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Endless Mile, Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery guide

The list of occupants of Recoleta Cemetery reads like a Who’s Who of Argentine history & society. The elite, an aspiring middle class, friends, enemies & those who contributed to the general welfare of Argentina all share space in a miniature city of mausoleums & monuments.

During a visit, you’ll stroll past Presidents & politicians (some naughty, some nice), Nobel Prize winners, literary greats, entertainers, scientists, military leaders, sports figures & even some who died tragically. The cemetery’s most famous resident, Eva María Duarte de Perón —simply Evita to her devotées— even had a bizarre post-mortem journey before finally resting in peace in Recoleta.

Want to learn more? Get all the details in our recommended pdf guide. The authors of this blog are proud to have guided more than 1,500 people through Recoleta Cemetery… join in!

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567. general dn hilario lagos

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, General Hilario Lagos

Born in 1806 in Buenos Aires, Hilario Lagos had a life-long military career & participated in most major conflicts during Argentina’s formative years. He grew up just as the nation gained independence from Spain, & the constant conflict of that time drew him to the army. Lagos enlisted just before his 18th birthday & quickly rose in the ranks.

Local skirmishes against indigenous tribes prepared Lagos for his first international conflict. Brazil had declared independence from Portugal in 1822 & then tried to extend their control all the way down to the Río de la Plata… incorporating territory that formed part of Argentina. Losing the war, Brazil’s failure created a new nation: Uruguay.

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, General Hilario Lagos, plaque

Lagos gained more military experience as he joined the private army of Juan Manuel de Rosas & continued to push back the native frontier. All these previous battles proved invaluable during Argentina’s internal conflict for the role Buenos Aires would play in national politics: economic capital or part of a confederation? The future of the country hung in the balance with Lagos caught in the middle.

He stayed true to Rosas until the bitter end, but after defeat Lagos switched sides in an attempt to bring about a more peaceful resolution. Buenos Aires did not take kindly to Lagos, whatever side he chose… after Buenos Aires became capital & the idea of confederation was discarded, they confiscated all the territory Lagos owned & forced him to live away from the city in exile. In 1857 Lagos was offered a command position to fight indigenous tribes yet again, but he refused. He passed away & was buried in Recoleta in 1860. Although a central figure in Argentina’s history, the legacy of Lagos is overshadowed by many others. However, many of his descendants also joined the military & even became high-ranking officers, carrying on a family tradition of national service.

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565. gigapixel

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Infobae, Thomas Khazki, gigapixel

Drone photos of Recoleta Cemetery are nothing new, but improved technology has made large-scale images possible with an amazing degree of detail. Thomas Khazki works as a photojournalist for Infobae in Buenos Aires & has taken a series of drone images of the city… an amazing perspective we don’t often see.

The full-size photo of Recoleta Cemetery can be found on the Infobae website. Take a virtual visit!

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564. the oldest?

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Witcomb Collection

Visitors to Recoleta Cemetery often ask questions at each end of the spectrum. Who was the first person buried there? Early records list two on opening day: Juan Benito (a child of freed slaves) & María Dolores Maciel. Who was the last? Let’s check the newspapers! How much does the most expensive mausoleum cost? No way to know for certain since each is private property. What is the oldest tomb still standing? Hmmmm… that’s tricky. Here’s our best guess.

Recoleta Cemetery looked very different from its current appearance when it first opened in 1822. As the cemetery grew in status, its layout changed from grassy plots with simple tombstones to one of ornate mausoleums & vaults. Photos from the Witcomb Collection (below) show this process in progress around 1890, & a few ordinary tombstones even survive today.

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Witcomb Collection
Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Witcomb Collection

But with resale & modifications occuring over almost 200 years, few records are kept about the constructions on each plot. After all, each is private property so the cemetery has no obligation to record that kind of information. Many sources cite Remedios de Escalada —wife of founding father General José de San Martín— as having the oldest remaining plot since she passed away in 1823. However, a little exploration reveals another grave hidden in a corner not far from the entrance gate:

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Anchorena, oldest
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Anchorena, oldest

Dª Romana Josefa
López de Anchorena
y
sus cuatros nietas
parbulas. Romana.
Nicolasa. Estanislana.
y
Martina Anchorena.
Falleció la primera
de 30 de octubre
de 1822.
D.P.H.M.N.A.

The Anchorena family dates back to Argentina’s days under Spanish rule. Born in Pamplona, Juan Esteban de Anchorena arrived in Buenos Aires in 1768. He married Romana Josefa de Anaya, moved up in social rank & began buying land. By the early 20th century, the Anchorena name became synonymous with big money & power, coining a popular phrase: “wealthier than an Anchorena.” They even managed to marry into European royalty, but it all started with Romana Josefa who was buried here in 1822… the same year Recoleta Cemetery opened.

While a few other relatives are buried along with Romana Josefa, the Anchorenas never had a single, dedicated family mausoleum. Other Anchorena descendants can be found scattered throughout Recoleta Cemetery, but the honor of oldest mausoleum goes to the Bustillo family (1823).

That’s our best guess for now… until other evidence comes along!

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563. recoleta reopens, almost

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, announcement, reopening

As of today, Recoleta Cemetery —as well as the other two burial grounds in Buenos Aires— will reopen… but only for their intended purpose: funerals or visiting deceased relatives. The above announcement lists the following conditions:

  • Hours are Monday to Friday (including holidays) from 08:00 to 17:00.
  • Only two people per family will be allowed to enter.
  • Length of stay: 1 hour maximum.
  • Tourism or recreational visits are not allowed.
  • For burials, five people + a religious minister are able to enter together.

Basically if you don’t have business inside Recoleta Cemetery, there’s still no option to enter. Staff confirmed that regular cleaning & maintenance has taken place since closure on 13 Mar 2020, but workers have been the only ones permitted inside. While it remains unclear how these new regulations will be enforced, please refrain from tourism until further notice. Gracias!

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