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Day 51 – Recoleta Cemetery Isn’t Just for Dead People

November 30, 2010

Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina

Date: Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I love cemeteries for the same reason I love scuba diving. In the ocean, you feel small and at the mercy of a force much greater than you. Here, standing amongst the monuments to the long gone or the recently departed, is much the same thing. There is peace, there is silence, and there is the understanding we’re all headed for the same fate. Take a deep breath and you can feel infinity tugging at the hem of your life.

Spending an hour and a half wandering Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires then, seems an appropriate way to start my sightseeing in this city. Just a short walk from where I’m staying, it’s a testament to my state of mind (relax and do nothing) that it’s taken me almost a week to get here.

Amidst all the sarcophagi, crypts, and mausoleums you can actually feel time pass. You can see stairways winding down below the structures. People come here to tend to the graves. To descend below the above ground monuments and do whatever it is that goes on in the basements of these things.

Some, however, have fallen into disrepair. Perhaps families have run out of money, have died off themselves, or just plain can’t be bothered. Cobwebs crawl over decorative grave features. Plants push through cracks in the once solid stone. Plaques commemorating a president of a country club or minister of government have been so neglected that no one’s come by who can bother to wipe away the cobwebs.

One notable exception: the tomb of Eva Peron and her husband and family. Sleek marble, meticulously maintained, Evita won’t be forgotten and neglected any time soon. Small tributes lie at her dead doorstep. My favorite: two cigarettes. Why two? Couldn’t bear to part with a full pack? Perhaps one is for her and one for her husband.

Wandering the maze of graves, I came across something you rarely see or don’t want to think about: an indiscreet trashcan filled with rotting flowers and other offerings. In the end, it all comes out the same. The cigarettes, the flowers—all end up in the rubbish bin.

In the end, a rain storm drove me out before I had my fill. Too bad. It’s the kind of place where I could spend an eternity.

GALLERY: Click through to see even more pictures of Recoleta’s cemetery.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. December 17, 2010 9:23 am

    WOW!

    How did we miss this in 1970?

    Wonderful place…….

  2. Doug permalink
    December 17, 2010 1:36 pm

    Great pics. We went there too. It’s not the same with 30 students hovering around.

    • January 6, 2011 7:21 am

      To get the “tomb only” picture I had to hang around for 15 minutes and wait for a lull in the waves of people. I agree, though–staring at a tomb while being bumped around by a crowd takes away from the experience.

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