When I was a child my mother always wanted to visit cemeteries! I remember that she would bring paper and rub it against the tombstones with chalk or a pencil and it would make an etching of the tombstone. Growing up I never really liked visiting cemeteries. I always thought they were a little creepy.
On my recent trip to South America, one of the tour stops was to visit a cemetery in Buenos Aires. I wasn’t very excited about it. I mean who wants to travel all that way to an exciting city and spend time in a cemetery!
Oh, as I wrong! I’ve never seen such elaborate statues and monuments in such a lovely setting. Wow!!
La Recoleta cemetery is located in a very sophisticated part of Buenos Aires. The Recoleta neighborhood is where all the best shopping, fine dining, and beautiful hotels are located. It’s a very romantic part of the town. The style of buildings and the elaborate landscaping and public art combined make it a lovely place to visit.
The Recoleta cemetary contains the graves of many notable figures in Argentina history. Eva Peron (Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina), various presidents of Argentina and according to our guide, the granddaughter of Napoleon!
The cemetery began in 1822 as the first public cemetery in Buenos Aires. According to Wikipedia, ” the site contains 4691 vaults, all above ground, of which 94 have been declared National Historical Monuments by the Argentine government and are protected by the state. Architectural styles include Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Baroque, and Neo-Gothic and most of the materials used between 1880 and 1930 in the construction of the tombs were imported from Paris and Milan.” Carrera marble, wrought iron, gold, bronze, and granite are located throughout the cemetery. The use of such high end materials really make this a glamourous place for ghosts!
Our guide told us there were over 6,400 statues located in the cemetery. Each one more elaborate than the other! When you travel to Buenos Aires definitely visit La Recoleta!
There are many stories of the people who have been buried there. As you walk along the beautiful tree-lined pathways you sort of lose yourself in the beauty and the tranquility. It’s hard to believe that this beautiful place is filled with tragedy and ghosts!
One of the stories that our guide told us as we walked around the grounds was about a bride that died on her honeymoon. According to the cemetery web site, “Liliana Crociati died on her honeymoon in the 1970s. Her parents reconstructed her bedroom within her tomb, and at the entrance placed a bronze statue of Liliana in her wedding dress, with her beloved pet dog at her side.” She had apparently died in an avalanche in the Alps, along with her husband and according to some accounts her dog died the exact time as his owner, although he was not with her! The tomb and the statutes are amazing to see in person. It’s a very popular spot to visit in the cemetary.
The next tomb that we came upon was built around the early 1900s. It was a beautiful art nouveau tomb that was carved out of Carrara marble that belonged to Rufina Cambaceres. There’s no telling how much these mausoleums would cost to build today; I don’t even know if it could be done! According to the La Recoleta website, “built in Carrera marble by Rufina’s mother after it was discovered that Rufina had mistakenly been buried alive, the tomb’s design bears all the hallmarks of the family’s grief. Local workers had heard the screams a few days after her burial, and when her coffin was disinterred, scratch marks were discovered on her face and on the insides of the coffin. It was later thought that she had been in a coma.”
Some of the stories that accompany these elaborate graves are really tragic. It’s hard to believe such a lovely place was full of such sad stories.
Of course, the most popular site in the cemetery is where Eva Peron, or Evita as you might remember her, is buried. Evita was a very controversial First Lady of Argentina who died in 1952. Did you see the movie ‘Evita’, in which Madonna portrayed Eva Peron? There was some sort of family squabble and her body was in a different spot until being moved into her family plot 20 years later! Our guide told us that she is buried deep underground, 16 feet to be exact, in order to protect her remains.
Even if visiting cemeteries aren’t really your idea of fun, you should make it a point to see Recoleta. There’s a reason why Recoleta is one of the main tourist attractions in Buenos Aires! xoxox