Meeting Evita and a girl buried alive

According to an old Argentine saying, the death costs more than the whole life. Knowing this, we can imagine what an importance death has, which is well represented by the masterpieces of tombs in the cemeteries. No doubt, that tourists will discover these places, since one can find here so many artistic works next to each other, with which an entire city could attract visitors. Such attraction is the Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires, and by the way, Evita is also buried here.



It is spring in Buenos Aires. No more big showers and cold weather, I can go out to the nature, which is a great opportunity to practice photography. Since my current knowledge is limited to static objects, on a sunny Sunday afternoon I decided to hunt down the sculptures of the Recoleta Cemetery. To my greatest surprise, at the entrance a big board announced that every Tuesday free guided tour started at 11am. I was already taking notes about my next Tuesday agenda, when I caught some words in the air, that within a few minutes, at 4pm, the Spanish guided tour was just about to begin. For some reason I did not look for the Spanish tours on the board, but if I was so lucky to arrive punctually, I signed up for the Spanish group.

Strictly controlled ring tone

As our tour guide arrived, he told us that the originally assigned guide could not come today, therefore, as the director of the cemetery he will lead the tour. He turned out to be a great tour guide talking through the next two hours. Surprisingly, the tour was neither sad nor elevated. Our guide welcomed us with the phrase, that one day all of us will end up here. At every stop he stood on the thumb to oversee the group of thirty people, and told the story about the dead body underneath. Despite of all the looseness he told us, that the ring tone of every employee was controlled by internal regulations, since it can turn out quite unpleasant if an elevated service is interrupted by a joyful song. 

The director of the cemetery tells about Recoleta while sitting on a tomb

The shady Recoleta is separated by parcels, and on each of them there is a huge mausoleum or tomb. Because of these tall constructions the cemetery looks like a small town with stoned streets wimpling like labyrinths. If we do not go with a tour guide, maybe we do not even pay attention to important figures or masterpieces. Currently Recoleta has 4691 tombs, and 94 is declared by the Argentine state as national monument. We can find here pieces of Art Deco, Art Nouveau, baroque and neo-gothic. Till the beginning of the 20th century, many times the blocks of stone were transported directly from Paris or Milan. 

Recoleta was founded in 1822 by the monks of Recoleto because there was not enough place to bury inside the church. Before there was a monastery on this land, and the cemetery was established on the soil used by their domestic animals. Recoleta is the first public cemetery of Buenos Aires. Until today anyone can be buried here irrespectively of social level, position or fortune, of course, if he finds an empty place in the labyrinth of the tombs.

Coffin behind a family mausoleum

Burying happens downwards, under the ground. It does not seem to be a novelty until we do not find out that the coffins are not buried under soil, but are placed on the shelves of the mausoleum. Walking by these monuments it gives a bizarre impression to see the wooden coffins hanging on the wall up till the ceiling. If there is no more place left, burying continues on the shelves of the basement. When I asked the director about the hygienic circumstances, he ensured me that within the wooden coffin the dead body is closed hermetically in a zinc coffin.

Celebrities and monstrosities

Through the politicians and soldiers laying here, I got to know the important points of the Argentine history. I heard about many ministers, the founder of the Argentine fleet, a granddaughter of Napoleon, but of course, the apex and final destination of every visit is the tomb of Eva Perón. The Evita cult is still significant, and the not so significant and hidden tomb is always full of with flowers left by the pilgrims. Interesting fact that Eva is not laying next to her husband, Juan Perón, but is 8 meters under the ground in her family tomb, the Duartes'. The director told us that it is a common question by the visitors why they are not next to each other, but as he said, it is the absolute authority of the family to decide.

Evita's tomb in a narrow street

Like every cemetery, this one also has legends. It happened during the turn of the century that a 19-year-old girl was preparing to theater when she suddenly fall. After stating her death she was immediately transported and buried in Recoleta. The next morning the security guard reported to the direction that the new coffin with the body of the girl was found in a different position. Since there was no earthquake the last night everyone was surprised. By all means they ordered to open the coffin. When they looked into it they saw, that the hands of the girl were not laying on her chest, but were frozen into a scratching position. According to the legend, most probably, she was buried alive, she woke up inside the coffin and drowned. One can always guess who wanted to kill her this way, but the director told us again that he can never take sides.

Walking among the tombs, sometimes in very narrow streets

Recoleta is the most well-known cemetery of Buenos Aires, however not many knows that it is far not the biggest. While Recoleta lays on five acres, the Chacarita, which was established because of the huge number of dead people after the yellow fewer epidemic in 1871, is laying on 95 acres, which makes it the biggest cemetery of Argentina. The body of Juan Perón was laying here until 2006.

