Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Friday, January 20, 2012

Cemeterio – Recoleta

Yesterday we had a fine lunch at a place in La Boca, recommended by an artist who had a stand at the Plaza. No, we did not eat at La Perla, the recommended place of the tour guide books. We found a nameless, small place frequented by the locals. The Asada (grilled ribs) we had was great. One portion was enough for the two of us. Food here is mainly beef, grass fed and different tasting than what we are used to in North America. I met lots of people that think it tastes better, more natural than the corn feed, antibiotic laced meat we are used to.
After lunch we jumped back on the yellow line to proceed on our interrupted tour. It was hot, 34 C and sitting on the top of the bus, moving from red stop light to red stop light it became a chore rather that a pleasure to be on a tour. We, again, jumped off the bus as soon as it was near our apartment and took a taxi home. Sweet, air-conditioned, home!
We did not even go out for dinner but ate some Chorizo Sausages we had in the refrigerator for dinner. A slice of bread and a glass of local wine rounded the day off, just fine.

We had passed the famous Recoleta Cemetery on our bus tour and had read much about this place. It is the ‘THE’ cemetery for the most important people of Argentina.

The history of the place is straightforward. At the end of the 18th Century, way out of downtown BA at the time, a rather large Cemetery was established next to a monastic church. With the establishment of the rich district of Recoleta and the moving in of the elite around this monastic place in or around 1820, the cemetery soon became the place for the rich to be buried. Someone, seeing an opportunity, bought the whole of it and even today it remains a private enterprise. Graves are sold to the highest bidders and there are plenty of bidders, the whole of the place is filled up.
Only if a grave is abandoned by the family or the family no longer exists, then it is taken over by the owners of the land and resold. Or if a body is moved by the family, the plot can be sold again. This Cemetery is for the truly top of the Argentine elite and society. Since plots cost Millions of US Dollars, this place, with a total of over 6,400 graves, is a goldmine. Some crypts even have a multi level arrangement, stairs lead down to a lower level, sometimes 2 levels down with coffins stacked on each level.

It is in the heart of the most expensive real estate in BA. Right down the street from this burial site are highest end jewelry stores or boutiques in the world,

The area is very competitive and only the best run stores or the smartest marketing will survive here. This also seems to translate to the cemetery.

Even in death, you have to outdo your neighbor, your competition, your enemy even. The need to be seen, to be recognized, to show you count for something is strong in Argentina.
And yet, they are dead. Dead as dead can be. No matter how much money was spent on the plot, on the mausoleum, on the upkeep, on the image directed towards the living, all are quite dead.
Evita (Maria Eva Duarte Perón) is buried here.

So are other ‘famous’ people, far too many to mention. To see the opulence with which the dead are revered is to understand some of the psyche of Argentina. Belonging to the upper crust bestows honor to the individual and is a deep seated need of the Argentinean people. The display of a recognizable image, an image of being noteworthy, generates pride even after death and seems so important to the deceased and their families. The need for those ‘images’ by the living is nevertheless, translated to the dead as well.
May all those ‘important’ buried people rest in peace!

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