Recoleta Cemetery: the City of the Dead

Recoleta Cemetery truly feels like a city within a city with its grid street plan and mausoleums that resemble small houses and churches. It was opened in November, 1822 as the first public necropolis in the city of Buenos Aires on land that belonged to the Franciscan monks.

What I find interesting is that a visit to Recoleta Cemetery provides a glimpse into the political, artistic and social history of the country. Former presidents, war heroes, explorers, artists, Nobel Prize recipients, writers, sporting legends and even sworn enemies share this eternal resting place.

There is a display of wonderful works of art that represent different artistic periods, such as Neoclassical, Gothic, Art Deco or Art Nouveau. About 70 mausoleums are on the National Heritage List.  Some of the statues are so lifelike that I expected them to turn round and talk to me. In some cases, the art gave rise to urban legends whose truth is difficult to ascertain. Take the story of Liliana Crociati de Szaszak, for example. Her bronze statue is hauntingly beautiful and poignant. Some say that she died in an avalanche in the Austrian Alps during her honeymoon in 1970 or 1971. Some say it was a ski trip, not her honeymoon. It is said she’s depicted wearing her wedding dress. Some say that her loyal dog was added later, some say the dog died the moment she did. Who knows what really happened.

Liliana Crociati de Szaszak

Among the most famous residents is Eva Peron. Her mausoleum is understated and rather difficult to find. We came across it by chance. People still leave flowers and pray for her soul. Her husband’s nemesis, General Eduardo Lonardi, is also a resident.

Evita

The list of people buried here reads like a map of the city, as many streets have been named after famous people. For instance, first I found the tomb of the person after whom the street where my parents live in was named and later I found the cross street!

Mother and child

Tomb of Rufina Cambaceres

One of the many angels

 

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Address: Junin 1760, Buenos Aires.

It opens every day from 7 am to 6 pm. There are free guided tours in different languages. You can take a guided tour or, alternatively, buy this handy iPhone app from endlessmile (in English.)

11 Comments

  1. Sophie

    I remember walking around this cemetery about 15 years ago. Don’t think I noticed the statue of Liliana, though. It’s so much more interesting when you know a little bit of the story behind.

    Reply
    1. Ana

      Actually, I saw the statue first and then googled it at home :)

      Reply
  2. Sabrina

    How interesting! I always think cemetaries are sad, yet really interesting places. They are so different in every culture. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    1. Ana

      I agree. You can learn a lot about the local culture.

      Reply
  3. Katie

    Recoleta Cemetery cannot be missed on a trip to Buenos Aires. There’s such history there. Great photos and write-up, Ana.

    Reply
    1. Ana

      Thank you!

      Reply
  4. Aledys Ver

    Walking around Recoleta cementery is like going for a ride in the time machine. Art, Architecture, History and old stories and legends make it a very interesting place to visit several times. Once you start digging in the stories behind the family vaults and curious sculptures (like this one of Liliana Crociati) you can´t let go!

    Reply
  5. Stephanie - The Travel Chica

    Great tip on that iPhone app. Didn’t know they had that!

    I had the good fortune to have a friend who is a tour guide with me, and he told me some of the stories behind the people and showed me some of the more impressive structures.

    Reply
    1. Ana

      How lucky! Thanks for stopping by.

      Reply
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