Monday, April 13, 2009
THE QUICK AND THE DEAD
Who would think of spending a beautiful sunny day walking around a cemetery? Well, visitors to Buenos Aires, that's who. Here there is the world class Recoletta Cemetario (who rates cemeteries, anyway???). Instead of rows of tombstones like Arlington National Cemetery, here you have crypts that are architecturally designed to give their owners, dead though they are, a beautiful place to rest out eternity.
The crowning jewel of this place is the mausoleum of the family Duarte. Inside this crypt rests the remains of one Ave Maria Eva Duarte de Peron, popularly known as "Evita". The normal cemetery "streets" are populated by a scattering of tourists but around grave #114, it is packed. It is a Kodak photo op site. People don't linger, cry or pray, they simply "ready, aim and fire" their digital cameras. We weren't immune, we did the same. No one sang "Don't cry for me, Argentina".
The place is one of mixed reverence for the dead. It's not creepy. Young people bring their dates here but no one is making out on benches, a first in BA. Looking at how one mausoleum is nicer than the next makes you wonder if this was just another way wealthy "Portenos" (Buenos Aires' residents) came to one-up their now dead neighbors. Not all of this is one-upsmanship as some graves have gone into disrepair. These are usually ones where no relatives or friends remain alive and therefore no one is there to take care of the site. These places also have their special beauty, and now "utility". Some "dead" sites are used as maintenance closets for shovels, rakes and brooms. You're on the top of the world one day, a broom closet the next.