La Marcha de San Lorenzo or St. Lawrence’s March
(With thanks to Dr. John Emery and Ian Gall)
It is quite common in Argentina for one to hear the beloved Marcha de San Lorenzo, be it on the radio on a National Holiday or sung by schoolchildren back from school when not listening to it being played by a military band. Its music is definitely martial, even heroic and epic, boisterous and catchy, raising patriotic feelings in those who hear it.
If someone were to ask us what we know about this March, we would readily say the following, beliefs which I am sure the reader would share:
This sequence of “truths” would safely describe what most of us think or know about this beautiful military march.
It is far from the truth, and we would be completely wrong!
The author, Cayetano Alberto Silva, was Uruguayan, born on August 7th 1868, son of Natalia Silva, a slave belonging to the family of that surname. He studied music, joined a Band in Montevideo, and in 1889 travelled to Buenos Aires, where he worked for a time at the
He later went to Rosario, where he was named Director of the 7th Infantry Regiment’s Band. In 1898 he moved to Venado Tuerto with his family, as he was appointed by the local Italian Society to teach music and to begin a Lyric Centre: it was there that he created “Rondalla” which was played and acted out during the Carnival of the year 1900.
He wrote the music for his compatriot and friend Florencio Sanchez’s plays “Canillita” and “Cédulas de San Juan”, as well as other military marches: “Curupaytí”, “San Genaro”, “Anglo-Boers”, “Río Negro”, “22 de Julio” and “Tuyutí”.
The musical score of what we now know as the San Lorenzo March, composed by Silva, was dedicated to Colonel Pablo Ricchieri, at that time Minister of War, and architect of the modernization of the Argentine Army. The Minister was very grateful for this homage, but requested that he change the name to “Combate de San Lorenzo”, San Lorenzo being the name of the village where Ricchieri was born, and the site of San Martín’s first battle against the Spanish Army on Argentine soil in 1813.
Combat scene at San Lorenzo – 1813
It was performed for the first time in 1902 – without lyrics - close to the Convent of San Lorenzo where the battle was fought, and was declared the Argentine Army’s Official March on that day. Two days later, on occasion of the inauguration of the monument to San Martin in Santa Fe, it was played again in the presence of President Julio A. Roca, and of Ricchieri himself.
In 1907, his friend and Venado Tuerto neighbor Carlos Javier Benelli wrote the words to the March, which would later be adapted for use in schools. Years later, in a state of poverty, Silva sold the rights to the March to an editor in Buenos Aires, for the insignificant sum of $ 50.-
The March became world famous, and is considered in Europe to be one of the five best military march scores ever written. It has been present on various fundamental occasions throughout history:
Cayetano Silva was also employed by the Police Band. At the age of 52, he died in Rosario in 1920 of serious health problems. As he was black, the Santa Fe Police Force denied his burial in the Police Pantheon, and he was buried in an unmarked grave.
It was not until 1997 that his mortal remains were transferred to Venado Tuerto’s Municipal Cemetery, and the composer’s home in Venado Tuerto now houses a Museum, a Historical Archive and the Municipal Band, all of which bear his name.