Bucket List: La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires

Bucket List: La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires

I’ve mentioned before my love of old cemeteries.  There is one that is pretty high up on my bucket list:  La Recoleta in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  Established in 1822, it was the city’s first public cemetery.

La Recoleta cemetery is set in 14 acres, with 4691 vaults, all above ground. Ninety-four of those vaults have been declared National Historical Monuments by the Argentine government and are protected by the state. The entire cemetery is laid out in sections like city blocks, with wide tree-lined main walkways branching into sidewalks filled with mausoleums.

La Recoleta aerial

La Recoleta was named as one of the ten most beautiful cemeteries in the world by CNN, and it’s easy to see why:

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The cemetery is the final resting place of many notable people, including Eva Perón (aka Evita), presidents of Argentina, Nobel Prize winners, the founder of the Argentine Navy, and an illegitimate granddaughter of Napoleon.

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As you can imagine, there are interesting stories that go along with some of the memorials there.  Take, for instance, Rufina Cambacérès, who suddenly collapsed one evening in 1902 and was pronounced dead at the tender age of 19.  The story goes that a few days after Rufina’s funeral, a cemetery worker found that the coffin had moved within the crypt and the lid was broken in places. Fearing grave robbery, he opened it to find something even worse—scratch marks covering the inside of the coffin, and Rufina dead, hands and face bruised from having tried to break her way out of the coffin.

Rufina Cambaceres at La Recoleta

And, if you’re into ghost stories, there is the story of David Alleno, a grave digger who worked at the cemetery for some thirty years.  He saved his wages for years in order to buy his very own plot in the burial ground. According to the legend, after commissioning an Italian architect to sculpt a statue of him, he put the finishing touches on the precious spot then went home and killed himself. There are rumors that he haunts the cemetery at night, and that visitors can still hear the noise of his keys as he walks the narrow streets before dawn.

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These are just two of the stories centered in La Recoleta Cemetery.  I’m sure there are nearly as many stories as there are tombs.  I hope one day I can go discover more of them myself!

La Recoleta Cemetery is located at Junín 1760, 1113 CABA, Argentina.  Telephone +54 11 4803-1594.  The cemetery is open daily from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm.  English tours are available at 11:00 am on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

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