One of our favorite things to do here at RFT is to delve into the hidden treasures of local history. That is to say, we aren’t content with merely recounting commonly known anecdotes about the city. We want even the born-and-raised Rosarino to walk with us and walk away feeling like they have learned something interesting about the place they call home.
Which is why I am writing here today. Because after more than a decade of residing in Rosario, after just short of a dozen years, last night, I learned something new.
Dr. Katsusaburo Miyamoto, a Japanese Doctor, Botanist and Veterinarian, was above all else, a Japanese scholar. He was a multifaceted sage who loved history and, in turn, happened to make history in more than one way. But we will get to that in a moment.
Having arrived in Argentina in 1919, Miyamoto had been hired by the Ministry of Agriculture to work at the Bacteriological Institute. While he is greatly remembered for his work there, treating, curing and reviving dead or dying plants after being the first to successfully isolate the vegetable hormone auxesina, it seems his real passion wasn’t science, but rather the preservation of life. His passion being first is Italian wife, Carmelita Colombo, and second, taxidermy. For years he astounded every visitor to his home, with his true “zoo of animals” embalmed with unprecedented (and unknown) techniques. Lizards, scorpions, turtles, cats and dogs seemed to defy time with an impressive appearance of vivacity, keeping their weight, their appearance and stature, their eyes open and gazing brightly amidst dense forests of cypresses, pines and eucalyptus.
In the end, however, Miyamoto isn’t remembered for his achievements in science. It is for an act that infringes upon legal and cultural norms, an act that, if committed today, would surely land him behind bars. When the death of Carmelita Colombo occurred in July 1959, Miyamoto locked himself in silence in his home at 1507 Buenos Aires Street where he proceeded with perhaps one of the greatest scientific astonishments to date: the preservation of the body of Carmelita without removing any of her internal organs.
Miyamoto added the love of his life to his collection of exotic animals in order to continue living beside the corpse of the great love of his life.
As proof of this incredible case, the Carmelita Colombo’s petrified or mummified body is exhibited at the Anatomy Museum of the Faculty of Medical Sciences of Rosario.