According to the director, maybe because of its small size, the Recoleta is very much attached to its surrounding. For example, there are two shopping malls a few meters away, and many buildings have the pleasant view on the streets of the cemetery. Another example for the personal touch is that a separate employee is responsible to feed the abandoned cats around the cemetery. The reason for that is that the visitors should not touch sick or scabby cats, but rather healthy and well-fed ones. 

Cat feeding

A more important job, however, is the continuous restoration of the sculptures. That is for sure that there is work to do, as there are hundreds of masterpieces. I saw obelisks, condors, tombs of bronze, big and even bigger carvings, of course a lot of saints and angels in all sizes and composition. During the two hours we only visited the most popular places, but I heard lots of stories. I also had the chance to take many pictures, because the cemetery continuously changed its face with the sunset. The white sculptures first dressed yellow, then red, and when the cemetery closed, with the sated cats sitting on their stairs, they said good-bye and went to sleep.


The original in Hungarian is published here.



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About Tiny Girl With Big Bag

Hobby writer and autodidact photographer whose passion is to travel and get to know new people and cultures. She has been on 4 continents and 30 countries, and the outcome is this travel blog where she shares travel stories, thoughts, tips and photography always through a subjective eye.

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28 comments:

  1. Nagyon jók és érdekesek a képek :-)

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    1. Köszönöm. Azóta remélem, hogy sikerült fejlődnöm ;)

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    2. Mihez képest? :-) A jóból a jóba? :-)
      Az eddigi képek, amiket láttam itt a blogodon, azok mind zseniálisak lettek! :-)

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    3. Köszi. Azért van hova fejlődnöm :)

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  2. This is one of my most favorite places in BA! I visit every time I'm there.

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    1. I totally understand that. It is a calm and mysterious place with great historical and artistic heritage. Let me know when you are around the next time ;)

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  3. This is a great story. I wish I could include more cemeteries on my travel list. In Vilnius we have some beautiful cemeteries, too. My recent ones were the old Jewish ones in Warsaw, http://kootvela.blogspot.com/2012/10/senosios-zydu-kapines-varsuvoje.html

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    1. Thanks for the comment :) it is weird that people look at me with a surprised face when I tell them that I like to visit cemeteries. but it is like an open-air museum, isn't it? :)

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    2. As long as you believe in that, you weird girl :-)

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    3. haha, you don't help me to explain myself, do you? :D

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    4. No, I'm in general a very bad person :P

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    5. I hope that Santa Claus did not read this, otherwise he might forget to bring you presents :P

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  4. I've done a few cemeteries in Paris and it's totally like a museum. Even the architecture of the grave stones & mausoleums in a window in to history.

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    1. Hi Shaun, I agree with you, plus the atmosphere makes the whole place mystical for me.

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  5. You are not the only one liking cemeteries! This one is beautiful and I love the history and legend of it!

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  6. It does look like a small town. Very nice blog post again, tiny girl! It kind of reminded me of Père Lachaise in Paris.

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    1. Thanks Bram. If you visit that cemetery in Paris, I would love to see pics about it from you :)

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    2. I remember being there with my parents when I was a kid :-). If I make it there again in the future, I will definitely take my camera!

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  7. This cemetery will definitely be on my list of places to visit should I be in BA. The legend of the girl buried alive is horrible, omg my worst nightmare. Again a great post and pictures.

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    1. Thank you Freya. Do not forget, at 11am every Tuesday free guided tours in English ;)

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  8. I remember this place. Creepy as hell! So many empty, broken-open and corroding tombs where the rich families have gone bankrupt and/or haven't been able to pay the upkeep for their dead relatives. There's one like this in Mexico City where Joan Vollmer-Burrough's remains lie in a box in the back until somebody pays the rent.

    You're right when you say "the death costs more than the whole life"!

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    1. Exactly! It is so bizarre to see broken coffins on the shelves. Thanks for the tip about Mexico City, will definitely visit that one, too, when I am there. And thanks for sharing your thoughts :)

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  9. this place look so amazing and frankly speaking that I'd love to visit this place soon !!

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    1. Hey Susan, this is an amazing place with lots of stories to discover. Thanks for the comment :)

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  10. Visiting a cemetery sometimes is the only way we have to pay tribute to a celebrity.

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    1. I have never thought about it, but it is so true :) Thanks for the comment, and wishing you a Happy New Year!!

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