The Most Expensive Real Estate in Argentina

Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires

When former military dictator of Argentina Juan Perón died in 1974, he couldn’t be buried at Buenos Aires’s exclusive Recoleta Cemetery. It was most galling to his followers that his widow Evita did manage to be buried there with the rest of her family (née Duarte). Eventually, his body was moved to the grounds of his estate in the exclusive barrio of Olivos.

I have visited Recoleta during each of my three trips to Argentina. Why? It is actually the number one tourist destination in Buenos Aires—and it’s free. Just about everyone of note in Argentine history and culture is buried there. Adolfo Bioy Casares the writer is buried there, but the Argentina’s greatest writer, his friend Jorge Luis Borges, is buried in Geneva, Switzerland, where he died in 1986.

One of Many Bronze Commemorative Plaques Marking the Grave of Evita Perón

Among other famous denizens are past presidents such as Agustín Pedro Justo, Bartolomé Mitre, Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, Hipólito Yrigoyen, Julio Argentino Roca, Pedro Eugenio Aramburu, and Raúl Alfonsín. There’s famous boxer Luis Firpo; Isabelle Walewski, a granddaughter of Napoleon Bonaparte; warlord Facundo Quiroga; writer Silvina Ocampo and her sister, publisher Victoria Ocampo; and William Brown, Irish-born founder of the Argentinean Navy (widely known as Almirante Brown).

The Narrow Streets of Argentina’s Notable Dead

In fact, the last time I stayed in Buenos Aires, I stayed at a hotel right across the street from the west wall of the cemetery.

The Cemetery Cats

Homeless Cat at Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires

One of the biggest tourist draws in Buenos Aires is Recoleta Cemetery, surrounded on all sides by a high-toned urban neighborhood. Tourists go mainly to see where Evita Perón is buried (she’s buried there under her maiden name, Eva Duarte, in the Duarte family crypt. In addition to Evita, virtually everyone who was anyone was at Recoleta, including a number of former presidents, as well as numerous generals and admirals. Not buried at Recoleta is Juan Perón, who was refused admission there, buried at Chacarita Cemetery off to the south, and then, after the body was vandalized, moved to a special crypt at the Museo Histórico Quinta 17 de Octubre in the suburb of San Vicente.

Not quite so well known is that Recoleta Cemetery is full of cats. It is one of several public places in B.A. that is infested with felines, including a botanical garden in nearby Palermo. The kind-hearted Argentinians typically feed these cats, so they are not quite 100% feral. They are a bit wild, however, though they recognize their benefactors. I thought the cats wandering the concrete walkways of the Recoleta were a nice touch.


Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina!

Evita Perón Speaking into a Microphone

Evita Perón Speaking into a Microphone

When I first saw the above building in 2011, I thought it was decorated with Evita’s image while her widowed husband Juan was still alive. I was surprised to find that Cristina Fernández Kirchner, the current president of Argentina, put it up on the side of the Ministry of Health headquarters around the time of my visit. The building is on Avenida 9 de Julio, the giant fourteen-lane highway that runs north/south from Retiro to Constitucion Station.

As President Kirchner said when she unveiled the image: “She was the most hated but the most loved, the most offended, insulted and discounted but the most venerated – the most humiliated but today eternally victorious…. She taught us that to confront the powerful carries a high price.”

By the time I find myself in Argentina next, Kirchner will have been termed out of office. I wonder how she will be seen by future generations. Evita’s reputation is safe: she died of cancer at the age of 33 at the height of her popularity. She was just about to request sharing power with her husband when the illness struck. Cristina, on the other hand, has ruled Argentina alone, and with her late husband Nestor, since 2003.