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.


Within a Stone’s Throw

Buenos Aires’s Recoleta Cemetery

Buenos Aires’s Recoleta Cemetery

As I have written on earlier occasions, Recoleta Cemetery is one of the major tourist attractions in Buenos Aires. I have visited it during my two previous trips to Argentina, in 2006 and 2011. And now, I will be staying in a hotel within sight of the tombs on Avenida Azcuénaga. It is possible that the blue-green building in the left background could be on Azcuénaga, but I’m not sure.

One of the nice things about staying in the Recoleta area is that it is full of classical old café/restaurants such as La Biela, El Sanjuanino, El Rincón, La Cocina, La Barra, and the Rodi-Bar—places that have been around for a hundred years or more and become national treasures.

On Saturdays, the Plaza Francia in front of the cemetery is the site of a craft fair  that features leather goods; items made with rhodochrosite, a magnesium carbonate mineral that is the national precious stone of Argentina; and yummy snacks. Nearby is La Biela, under the shade of a giant old ombú tree, where one can enjoy a cold Imperial beer and a light lunch.

I will be leaving a week from Tuesday, and as the time gets closer, I am looking forward to the trip more and more.



Everybody Who Is Anybody

A Lane in Buenos Aires’ Recoleta Cemetery

A Lane in Buenos Aires’ Recoleta Cemetery

In the United States, there is no single cemetery where everybody who is anybody is interred. France has its Père Lachaise and Pantheon, and Argentina has La Recoleta.

There you will find the tombs of Argentina’s presidents, including Bartolomé Mitre, Carlos Pellegrini, Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, Hypólito Yrigoyen, Julio Argentino Roca, Marcelo Torcuato de Alvear, Pedro Eugenio Aramburu, and Raúl Alfonsin. Perhaps its most famous inhabitant is Evita Perón, who is buried here under her maiden name of Duarte. Not here is the only Argentinean president most people are likely to know: Juan Perón. He was buried at Chacarita Cemetery, then moved to a mausoleum some 35 miles outside of Buenos Aires.

Although Jorge Luis Borges—Argentina’s most famous writer—is buried in Europe, here you will find Silvina and Victoria Ocampo and Borges’s collaborator Adolfo Bioy Casares.

Walking through the labyrinthine passageways between the crowded crypts, one finds fabulous wealth (such as that of the Bullriches) side by side with neglected tombs with broken glass and crumbling plaster.

And yet, to pass eternity in this place has a high entrance requirement. Many of the tiny crypt spaces are more expensive than mansions in the more elegant parts of the city. These are the most exclusive fourteen acres in all of South America.

If you find yourself in Argentina, a visit to Recoleta is a must.