Visiting a cemetery is usually not on top of my list, but it’s a must see sight in Buenos Aires, and was near the Museum of Fine Arts. So after another lazy morning, leisurely lunch, and long walk, we made it to the area at 3pm. (yes that late).
We had naively thought that the kids would be asleep by the time we arrived, but they continue to thwart our plans and were both wide awake. We decided the cemetery would be a better fit with kids who were awake than the art museum, so headed there first.
As we were entering, a women offered to give a guided tour for 50 Argentine Pesos. That seemed like a good deal, and we had no idea what we were looking at, so we agreed. According to our guide, the cemetery was the first public cemetery in Argentina. The government appropriated farm land from Franciscan monks in the area, and turned it into a public cemetery. While it’s all full at the moment, familes do continue to sell the plots. They are required to move the bodies before it’s handed over, so yes you too can still have a posh burial site for the family in Recoleta…for a price.
We did make our way to see the most famous site in the cemetery, the resting place of Evita Peron. Ironically, it’s a very small site, in a narrow corridor, but it’s covered in plaques and flowers. It’s always crowded, and people are always coming to pay their respects. The mausoleum, like most others here, houses numerous members of the family, including her mother, grandmother and sister.
Walking around, it’s realy amazing to see the works of arts that form elaborate mausoleums. Many had beautiful stain glass windows, mosaic work, and ornate statues depicting angels, etc. while others seem to tell a tale – like that of Rufina who died in her coffin from asphyxiation after prematurely declared dead. She is depicted as a statue of a girl trying to open a shut door. According to our guide, all the provinces have public cemeteries, but most are plain. Recolota cemetery is the only one with works of arts in the grave sites.
One of the sad parts was seeing the neglected mausoleums. When a plot was sold, it was sold forever. However, some families have died out and no one is left to maintain the upkeep on the crypt. Since it’s private property, they fall into disrepair. You can see which of the mausoleums are still visited and which ones have had years of neglect. The worst sight had to be seeing someone illegaly storing paint cans and other items in a neglected crypt, right next to, and even on top of the coffins of the deceased. Please, have a little respect…
My son was hyper at this point (past the point of tired) and we had some worries about how to keep him under control and respectful in the cemetery. But we discovered something, he wanted to take pictures like his daddy. We gave him a phone and he went snap happy on everything. The guide did a good job of engaging him, asking him to help find things in the statues, and pointing at things for him to take pictures of.
After about an hour tour, we generously tipped our amazing guide and left the cemetery to visit a Freddo’s for ice cream near by. One meltdown later, we managed to get the big one to sleep and went off to the Museum of Fine Arts.
* Stared photos taken by Atma Photography