The ominous gates, Doric-columned portico, and labyrinthine paths of the city's oldest cemetery may leave you with a sense of foreboding. Founded in 1822, it's the final resting place for the nation's most illustrious figures, and covers 13.5 acres that are rumored to be the most expensive real estate in town. The cemetery has more than 6,400 elaborate vaulted tombs and majestic mausoleums, 70 of which have been declared historic monuments. The mausoleums resemble chapels, Greek temples, pyramids, and miniature mansions.
Evita. The embalmed remains of Eva Duarte de Perón, who made it (almost intact) here after 17 years of posthumous wandering, are in the Duarte family vault. Around July 26, the anniversary of her death, flowers pile up here.
Late Greats. If the tomb of brutal caudillo (dictator) Facundo Quiroga looks small, it's because he's buried standing—a sign of valor—at his request. Prominent landowner Dorrego Ortíz Basualdo resides in
Recoleta's most monumental sepulcher, complete with chandelier. The names of many key players in Argentina's history are chiseled over other sumptuous mausoleums: Alvear, Quintana, Sáenz Peña, Lavalle, Sarmiento.
Spooky Stories. Rufina Cambaceres is known as the girl who died twice. She was thought dead after suffering a cataleptic attack, and was entombed on her 19th birthday in 1902. Rufina awoke inside her casket and clawed the top open but died of a heart attack before she could be rescued. When Alfredo Gath heard of Rufina's story he was appalled and commissioned a special mechanical coffin with an opening device and alarm bell. Gath successfully tested the coffin in situ 12 times, but on the 13th the mechanism failed and he died inside.
Tips and Trivia
The city government runs free guided visits to the cemetery in English on Tuesday and Thursday at 11; visits in Spanish operate Tuesday through Sunday at 9:30, 11, 2, and 4. Groups gather at the entrance.
If you prefer an independent tour, the administrative offices at the entrance can usually provide a free photocopied map, and caretakers throughout the grounds can help you locate the more intriguing tombs. These are also labeled on a large map at the entrance.
It's easy to get lost in the cemetery, so start your independent tour well before closing time.
Look out for such intriguing statues such as the life-size likeness of boxer Luis Angel Firpo, who lost the world heavyweight title to Jack Dempsey in 1923. It stands on guard outside his tomb at the back of the cemetery, wearing a robe and boxing boots.
The cemetery had its blessing withdrawn by the Catholic Church in 1863, when President Bartolomé Mitre ordered that a suicide be buried there.