Kapoors Year 3B: Mexico/Chile/Argentina travel blog

The Church Of Our Lady Of The Pilar - Beside The Cemetery

The Huge Golden Altar Inside The Church - Note The Silver Table...

The Cemetery Is Surrounded By A High Brick Wall - The Mausoleums...

Once Inside The Main Gate, We Begin To See The Large Tombs...

The Beautiful Sculptures In The Cemetery Were What Drew Me To Visit

This Was The Most Unusual Crypt We Saw And It Was Right...

The Green Colour On This Memorial Stands Out Among Its Neighbours

This Grave Of A Young 15-Year-Old Girl Is One Of Only Three...

One Of The First Tombs Of A Former President Of Argentina

This Tomb Is Showing The Signs Of Neglect - Perhaps The Family...

No Tomb Is Ever Taken From A Family, Even If It Is...

This Sculpture Honors An Italian Immigrant - Shown Stepping Off A Boat...

There Were Almost No Flowers In The Cemetery - However We Did...

The Last Resting Place Of Eva Person - Her Body Was Stolen...

She Is Interred In The Duarte Family Vault - She Was Eva...

Another Of The Few Sculptures That Are Inside A Tomb Instead Of...

This Tomb Was Built To Honour A Young Woman Who Is Thought...

Looking Down One Of The Many Narrow Lanes With Tombs On Either...

The Cemetery Was Originally For Catholics Only But Was Later Opened To...

Some Foundations Pay For The Restoration Of Tombs Where Well-Respected Citizens Were...

A Dramatic, Modern-Looking Tomb - At the Junction Of Two Small Lanes

This Is The Most-Photographed Tomb In The Cemetery - The Sculptures Are...

The Canons Of A Ship Were Melted To Form This Urn To...

Here A Christian Cross And A Jewish Menorah Are Placed Together -...

This Lovely Dome Stood High Above The Black And White Marble Tombs...

There Is An Incredible Variety Of Roof Lines In The Cemetery -...

A Beloved Former President, Raul Alfonsin, Died On April 1, 2009 And...

Another Monument To A Former President of Argentina

The Sculpture Of The Young Boy Is Covered With Ivy - He...

I Rounded A Corner And Came Upon This Dramatic Memorial

I Liked The Colour Of This Stone, The Black Accents, And The...

There Were Many Dramatic Sculptures Along The Back Row Of The Cemetery

Anil Was Tired And Disinterested, So He Waited For Me Near The...

This One Was Very Tall But Had An Airy Feeling With The...

The Drapery On This Sculpture Looked Almost Real, But Was Carved In...

The Angels Looked Stunning Against The Mottled Sky

The Door Of This Tomb Was Open As A Cleaning Crew Was...

This Feather Duster Was Left Standing Against A Stained-Glass Window It Just...

This Is What It Might Look Like If No Care Was Taken...

This Was One Of A Very Few Tombs That Are Located Above...

This Is One Of The Most Dramatic Tombs - The Underside Of...

Most Tombs Have Staircases To Reach The Basement Vaults - The Average...

Another Church On The Grounds Outside The Recoleta Cemetery


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KAPOORS ON THE ROAD

One of the must-see sights in Buenos Aires is the famous Recoleta Cemetery. While it is no longer the largest, it is definitely the oldest and the most astonishing. In 1822 the Argentine government forbid the burial of remains in churches and convents and obtained land from the Monastery of Recoleta Monks. Many of the most famous people of the city were then buried here and later a major reconstruction was undertaken to create ‘streets’ along which the burial chambers were erected. An ornamental entrance was built and a wall enclosed the ground, creating what now seems like an outdoor art gallery of incredible sculptures and mausoleums.

We arrived in order to participate in one of the free English tours of the cemetery, held on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Anil wasn’t too keen on the whole idea, being a Hindu who prefers the idea of cremation, he didn’t really fancy the notion of walking in another cemetery. I was there to see the fine sculptures and to visit the last resting place of Eva Peron.

The most heartbreaking story we heard from the guide was the tale of a young girl who died in the early 1900s. Apparently, she suffered from seizures and was thought to have died following a particularly severe seizure. As was the custom at that time, she was buried immediately after the conclusion of a short wake. The following day, the custodian at the family vault noticed that the coffin seemed to have moved slightly and he contacted the parents of the young girl. When the coffin was opened, they found scratches on the girl’s face and the top of the coffin.

The parents constructed a separate mausoleum beside the family vault with a beautiful statue of a young woman standing with her hand on the door, as if trying to open it. From that time on, bodies were not allowed to be interred in Recoleta before at least twelve hours had passed from the time of death.

I later learned that it was customary for the date of death to be inscribed on the vaults, but not the date of birth. I was surprised that the guide did not point this out – though she did tell us a great deal of interesting things about the cemetery. There are almost 5,000 vaults in Recoleta and many hold up to twenty coffins. The owners of the tombs are charged a small annual fee but the title of the property is never lost, even if the fee remains unpaid. Some vaults appear to be completely abandoned; perhaps all the members of the family have died or the ones remaining have fallen on hard times. We did see one vault that was draped in netting as it has become so unstable that falling stones could injure visitors. Still, the cemetery maintains the ownership of the property in the name of the original titleholders.

There are very few internments in Recoleta nowadays, but we did happen to see a family arrived with huge floral wreaths and we moved to another part of the cemetery to give them privacy. I noticed that we passed near a grave that had a security guard standing at attention. There were several people placing roses on the tomb and there was a photo of a man taped to the plaque on the front.

A couple of days after we arrived in Buenos Aires, the former president of Argentina, Raul Alfonsin, passed away at the age of 82. I watched some of the funeral proceedings on television and it was very moving to see the honour that was paid to him. He was much loved by many of the people, as he was the first democratically elected president following the dark days of the military dictatorship. His efforts to improve the economy largely failed, but he remained a simple man and was not considered to have lined his pockets at the expense of the common man.

Recoleta has become one of the most prestigious neighbourhoods in Buenos Aires and it seems strange to sit in one of the many beautiful cafes and restaurants and look out at the huge stone wall that surrounds the cemetery and see the sculptures and domes of the tombs. I guess the local porteños are used to the proximity and don’t think anything of it.

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