Part 19: Buenos Aires Day 1-2: Recoleta Cemetery


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The Trip

We arrived in Buenos Aires (BA) from Salta and then got a cab to our hotel.  The hotel was in Barrio Palermo, which seemed nice at first look.  We later discovered from another taxi driver that it was a high-rent neighborhood.  Our hotel was actually on a residential street lined with apartments and we happy to discover a very nice parrilla next door to the restaurant.  The following day we headed out to see the Recoleta Cemetary.  As a direct quote from Wikipedia (with links):

La Recoleta Cemetery (Spanish: Cementerio de la Recoleta) is a cemetery located in the Recoleta neighbourhood of Buenos Aires, Argentina. It contains the graves of notable people, including Eva Perón, presidents of Argentina, Nobel Prize winners, the founder of the Argentine Navy, and a granddaughter of Napoleon. In 2011, the BBC hailed it as one of the world's best cemeteries,[5] and in 2013, CNN listed it among the 10 most beautiful cemeteries in the world.[6]

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

At the entrance to Recoleta, we saw something that is only associated with a large, rich city: professional dog walkers.

I looked at a building close to the entrance of Recoleta and saw, not to my surprise, plenty of ad-hoc wiring.  I am guessing that these are cable TV wires rather than power, but there was really no way to tell.  But, whichever they are, the practice is pervasive as we have seen it in every city and village we have visited.

There was a significant church near the entrance to the cemetery.

Once through the entrance gates we came to the city of the dead.  The crypts were arranged in a rectilinear grid (of sorts) with a map near the entrance so you could find your way around.

The rich and famous of Argentina are buried here.  Above, Kathleen checks out the door into one of the crypts.

The crypts came in all sizes from small to overwhelming.  Some were new (or recently refurbished) and some had original stone and iron-work.

Most of the passages were narrow and a bit spooky.  This one is the main walkway.

The opening in a crypt door allowed me to put the business-end of my lens through it and shoot toward the floor.  The grate in the floor provides ventilation for the crypt which descends 5m below ground level.  Each crypt typically holds multiple corpses, usually from the same family.  Despite my camera focusing on the grate rather than the items below, you can see the narrow, steep stairs that descend into the pit.

Many of the crypts had doors, the one on the right had a sliding stone access that was removed to allow insertion of the casket.

There were a number of nice marble statues visible.

Diego de Alvear was a Spaniard, but his son and grandson would later become Argentine presidents.

Not all crypts were in tip-top shape.

Some of the signage was "original equipment" and showed signs of weathering.

This crypt was unlocked and to my surprise I could see a fellow down below doing cleaning.  He came out of the hole and went to the closest water spigot to fill his cleaning bucket.  I spent quite awhile talking with him (he spoke slow enough to allow me to understand the bulk of what he was saying).  In Recoleta, families have to pay for maintenance of the crypts.  The holes are 5m deep and this particular family crypt currently held 6 bodies.

This is a "corner lot" with a new, well maintained granite exterior.

The "crypt keeper" told me that there were many folks of Italian descent buried in Recoleta.  This person was a general and former Minister of War.

The crypt included a bronze statue of the Lt. General, presumably made from a "death mask" and therefore in his likeness.

This crypt was the only one we saw that was out of raw stones.  Note the Italian last name.

After seeing so many crypts, Recoleta became a dead issue for us, so we walked on to lunch at a nearby restaurant.

We took a taxi back to our hotel in Palermo and went to the top floor for a look around.  In general, the neighboring apartments looked pretty nice.

Always on the lookout for the odd and unexpected, I spotted these nested vent pipes on the adjacent building.  It shared a wall with the hotel.  Seemingly, a portion of the corner of the building had collapsed or been removed and replaced with a half-ass repair.  Note the exposed brick on the left.

Looking past our neighboring building we could see a portion of metropolitan Buenos Aires.  BA has around 3.5 million folks but the metropolitan area is more than 10 million depending on where you draw the line for the count.

Kathleen had discovered that one of her high school buddies lived in BA.  She arranged dinner for us at a nice restaurant in a barrio called Puerto Madero, also a high-rent neighborhood right on the river.  En route to dinner, our cab driver took us past El Oblisco which was nicely lit up after dark.

During dinner we asked the waiter to take our photo with Kathleen's FujiFilm X-Pro-2 camera.

Recoleta was interesting in a somewhat macabre, if not creepy, way.  The most interesting part for me was being able to talk to one of the crypt keepers.  He was anxious to talk as I think he felt his efforts were generally unappreciated, if not invisible.  It would be hard hanging out with the dead all day.

Tomorrow, we head to the city center to see the presidential palace, Casa Rosada, and take a tour of Theatro Colon.

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