Photographer's Note

La Recoleta?s cemetery is probably the most prestigious in Argentina. It is the resting place of the rich and famous of this country. It was open in 1822 by Bernardino Rivadavia, an Argentine diplomat and statesman, first president of the unified provinces of La Plata. It was build by the French architect and engineer Prosper Catelin. He took his inspiration from the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris. Also, many monuments in Buenos Aires like the Cathedral of Buenos Aires build by Catelin bare the 19th century French architectural style.

Although most of the Argentines presidents (Rosas, Mitre or Sarmiento) are buried in La Recoleta?s cemetery, one can also find the sepulture of writers Jorge Luis Borges or Jose Hernandez writer of ?Martin Fierro the Gaucho?. But the most visited cemetery's resident is Eva Peron made worldwide famous by Alan Parker movie Evita. She is resting in her family?s (the Duarte) burial vault since 1970 after many detours. Strangely her husband president Juan Peron is not buried with her but in another cemetery in la Chacarita, a popular neighbourhood in Buenos Aires.

The mausoleums are often pantheons build to the glory of the dead. They have been laid out border to border on square plots of few meters. They?re so tightly close to each other and with so different architectural style, that one has the feeling to be in the centre of a miniature city. Each vault bare the family name chiselled on the façade and numerous placards of brass and bronze applied by family and friends, sometimes by officials? organizations. About seventy of those crypts are listed as historical monuments.

Those marble and stone buildings are expensive and usually the Argentines don?t squander it for one person. The whole family will be resting in one of those, sometimes even few generations. Some of them are small other are big, but they all have a basement. If we look through the doors windows of the mausoleum, one could see a small and steep stair to the vault where coffins are stored. On the main floor there are an altar, a cross, vases for flowers, two other coffins, sometimes stained glass and fresh flowers.

Some of those sepultures are very eccentric; for example, in front of the tomb of a general, one might see the statue of an guard with the sabre raised in his hand in respect or to protect the tomb?s door. The picture above is also a good example, on left side the austere sepulchre only baring a simple epitaph in French ?Mémoire pieuse ?. On the right, there is a pantheon to the glory of a daughter who died young. She was 19 years old if I remember well. The crypt in the shape of a small chapel is completed with statue of the lost girl and her dog on a small garden. Inside the chapel there is a beautiful painting of her. And for an epitaph a long and very moving poem written in Italian by her inconsolable father obviously. The text chiselled on the placard at the feet of the statue.

What?s hit the attentive visitor, is the diversity of nationalities in the consonance of the different names of the fallen buried in these cemetery; mostly Spanish, Italian and French but also German, English, Irish, Scandinavian ? That tells long about the immigrant history of this country.

Taking a walk in the alleys of this cemetery was very relaxing for me. It is a very quiet place in the middle of the hectic chaos of the city. If you stay away from the main door and must of all, from Evita?s grave and so away from the tourists, you?ll find yourself in the middle of beautiful mausoleums only visited by the feral cats that live in the cemetery. I even sat on a bench in the shadow of a sepulture cover with ivy to read a book from J.L. Borges. A cat went close to me, sat on the bench and because I was not giving any food, mew two or three time and then lay there and started its nap.

I took this picture while a storm was menacing Buenos Aires. The cemetery was just under the limit between the clouds and the clear sky; the mausoleums were lighten up by the sun behind me and was contrasting with dark and menacing sky.

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Additional Photos by Romain Donadio (green) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 235 W: 222 N: 121] (1014)
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