in literature, where the Rotonda honors the most illustrious Mexicans. Among them, to mention only a few, are Doctor Mariano Azuela, author of the novel Los de abajo; poet Rosario Castellanos; modernist Salvador Díaz Mirón; writer Alfonso Reyes; and Ramón López Velarde, author of La Suave Patria.
In music, the composers of the Mexican National Anthem stand out –Jaime Nunó and Francisco González Bocanegra . Agustin Lara, Juventino Rosas, composer of the famous waltz “Sobre las olas”; Angela Peralta, the “Mexican Nightingale”; as well as Carlos Chávez and Manuel M. Ponce, 20th century composers, are all notable participants in the shaping of the Mexican culture. Representing Mexican art in the Rotonda are the three great painters: Diego Rivera, José Clemente and David Alfaro Siquieros. Also included is their predecessor, the grandfather of Mexican painters, Gerardo Murillo, or Dr. Atl, as they used to call him.
The Rotonda is a circular structure with a diameter that has been enlarged to make room for Mexico’s outstanding men and women. Since its creation in 1872, there are around 100 people buried there, all of whose talent accompanied them to the grave.
Other states of Mexico have their own Rotondas de los Hombres Ilustres, where men and women of the particular state have accomplished greatness.
Bellow is a list of the great people that have been buried in the Rotonda.