October 12, 2013
Located adjacent to the Basilica Nuestra Señora de Pilar – the second oldest church in Buenos Aires – lies a stunning cemetery, Cementiare de Recoleta or simply, "La Recoleta."
Upon entrance into the gated marble archway, there is a tarnished map fixed on a grainy marble top patterned with faded dots highlighting the must see tombs, statuaries and crypts - including that of Evita Perron and other famous Argentines.
Listed under her maiden name of Duarte, Evita’s tomb is the Mona Lisa of the graves, as tourists flock to take a picture and for fellow Argentines to pray quietly for her soul.
Walking into the cemetary, you are met immediately with a convergence of alleys, only to ask yourself – which aisle should I take? The long rows of doorways mixed with angelic sculptures, artistic columns and towering copulas greet you as you embark on the one of your choosing.
There are a few life size statuaries, including the famous Argentine Juan Lavalle, in full military regalia, and fellow countryman Luis Angel Firpo, a boxer in the 40s, sculpted complete in boxing attire.
While passing each door, you will begin to ask yourself who are these families? What was their life and how did they arrive at this place of rest?
The tombs are either meticulously kept or are in the need of significant repair, with glass doors broken and only the iron entry gates are standing. Yet the coffins are visible from the outside. If one had an extra long arm, you could reach out and touch them.
There are living species amongst the deceased here: the feral cats. While numerous and of different varieties, they walk the aisles and occasionally brush up against a visitor; seeking a treat, or a soothing rub.
I thought about something during the end of my visit…when the gates are closed at night and darkness sets in, are there any spirits around? Who better to know these secrets than these felines who reside amongst the dead.
Lingering about in every nook and alley, they are sure to witness any afterlife present and may have stories to tell of the supernatural. If only they could communicate to us about the mysteries of this sacred place.
How ironic is it that the eternal rest forever at La Recoleta, alongside creatures who have 9 lives.