Recoleta - A Most Unusual Cemetery in Buenos Aires
My first glimpse of Recoleta Cemetery was through the window of a tour bus. When I entered it a half hour later, my first impression was of a miniature village complete with paved streets and assorted stone buildings. However, those streets were narrow lanes and the stone structures were tombs.Tourists swarmed everywhere but I was soon lost in a world of my own as I wandered up and down, gazing through iron grilles and perspex windows. This was a cemetery like I'd never seen before.
I have lived in three countries - Zimbabwe, South Africa, and New Zealand - and in all these, cemeteries consist mainly of knee high headstones with the occasional raised tomb or sepulcher. I was fascinated then, by the lavish memorials in Recoleta and stopped frequently to read the names and wonder about the lives lived and who these people were. Judging by the size of the tombs, they were wealthy and of high social standing. This was confirmed when I was told that several Argentine presidents, artists, writers and sportsmen have been laid to rest within these walls. Eva Person is probably the most famous of these and I learned that she had been buried 27 feet down to prevent the possible theft of her body.
The tombs themselves were a mixture of marble, granite, stone and ornate carvings. Most were well kept but some were rundown and dirty with littered shelves and floors visible through windows and doors. No two were the same and the different styles blended to give the impression of an upper-class suburban area. In a few, coffins could be seen, stacked two or three deep on shelves. These coffins were ribbed and chunky compared to the ones I'm familiar with and I also saw tiny infant coffins. It was a reminder of how short our time on earth really is.
I could have spent hours wandering through the cemetery but as I was on a tour, I captured the essence of it in dozens of photos. I have since examined these carefully, memories flooding back as I gazed on white marble angels with sweeping wings and ornate crosses and cruciifxes. The peace and tranquility has left a lasting impression on my heart as well as being a reminder of my own mortality. May I live the rest of my years with passion and purpose, not wasting a single moment of the life that has been given to me.