Calle Junín 1790, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Location: Plaza Francesa
Hours: Daily 8a.m. to 6p.m..
Phone: (54) 11 4804-7040 & (54) 11 7803-1594
Entrance Fee: Free
Map of Recoleta Cemetery: 3 pesos
English Tours: Free tours Tue & Thur 11a.m.
Entrance of Recoleta Cemetery
The Recoleta Cemetery,
located in the northern part of barrio Recoleta, is most famous for being
the burial ground of Evita Duarte de Peron,
but it actually holds many famous military leaders, presidents,
scientists, poets and other important or wealthy Argentineans.
The story behind Evita’s
burial at Recoleta Cemetery is full of deception and controversy. Evita
died in 1952 while Juan Peron was still in power and plans were made to
bury Evita under an enormous statue representing the ‘Descamisados’ or
shirtless ones. Unfortunately, before the monument could be constructed a
coup d’état forced Juan Peron to flee the county and Evita’s remains were
left without protection.
After Peron’s exile the
anti-peronist military forbid Peron’s name and wanted to make it as if
Juan and Evita never existed. They took Evita’s corpse from display and
hid it in Milan, Italy under the name Maria Maggi from 1955 until 1971.
In 1971 when Evita's remains were released, Juan Peron was in exile; so, Evita’s remains were sent to
Madrid, Spain to be near her widow.
In 1973 another change in
government brought Juan Peron out of exile and he assumed the presidency
for the third time. One would have thought his first move would to bring
back Evita’s corpse and continue her monument, but it wasn’t until after
his death that Juan’s third wife, Isabel, had Evita returned to Argentina.
Isabel had become the first female Argentinean president after Juan
Peron's death in 1974, and to gain popularity among the working class, she
had Evita buried next to Juan in the
presidential palace .
Evita and Juan Peron only
rested next to each other for two year before another military coup took
over and wanted the remains out of the presidential palace. Juan’s
remains were placed in a family crypt at the Chacarita cemetery. He still
wasn’t able to rest in peace; in 1987 the crypt was broken into and his
hands were cut off. This shows how controversial the peronist movement
was in Argentina history.
Evita’s remains were
moved to her father’s family crypt in the upscale Recoleta cemetery.
There was much controversy because the upper class didn’t care for Evita
and her bastard childhood made the burial right questionable. Fortunately
for Evita her remains were secured 27 feet underground covered by layers
of cement and steel to stop any would be vandals.
Today Evita’s tomb is the
most visited one in Recoleta Cemetery. Her grave is located just East of
the cemetery center, and is easily recognized by the hordes of tourist and
bouquets of flowers surrounding her tomb.
It is a little ironic
that Evita was suppose to be buried under a monument which would represent
the ‘Descamisados’, the poor working class, but she ended up in a cemetery
which represents the wealthiest of Buenos Aires. Recoleta Cemetery is the
most expensive real estate in the city.
named Buenos Aires first official cemetery
The cemetery started as
holy grounds. It was home to friars of the Orden de los Recoletos
Descalzos until 1822 when Governor Martin Rodriguez and his minister
Bernardino Rivadavia outlawed the practice of using churches as burial
grounds. In was on November 17, 1822 that the monks 12 acre orchard and
vegetable garden was officially named Recoleta Cemetery and became the
first public cemetery in Buenos Aires. On that day about 15 people were
buried in the cemetery, mostly the remains from overloaded churches. The
first two graves belonged to Juan Benito, a freed black boy, and Maria
Dolores Maciel, a young Uruguayn girl. The graveyard has changed so much
since this time that no one knows where these two graves are now located.
Recoleta Cemetery Mausoleum
The architecture of the
cemetery reflects the passage of time; it is a hodgepodge of everything
from Neoclassical, Neogothic, Art Nuevo, Art Deco and even modern styles
of over 6,400 mausoleums. The cemetery was not much to look at in the
beginning but in 1881 president, Torcuato de Alvear, ordered major
reformations. The front gates were built, the inner streets were restored,
and the chapel was decorated and expanded with a slight French style.
Although the gates have a neo-classical look with tall Greek Columns.
The cemetery is laid out
like a well planned city. Neat city blocks with 90 degree corners are
well kept and covered in stone and concrete. There are street names on
every corner, and even a town center which contains most of the plant life
of the cemetery. For the most part
rock, marble, stone, concrete and brass are all you can see on the narrow
streets between the mausoleums, so it is a treat to see the trees and
grass in the center. Each mausoleum represents a different
style of architecture from Greek temples and pyramids to fairy tale like
castles. Again like a downtown of a city each mausoleum touches the walls
of the next, a straight line dividing two different types of
architecture. The fronts of the tombs are adorned with angles, carvings
of Jesus, stained glass windows and plaques with the names of the
deceased. Most of the plaques include the date of death, but very few
have the birthdates as is customary in the United States.
Ghosts of Recoleta
Although there are
numerous important historical figures buried in Recoleta Cemetery the
people which are of most interest to me are the ones with unusual stories
such as David Alleno, a night watchmen who killed himself, and Rufina
Cambaceres, a young girl buried alive.
David Alleno was an
Italian immigrate who dreamed of being buried in the prestigious cemetery
he guarded at night. He saved enough money to buy a space and built his
own tomb. He even traveled back to his home country to find an artist who
could carve his own figure in marble. Legend says after the tomb was
finished David took his own life inside his grave, but many reputable
sources say he died years after the tomb was constructed. Today there are
rumors that he haunts the cemetery at night, and you can here his keys
clinging as he walks the narrow streets. David Alleno’s grave is located
in the far east part of the cemetery, number 81 on the map you can
purchase at the entrance.
Another horrifying story
is of Rufina Cambaceres, who was buried alive when she was only 19 years
old. She is said to of suffered a cataleptic attack and was buried in
1902. Rufina woke up and began screaming and clawing at her coffin.
Security guards heard the screams, but by time they were able to open the
coffin she had died of a heart attack. It is said there were scratches on
her coffin and face. Her mother was filled with guilt. She built a new
coffin made of Carrara marble. It is carved with a rose on top and a girl
turned to the side as if watching Rufina. The marble sits behind a glass
pane, so if she wakes up she can be rescued. Rufina’s grave is near
Evita’s, about three blocks south, number 95 on the map.