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Cementerio de la Recoleta


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The Cementerio de la Recoleta is Argentina’s most elegant and aristocratic cemetery where the national heroes, former presidents, famous personalities and many aristocratic families lie in their final resting place. It is considered an open air museum with architectural masterpieces in the form of adorned masoleums and beautiful statues.

In the early 18th century, the Recoletos monks settled in what is now the neighborhood of Recoleta. In 1732 they constructed the Iglesia del Pilar, which still stands (adjacent to the cemetery) as one of Buenos Aires’ oldest churches. In 1820 the government of General Martín Rodriquez, governor of the province of Buenos Aires, called for a general reform of the ecclesiastic order and expropriated the land from the monks. The government, with Bernardino Rivadavia as minister, decided that the monks’ vegetable garden should be used to create the first public cemetery.

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The original cemetery, called Cementerio del Norte, was designed by the French engineer Próspero Catelín. When it opened in 1822 it was only for Catholics. Later, in 1863, Argentine president Bartolome Mitre signed a decree which allowed the burial of members of other religions.

As the years passed, the cemetery fell into a state of abandonment. In 1880 the city’s first mayor, Torcuato de Alvear, hired the architect Juan Antonio Buschiazzo to remodel the cemetery. A tall, brick wall was erected around the cemetery, its walkways were paved and an impressive main gateway was constructed with a double row of tall Doric pilars.

The Cementerio de la Recoleta has over 4,700 ornate tombs and mausoleums spread over more than five hectares. Many of these tombs have been created by important architects and are adorned with sculptures. Over ninety of these have been declared a National Historic Monument. Since 1946 the cemetery itself is considered a National Historic Museum because of the illustrious personalities which are interred there, its architectural quality and the magnificence of its sculptures.

Among the historical figures buried in Cementerio de la Recoleta are national heroes such as Coronel Brandsen, Cornelio Saavedra, Almirante Brown, Juan Manuel Rosas, General Dorrego, and Facundo Quiroga. Over fifteen Argentine presidents have been laid to rest in the cemetery, including Presidents Alvear, Aramburu, Figueroa Alcorta, Illia, Mitre, Pellegrini, Quintana, Roca, Sarmiento, Yrigoyen and most recently, Ricardo Alfonsin, the first president after Argentina’s return to democracy in 1983.

In the Cementerio de la Recoleta is Evita

The most internationally famous historical and political figure in the cemetery is Eva “Evita” Duarte de Perón, wife of former Argentine President Juan Domingo Perón and a political leader in her own right. Eva’s body was embalmed after her she died from cancer in 1952 at the young age of thirty-three. Her body was later stolen after the military coup which overthrew her husband in 1955, and hidden in a cemetery in Milan, Italy until 1971 when it was returned to Juan Perón who was exiled in Spain. It was later repatriated to Argentina. To avoid any further tampering with her remains, she was buried eight meters beneath the passage to the Duarte family crypt. Today Eva Perón’s tomb is the most visited in the cemetery. Compared to other tombs and masoleums it is very discrete; the numerous cards and flowers, the constant stream of visitors and the many camera shutters clicking are the only indicators that someone of great historical significance lays to rest there.

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Other reknown personalities include Nobel Prize winners, Luis Federico Leloire (Chemistry, 1970) and Carlos Saavedra Lamas (Peace, 1936); writers such as Jose Hernandez and the aristocratic sisters Victoria and Silvina Ocampo; and doctors Cosme Argerich and Guillermo Rawson, founder of the Red Cross in Argentina. There are many more illustrious personalities buried in the cemetery, as well as many of Argentina’s aristocratic families.

Cementerio de la Recoleta is located at Junín 1760 in the Neighborhood of Recoleta. It is open daily from 7 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. A guided tour is offered Sundays at 2:30 p.m.. It is a perfect way to get to know the myths and legends that surround this place of eternal rest.

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