Cementerio de la Recoleta
One of Buenos Aires’ neighborhoods, Recoleta, is considered one of the wealthiest areas in the Capital. For many years this neighborhood has been home to some of the wealthiest families of “old money.” Fitting then that a walled off part of the city in this neighborhood is reserved real estate for the dead.
In this well-known Buenos Aires landmark, you’ll find beautifully designed and grand tombs for the city’s famous dead, including that of Eva Peron, whose tomb is frequently visited and always full of fresh flowers. The greatest characters from the history of Argentina are buried in Recoleta Cemetery, and the site was declared a National Historic Monument in 1942.
You can take a tour of the more famous residents, but perhaps it is better to just explore the maze of alleys that wind between the various mausoleums, many of which feature wonderful architecture, and are anything but morbid. An open-air museum that invites walks and serene meditation.
Entry to the cemetery is currently free, but there is talk of implementing an entry fee in the future.
One gravestone not belonging to anyone particularly famous, however, holding one of the cemetery’s most interesting—and horrifying—stories is that of Rufina Cambaceres.
Born in 1883, daughter of accomplished Argentine author Eugene Cambaceres, Rufina grew up in comfort and wealth.
Her father died when she was very young and she lived with her mother in a large house in the south of Buenos Aires, and by the time she reached her late teens she was known as one of the great beauties of the city.
Her 19th birthday was to be a grand affair – her mother had organised a large party for her.
As Rufina was getting ready for the big night, a friend of hers confessed something that everyone except Rufina knew, that is to say her fiancé was having an affair with Luisa, her own mother.
Left alone, Rufina’s heart broke into tiny pieces and one of the maids found her collapsed on the floor some time later, whereby 3 doctors were summoned and all pronounced her dead. Her distraught mother ordered her to be buried in Recoleta Cemetery.
A few days after the 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.
The explanation doctors were said to have given later is that Rufina had suffered a attack of catalepsy, a condition characterised by rigidity and low vital signs. At some point she awoke to find herself trapped, tried in desperation to escape and unable to she died, this time definitively, of a heart attack.
Her tomb is a stunning Art Nouveau masterpiece and features a full-sized statue of Rufina holding the door to her own mausoleum, said to have been built by her mother as a tribute to what happened to her.
Make sure you pay her a visit when you visit when you’re next in Recoleta and don’t forget to look through the glass doors behind the sculpture where you can see her beautifully carved coffin.
5 TOMBS TO VISIT IN RECOLETA CEMETERY
1 – Eva Peron
No one goes to Recoleta cemetery without a visit to Evita’s grave. By Recoleta standards, however, it is quite basic. A Few years after former First Lady Perón died of cancer in 1952, her body was stolen. The body was missing for nearly twenty years before finally being returned to the Duarte family mausoleum in Recoleta Cemetery. She now lies in a crypt five meters underground, heavily fortified to ensure that no one can disturb the remains of Argentina’s most beloved and controversial First Lady.
2 – Rufina Cambaceres
This young Argentine woman had perhaps gone into coma in 1902 and was pronounced dead at age 19. A few days after her burial, workers heard screams from her tomb. When it was opened, there were scratches on her face and on the coffin from her attempts to escape.
Though the story of her tragic death has never been verified, it has captured the hearts of thousands of visitors to Rufina’s grave.
3 – Liliana Crociati de Szaszak
26 Year old Liliana Crociati de Szaszak was in Innsbruck, Austria in February 1970, when she was killed by an avalanche. Her tomb was designed by her mother in the Neo-Gothic style, in decided contrast to the other tombs in the cemetery.
A life-size green bronze statue of Liliana in her wedding dress sits adjacent to her tomb.
Following the death of Liliana’s beloved dog, a bronze statue of the dog was added, with Liliana’s hand resting on there beloved pet.
4 – Gen Tomás Guido
A General in the Argentine War of Independence, Guido joined the revolution of May 1810, helping to negotiate independence from Spain. His son, poet and politician Carlos Guido y Spano, built his father’s stony vault in tribute, with his very own hands. Now thats impressive!
5 – David Alleno
Alleno worked in Recoleta cemetery. He saved all of his life to buy the plot and build the tomb that he is buried in. He travelled to Italy to have the statue that is on his vault made by the artist Canepa, who represented him just the way he used to work at the cemetery. He put the finishing touches on the precious spot then went home and killed himself.
As the legend goes, one can still hear the noise of his keys as he walks the narrow streets before dawn haunting Recoleta Cemetery.