Among the controversies over issues in Latin American history, few indeed are those which have elicited more attention than questions related to the location and authenticity, of the mortal remains of founding fathers. To mention but a few examples, reference need only be made to the bones of Columbus, of Hernán Cortés, and of Cuauhtémoc, the last of the Aztecs. Only the status of Francisco Pizarro, whose mummy exists at Lima, has resisted doubt and controversy.
Certainly not the least of such enigmas, but easily among the least known, is the unresolved fate of the bones of Dr. José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia, one of Paraguay’s founding fathers and its famed El Supremo. Though agreement on the circumstances of his demise in 1840 is reasonably general, speculation has persisted regarding the whereabouts of his remains. Controversy has developed especially through the existence of two purported collections of his bones: one in a private Asunción museum and one in Argentina’s Museo Histórico Nacional.
Scholars interested in La Plata and especially in Paraguay’s history will thus find this brief volume published by the Ministry of the Interior to be of exceptional background value. Comprised of reports compiled by many of Paraguay’s most prominent historians, it suggests that the authenticity of the existing two collections of El Supremo’s remains cannot be accepted without doubt, that at least one of the collections must be spurious, and that the truth may well he that the founding father’s bones were given a permanent resting place in the Paraguay River. Aside from the considerable light which this work thus casts upon Dr. Francia and his era, the several reports are themselves indicative of the remarkable skill and research ability which characterize Paraguay’s modern school of historians.