on December 17, 2005
The hottest ticket in town isn’t for front-row seats at a La Boca Juniors match. It’s not for an opera at Teatro Colon, either. No, here in Buenos Aires, the truly wealthy residents have their sights set on a permanent plot at Cementerio de la Recoleta, a sprawling, eerie resting place for many of Argentina’s most revered (and sometimes controversial) figures.After wandering through Recoleta’s maze of above-ground tombs for an hour, I left convinced that there’d be nothing creepier than spending a night in the cemetery, alone, with nothing but a gaggle of resident cats stalking the grounds to keep you company. Sounds like a perfectly gory Tales from the Crypt episode to me.The huge cemetery sits smack-dab in the middle of Recoleta, close to a tasteless strip of touristy restaurants and bars that include the Sports World Café (Hey honey! Let’s check out some dead bodies, then catch a fútbol match on the tube!) Admission to the cemetery is free, and guided tours are available. Just inside the Greek-columned entrance, there’s also a nifty map that shows where graves of interest are located: an invaluable tool, considering just how many plots there are here. Of course, if you’re looking for Eva Peron’s tomb, just follow the tourists.What makes the cemetery more unsettling than others are the tombs themselves. As is common throughout South America, the caskets lie above ground in plain view of the public, meaning you can literally peer into 80% of the tombs and see inside for yourself. In fact, many of the tombs’ glass windows and chain locks have been broken and gone into disrepair over the years (weather, grave robbery?), so you can practically reach out and touch the specter of death. That’s right—bring the kids! It’s fun for the whole family!Haunted graveyard thoughts aside, Cementerio de la Recoleta is a mesmerizing “attraction” that shouldn’t be missed. Many of the tombs have incredibly intricate detailing, and the foreboding sense of death is exasperated by the newly finished, empty plots patiently awaiting their future residents. Vacation fun indeed! The roster of deceased at Recoleta includes Peron, heavyweight boxer Luis Ferpo, writer/politician Juan Bautista Alberdi, Nobel Peace Prize winner Carlos Saavedra Lamas, and former president Carlos Pellegrini.Final resting places don’t get any more prestigious in Buenos Aires than those at grim, captivating Cementerio de la Recoleta.
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