La Recoleta Cemetery, in the upscale Recoleta Barrio of Buenos Aires, is the final resting place of many of Argentina’s wealthiest and most famous families and personages, including the First Lady Eva Perón, several presidents of Argentina, intellectuals, writers and winners of Nobel Prize. The site is noted for its architectural distinctiveness and has often been compared to the Pére Lachaise of Paris.
The cemetery is built around their convent and a church, Our Lady of Pilar (Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Pilar), built in 1732. The order was disbanded in 1822, and the garden of the convent was converted into the first public cemetery in Buenos Aires. It was then known as Cementerio del Norte (“Cemetery of the North”).
It currently has 4700 crypts – 94 of which have been declared National Historical Monuments by the Argentine government – distributed in a map of squares and wide inner streets, setting up an area of 14 acres.
The mausoleums are fairly small, befitting the size of the cementery in an urban setting, and it’s common for many members, generations even, of the same family occupy one mausoleum.
The mausoleums are crowded closely together, allowing little room between them for pedestrian passages.
Some are richly ornated, with intricate carvings of death related symbols or items meaningful to the occupant.
Members of Eve Peron’s family are entombed here in the family vault. This is the grave that many people tour Recoleta Cemetery to find. Eva Duarte de Peron was the wife of Juan Peron, and alternately idolized by the descamisados whose causes she espoused, or despised by the oligarchy of Argentina’s wealthy and powerful.
The story of her death, the embalming that’s kept her body almost pristine for decades, the hiding of her body in Europe, and finally, her return to Argentina is a fantasic one that attracts interest to this day.
Juan Peron is buried in another cemetery in the capital.
It is a popular destination for tourists who take advantage of the cemetery’s guided tours or wander the cobblestone pathways that invite the visitor to stroll, or sit and rest, while forgeting the busy barrio of Recoleta just outside the walls.
With thanks to About.com
Here is a photo slideshow by Bryan Dawson that captures some of the elaborate architecture of La Recoleta Cemetery: