In keeping with the tradition of me usually getting eaten by bugs when I travel, here in Buenos Aires, I am getting eaten by mosquitoes. They must have a special living place in our room. The mozzies come out at night to torment me; my face had 7 mosquito bites on the last count. I guess people just assume that I have acne. The bitemarks on my face does not prevent me from exploring the city; I spent a few hours in the Recoleta Cemtetery the past week. The cemetery is surrounded by high walls that separate the graves from the posh surrounds. The entrance welcomes you with the words ‘rest in peace’:It’s kind of strange that I’ve been visiting so many cemeteries while we are travelling. I have not been to many cemeteries in South Africa, and as far as I know, going to the cemetery not considered a tourist activity.
The Recoleta Cemetery is big and you can get a bit lost as you wander between the mausoleums. While there were a lot of stray dogs in Santiago, Chile, here in Buenos Aires there are plenty of (fat) stray cats. Apparently the cats that live in the cemetery are fed by people in the neighbourhood and if you would try to take one home, a security guard would stop you. Many people visit the cemetery specifically to visit the tomb of Eva Peron, a well-loved figure in the history of Argentina. She married a political leader Juan Peron when she was 25, he was 50 at the time. After her death (of cancer – she was only 33 years old), her corpse was embalmed and kept in Buenos Aires for two years while a monument was being constructed where the corpse would be displayed. During that time, her husband, who was the president at that time, was overthrown by a military coup. He fled the country without taking time to secure her body. During the military reign it was illegal for people to have pictures of Evita and Juan Peron in their homes and to say their names. Her body was removed from display and for 16 years nobody knew where the body was. It was eventually revealed that her body was in Milan, Italy. From there the corpse was sent to her husband, Juan Peron in Spain, where he and his new wife kept the corpse in the dining room on a platform near the table. In 1973 Juan Peron came out of exile and returned to Buenos Aires to be President again. When Peron died, his wife, Isabel Peron, who was vice-president at the time, became president. She was the first female president in the Western Hemisphere. After all that moving around, Evita now rests in a modest tomb under the Family Duarte’s name: There are daily free guided tours in the cemetery. Tours in English are on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Our Spanish speaking guide lead us to these two tombs of girls who died at a young age. Liliana Crociati de Szaszak (26 years) died during her honeymoon in the Austrian Alps when an avalanche struck the hotel she and her husband were staying in. She was smothered to death and the urban legend says that her dog Sabú died at that same instant, in Argentina. There is a poem written on the base of the tomb by her father.
Rufina Cambacérès (19 years) was on her way to attend a theatre show with her mother, when she dropped dead. Nobody knew the reason of death, but a funeral was held and she was placed in a coffin in her mausoleum. A few days later, a cemetery worker saw that the coffin had moved and that the lid was broken. The man opened the coffin, fearing grave robbery. He was shocked to find scratch marks on the inside of the coffin and on the girl’s face. Doctor’s later gave the explanation that Rufina had suffered from an attack of ‘catalepsy’ and later awoke, only to die in her coffin. Her mother had this beautiful mausoleum created for her daughter, with the girl standing outside with a peaceful look on her face.
For some interesting stories about tombs in the cemetery, follow this link.
These guys are documenting the cemetery, their site is worth a look.