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Chavez about to join a who’s who under glass

posted 3/14/2013 8:32:07 PM |
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I thought this was an interesting article

The corpse of Hugo Chavez is going on permanent display — which is far from the worst thing that could happen to it.

A book called Rest in Pieces: The Curious Fates of Famous Corpses (Simon & Schuster, 329 pages, $22) arrived on my desk about the same time that Venezuela was announcing plans to preserve Chavez, its recently deceased leader.

If nothing else, the book provides a good argument for cremation.

The skull of poor Beethoven, who died in 1827, was crudely sawed apart, and the ear bones were removed (the pathologist wanted them for clues to the composer’s deafness), author Bess Lovejoy says.

He was exhumed twice and reburied, but parts of him remained stubbornly aboveground even after all that. Fragments of his skull eventually ended up in California in 1990 and were later tested for evidence of lead poisoning. The results were inconclusive.

Political leaders, particularly communists, tend to end up under glass.

Chavez will join Vladimir Lenin, a couple of the Kims of North Korea, Ho Chi Minh and Mao Zedong among the dead leaders who remain somewhat intact and receive visitors. (In the case of the Kims, call first. North Korea likes its privacy.)

Lenin, the Russian revolutionary, is probably the most famous of the everlasting communists.

“Even though he’s soaked in formaldehyde and looks a little like a waxy prop from a Vincent Price film, lines of tourists still wait to visit him each day,” Lovejoy writes of Lenin.

Lenin’s preservation, she says, was Stalin’s idea. Lenin’s family and the commissar of health were against it, but people who argued with Stalin tended to become corpses themselves.

Stalin was also preserved for public display after his death in 1953. By 1961, the Soviet dictator had fallen out of favor, so what was left of him was cremated.

Likewise, Eva Peron, first lady of Argentina, didn’t rest in anything resembling peace after she died in 1952.

“Her corpse was at the center of two decades of mayhem and madness,” Lovejoy says.

The plan was to display her inside a 400-foot monument, but her husband, Juan, was overthrown in a 1955 military coup before the monument could be built.

Mrs. Peron’s body stayed in an embalming lab for a while, then spent time in an attic after an abortive attempt to bury it, Lovejoy says.

In 1957, her body was secretly buried under another woman’s name in an Italian cemetery, where it was discovered in the early 1970s.

Mr. Peron regained power in 1973 but died before he could bring Eva’s body home. That was left to his third wife, who succeeded him as president and put Eva’s body on display in Argentina.

After more political turmoil, it was finally buried in 1976 in Buenos Aires.

“A corpse is always a problem — both for the living and for the dead,” Lovejoy notes.

So Chavez is going on permanent display, but, as we’ve seen, “permanent” has a way of becoming temporary.

Joe Blundo is a Columbus Dispatch columnist.


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Mar 14 @ 8:39PM  
Argentina first lady Evita Peron right after she died



Mar 14 @ 8:51PM  
Latest news on Chavez has it that Chavez may be out of luck for an enternal permanent display. It's believed that he had died anywhere between a couple of weeks to a couple of months before they announced his death, which would make it impossible for an embalming for a permanent display since they had waited to start the process.

Mar 15 @ 11:25AM  
I read that there was a problem in the process. I just saw the headline and blurb. I wan't interested enough to read the article.

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Chavez about to join a who’s who under glass