It was my birthday today and what better place to while away a reflective afternoon than a cemetery, though not just any old cemetery, the Cementerio de la Recoleta, ‘The City of the Dead’ of Buenos Aires. This place is quite marvellous in its ageing decrepitude, piles and piles (some literally piled on top of each other) of elaborate mausoleums, each outdoing the other with the most preposterous and elaborate decorations – think Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Belle Époque, swirling angels, towering marble obelisks, stone lions, miniature churches complete with spires, columns, columns and more columns, Ionian, Doric, Corinthian… you name it, they’re all here… smashed up against each other in row after narrow row, street after narrow street, some so narrow you can touch the sides. And all of this, surrounded by the uber-posh barrio of Recoleta, the Knightsbridge meets Upper East Side of Buenos Aires.
There’s one major drawcard: the mausoleum of Eva Perón. Oddly, or perhaps intentionally, it’s one of the more modest structures, no ‘high flying adored’ angels here. I guess not surprisingly there was a queue – tourists of course, with broad Aussie accents cutting through the chatter. I found the queue more interesting than the tomb – having been somewhat ‘tombed-out’ by this stage.
A little-known morsel of trivia. Following Eva Perón’s untimely death in 1952 from cancer, her body spent some time in a trade union’s headquarters, in the back of a cinema, in a van parked outside the capital building, and in the offices of Military Intelligence. It was moved to Milan, then to Madrid, and eventually back to Buenos Aires where in 1976 Evita was finally laid to rest, here where we were today, in the Cementerio de la Recoleta.