We couldn’t leave Buenos Aires without visiting La Recoleta Cemetery, said to be amongst the most beautiful in the world. In its streets rest some of the most famous and infamous sons and daughters of the city.
Given that it’s the number one visitor attraction in the area, we should have expected the number of tourists we found (ourselves included, of course) but the idea that it would be calm and serene persisted right up until we reached the front gates. Had none of us been there it would probably be regarded as the perfect final resting place by any proud porteño. As it was, the place can only be described as ‘bustling’.
It’s not a large cemetery, perhaps a few minutes walk to each side, and is laid out like a small city. Wide boulevards run through the centre, the rest is a grid pattern cut through with the odd diagonal street. Lining each narrow walkway are thousands of narrow mausoleums, each with its own character and level of upkeep.
Many favoured the classic style – marble, angels, columns. Some resembled crumbling Italian villas. A few looked like nothing so much as classy boutiques, all glass doors and ironwork. We cannot place the style of the one pictured here, but are guessing 20s-art-nouveau-meets-Inca.
We also found a very tenuous family connection here. The Crespo family mausoleum was a well-maintained, whitewashed structure, without too much in way in statuary or curlicues. Who knows whether our sister-in-law is any direct descendant of the Buenos Aires Crespos. We’ll enjoy assuming so until proven wrong.
In a small alleyway, we joined the queue to see the plaque marking Eva Peron’s family tomb. There were fresh flowers wound into the black iron gates and there was a fairly respectful quiet, except for the click and flash of cameras. It suddenly all felt very voyeuristic.
Of course, visiting cemeteries has long been a tourist favourite. Even before the Victorians made worshipping the cult of death an art form, we could be found on the Grand Tour with our Baedekers in hand, searching out the grave of a poet or general that we ‘simply had to see’.
Only the rich and famous are interred at Recoleta and all, we suspect, knew exactly what they were getting into.