Chris and I visited Recoleta Cemetery on a day that threatened to rain but somehow visiting a cemetery on a cloudy day seems fitting.
Or does it?
It’s not a dismal and dreary place at all. Recoleta Cemetery seems more like a public park than a place of mourning. Today the elite of Buenos Aires – rich, powerful, famous and dead are found on these grounds which makes for a fascinating afternoon to walk around.
The grounds are so large they are organized into areas that resemble city blocks and while it can be overwhelming to see such large structures the beauty is really in the details.
We first wandered the grounds looking at the intricate details of the tombs. There are 4800 tombs on site, all above ground. How they choose to decorate the tombs differs from brightly coloured stained glass to more morbid skulls.
Perhaps the drastic design differences reflect the gentrification of the grounds. Once a public cemetery, that all changed in the 1870s. To avoid the yellow fever epidemic the wealthy moved out of central Buenos Aires for northern Recoleta and also claimed the burial grounds.
Although you can see many different architectual styles there is a strong Greek influence throughout. Some of the tombs are as large as small houses with altar-like statues that would rival cathedrals in the area. It seems that the wealthy do not spare any expense when it comes to their death.
While many famous people have been buried here everyone comes looking for the most famous of all – Eva Peron – better known as Evita.
There are massive tombs throughout Recoleta Cemetery, Evita’s family is in a rather modest mausoleum that is hard to find. Wisely instead of just wandering aimlessly through La Recoleta for hours Chris and I decided to follow the crowds and sure enough we found her.
It was weird.
When we found it and I saw so many people getting their photo taken with the tomb. I wondered why I was hunting down a stranger’s woman’s grave. I know no more of her than Madonna’s movie – well actually Madonna’s music video as I haven’t seen the movie.
It felt inappropriate taking photos of her crypt. I know she’s beloved by the people and is an important political figure. That is all.
My gloomy mood changed when I read the notes people left for her. While she means nothing to me because I haven’t taken the time to learn about her, she did mean a lot to other people. I wasn’t interested in visiting the museum dedicated to her before but now I am intrigued.