Recoleta Cemetery, Where the Rich People Come to Rest, Forever

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Recoleta Cemetery Buenos Aires Argentina

Thanks for this picture to blmurch

One of the most visited tourist spots in Buenos Aires is also an oasis of tranquility in the midst of one of the city’s more popular nightspots. After all, it can’t get any quieter than being surrounded by the dead.

Located on 1760 Junín, in what used to be the garden of the Our Lady of The Pilar church, the Recoleta Cemetery was inaugurated as the first public graveyard of the city back in 1822. Decades later, after a restoration and with the opening of the much larger graveyards located in Chacarita and Flores, Recoleta became the posh cemetery: the “it” place to be and be seen in your afterlife if you were a VIP during your life time.

Recoleta Cemetery Buenos Aires ArgentinaNowadays, one way to get into this burial ground is as a visitor but, if you want to remain there for good, you can only do it if you belong to one of the families that own one of the 4,870 graves already built there.

Just a few feet within the entrance, visitors are greeted with a not often seen panoramic view: a landscape made of stone, trees and some of the most important surnames in Argentina’s history.

You can either take one of the guided tours – Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11 a.m. for English speakers, Fridays at 11 a.m. in Portuguese and everyday except Mondays at 9, 10, 11 am and 2, 3 and 4 p.m. if you dare to keep up with a Spanish speaking guide- or do the tour on your own. Maps are sold in the entrance for four Argentinean pesos, and they will insure you against getting lost within the six blocks of halls and burial vaults.

The cemetery is a good way to see the chronology of what was going on in the Argentinean architecture when the graves were built, from neo classicism and art nouveau to XIX century trends with their angel statues, to more minimalist mausoleums made of marble, as the building dates get closer to our days.

Recoleta Cemetery Buenos Aires ArgentinaNevertheless, since this place was also used as a way for the upper class families to show off their status (and everybody knows us Argentineans love showing off) be prepared to behold a burial architecture extravaganza. Take the Dorrego family mausoleum for example, an epic construction that it’s hard to miss, located fifty meters at the right of the main road round about, with ornaments that make reference to passages from the New Testament in similar biblical proportions.

One of the most famous “inhabitants” of the cemetery is Eva Duarte de Perón, Argentina’s First Lady from 1946 until her death in 1952. After Evita’s body was recovered from an Italian graveyard where it was under a false name and traveled almost through half of Europe it was finally deposited in the Duarte family’s grave, where it still rests, in a simple dark marble burial vault located in a narrow hall a few meters from the cemetery wall that’s over Vicente Lopez street.

Recoleta Cemetery Buenos Aires Argentina Rufina CambaceresWhile some are notorious during their lifetimes and remain so after passing away, there are some that achieve celebrity because of the events that take place in their afterlife. That’s the case of Rufina Cambaceres, an early XX century socialite that died the night of her 19th birthday from a stroke. Or at least that’s what everybody thought. According to the urban legend, not long after the young girl was buried in the Recoleta cemetery, the night keeper found her coffin opened and seriously damaged. The official version dictated it was made by grave thieves. But her mother, an upper class widow (known for being president Hipólito Yirigoyen’s mistress at the time) was convinced that her daughter had suffered a catalepsy attack, a disease in which the victim presents all of symptoms of being dead when still alive. And 106 years later, the statue that she ordered to be placed in Rufina’s burial vault still stands reminding us so: a young woman grabbing the door knob, as trying to get inside the grave, or preparing to leave, it’s hard to tell.

Speaking of leaving, the cemetery closes at 6 p.m., after which only the local cats remain wandering the alleyways of the Recoleta Cemetery. If you’d rather not join them on the night watch, head for the entrance.

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[…] two locations. There is one in the Recoleta neighbourhood, where many tourists go to check out the Recoleta Cemetery and the big metal flower sculpture, Floralis Genérica. The Recoleta location is extremely small. […]

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