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the cemetery in Recoleta

There are many places in Buenos Aires that I love. This is one of them. The Recoleta Cemetery.

Often cemeteries conjure images ranging from morbid to fantastic – zombies, vampires, coffins, death, decay, ghosts. In the United States we associate cemetery imagery with Halloween. A cemetery is a “spooky” place, creepy, dark, barren. Obviously not all of these connotations are reflected in the cemeteries of the United States. Many have well kept grounds, are filled with rows of gravestones covered in flowers, wreaths, ribbons. There’s just something about the Recoleta cemetery that I find inexplicably unique. 

It is a labyrinth of mausoleums. Marble, granite, names etched in stone, statues of men and carvings of angels. Ornate coffins, many draped in intricate lace shrouds, rest behind stained glass windows and wrought iron gates. And it isn’t cold and barren, but quiet and peaceful. The glass and marble reflect the sunlight, and the sound of the footsteps of visitors and tour guides against the tiled floor mingles with the murmur of tourists speaking Spanish, French, Portuguese, German, English.

I chose not to join a tour group, preferring to find my own way by using posted signs and maps. I found the tomb of Eva Peron. And I felt proud when somebody asked if I knew where the tomb of Sarmiento was and I could give them perfect directions in Spanish, because I had just found it myself.

I also let myself get lost. Part of why I like the Recoleta Cemetery so much, aside from the aesthetic reasons, is that it is a good place to be alone and think, wandering the passageways turn after turn. Without a map I never knew when I’d stumble upon a dead end (no pun intended) in a narrow alley, or encounter a wider passageway that opens up into a sunlit plaza.

I could let the thoughts in my head flow and walk slowly, without having to worry about where I was going. The tranquility encapsulated in the cemetery is such a different world, removed from the chaotic traffic and sidewalks of the rest of Buenos Aires.



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