Recoleta Cemetery: Burial Ground of the Rich and Famous
Posts from this trip:
- La Casa Rosada, Argentina’s Executive Mansion
- Recoleta Cemetery, Burial Ground of the Rich and Famous (this post)
- My Experience Renting a Furnished Apartment
- Visiting Buenos Aires: the Good, the Bad, the Ugly
With Halloween almost here, I thought it apt to talk about a cemetery.
But Recoleta Cemetery, located in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of the same name, is not just grass and tombstones. It is a mini-city of almost 5,000 mausoleums serving as final resting place to many of Argentina’s elite.
The interred include former presidents, Nobel laureates, philanthropists, and military officers. Arguably most famous of all is Eva Peron, First Lady of Argentina during the presidency of her husband Juan Peron.
Even those not versed in Argentine history likely know of her. She is the subject of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Evita and was portrayed by Madonna in the 1996 film of the same title.
While the former First Lady’s tomb is probably most sought-out by visitors, it is very modest – almost nondescript – compared to many of the far more elaborate mausoleums in the cemetery.
The cemetery’s grid layout adds to its city-like feel, and the main entrance is itself quite grand. Passing through tall dark gates flanked by large Doric columns, you enter a foyer that opens directly into the “main street.”
Sprinkled among the elaborate graves, most of them built of marble…
…adorned with intricate sculptures…
…colorful stained glass…
…and other fancy details, there is the occasional simple brick-and-concrete tomb…
…and not-so-well-maintained grave:
Each family is responsible for maintaining (for hiring a caretaker for) its own plot, so the condition of individual tombs varies widely.
Nevertheless, as a whole the cemetery feels both stately and serene. Since I am staying just a block away, I’ve visited several times in the last week. In the half hour or so before it closes, when the crowds are gone and the sun no longer beats down, I find it very tranquil.
Just don’t be like me and get lost in the labyrinth of graves right before it closes and work yourself into a mild panic about getting trapped in a cemetery overnight.
The cemetery is public and entry is free. Tours in several languages are also offered for free (you just tip the guide at your discretion). I took an English tour and thought it was excellent, albeit a bit crowded (~25 people). The guide was pleasant and knowledgeable, and the tour lasted just over an hour.
Finally, let me leave you with a few interesting nuggets shared by my tour guide:
- While some tombs are small and modest, others are larger than city apartments and can hold over 100 coffins.
- Original inventory is long sold out, but it is possible to buy a burial site on the resale market. Prices fluctuate with supply and demand, but in general they are relatively low compared to past prices. Demand is lower these days as modern families are more inclined to cremate loved ones or have them laid to rest in private cemeteries.
- She estimated that a mid-range tomb would fetch about USD 50,000 today if it were for sale.
Considering a mere parking spot can cost ten times that, to me $50k doesn’t seem terribly unreasonable for a marble-encased eternal resting place in one of the world’s most beautiful cemeteries.