ASUNCION Ė Technicians of the National Culture Secretariat (SNC) are working to restore the coffin of Gen. Jose Eduvigis Diaz, a national hero who died in 1867 during the 1864-1870 War of the Triple Alliance, and which, paradoxically, never contained his remains.
Badly damaged by termites, the coffin will be restored at the National Archive in Asuncion to make it presentable for the tribute to be paid next Feb. 7 in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the generalís death.
However, the generalís remains were never laid to rest in this wooden coffin, only a plaster cast of Diaz, whose body was buried in another casket at Asuncionís Recoleta Cemetery, the SNC director of works and projects, Natalia Antola, told EFE on Monday.
The coffin now being restored was originally ordered by Paraguayís president at the time, Marshal Francisco Solano Lopez (1862-1870), who ordered a cenotaph to be built, an empty reliquary to be placed in Asuncion Cathedral to commemorate the general.
So instead of the heroís remains in the coffin, a plaster sculpture was found that is also being restored, a bust with a bronze-colored patina and wearing a military uniform.
According to Antolaís research, the most likely hypothesis is that the body of Diaz, who commanded Paraguayan troops at the battle of Curupayty, the countryís most important victory in the War of the Triple Alliance, was taken in a simple casket from Paso Pucu in the south, where he died after being wounded, to the city of Humaita.
From there, the funeral cortege sailed up the Paraguay River to Asuncion Cathedral, where the heroís funeral was held. Those attending the ceremony visited the coffin with the plaster sculpture to pay their last respects.
Diazís remains, on the other hand, were buried in another casket at Recoleta Cemetery, together with a smaller box containing his leg that was amputated after he was wounded in an espionage operation by enemy troops.
In 1939, his remains were combined in a funeral urn placed in Asuncionís Pantheon of Heroes inaugurated a short time before, and several years after the Chaco War (1932-1935).
The other coffin, the one containing his sculpture and which is being restored, became part of the collection of the Paraguay Fine Arts Museum, and was afterwards moved to Diazís ancestral home where he was born in Pirayu, 30 miles (50 kilometers) south of Asuncion.