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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 highly-recommended pdf guide. The authors of this blog are proud to have guided more than 1,500 people through Recoleta Cemetery… join in!

Notice: Due to recent events, all cemeteries in Buenos Aires—Recoleta, Chacarita & Flores—will not allow visitors to enter with bags or backpacks, & handbags will be inspected by security.

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383. tombs for sale

Mercado Libre ad

Something perhaps not all visitors realize is that Recoleta Cemetery is not a museum with permanent exhibits. Burials & ceremonies still occur & although there is something built on every square meter, it remains possible to find a burial spot there. According to real estate agents in the area, between 10-20% of the cemetery’s vaults are always for sale at any given time. In other words between 500-1,000 lots… quite a large number.

But Recoleta is not cheap… not the neighborhood nor its famous cemetery. An easy way to understand its relative cost is by looking at the rates charged by the city government for a burial niche. In Chacarita & Flores, the other large cementeries in Buenos Aires [also administered by the city], a first row niche costs 55 pesos per year & in Recoleta they charge 398 pesos… 720% more!

The same kind of price scheme applies to vaults. The majority are discreetly sold by real estate agencies in the area—obviously a “for sale” sign would never appear on a vault—but they can be purchased online through sites like Mercado Libre [the Argentine equivalent of eBay], & a greater price difference between cemeteries can be seen. A vault with 18 coffin beds costs US$ 16,000 in Chacarita & US$ 39,000 in Recoleta. The ads get your attention: “wrought-iron door, chapel with double altar, stained glass, marble staircase.” Luxurious. Although even that is not as expensive as it gets. There are vaults for sale which cost up to US$ 150,000.

Of course the largest & most famous vaults are priceless… & in those cases the family usually does everything possible to hold on to them. If anyone dreams about ending their days in Recoleta Cemetery, the only available option is to find a mid- to lower price range vault.

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375. caretakers

Vista, Recoleta Cemetery

In spite of its grandeur, Recoleta Cemetery is not very large. It is only as big as four city blocks, but more than 4,700 tombs & mausoleums can be found among its narrow walkways. Smaller plots have only one coffin while larger ones can have more than 50. To maintain them all—checking drainage pipes, fixing floors, trimming trees & an endless list of other chores—there are some 65 caretakers… very nice people, passionate about the cemetery & who in several occasions act as guides for the unavoidable tourist who wants to know the quickest way to the tomb of Eva Perón.

A simple bit of math reveals that each caretaker has the responsiblity to maintain about 70 tombs, large or small.  Not all of those tombs are cleaned or cared for since some families do not pay the corresponding maintenance fee—according to the official Buenos Aires city government website currently 48 pesos or about US$ 12.50 per square meter. Tombs not paid for are neglected by caretakers. The reason, according to one of the cemetery workers, is simple: each caretaker receives as their salary a percentage of what the tomb owner pays to the city government. And in many cases, due to the number of mausoleums in any particular sector which pay no taxes, the money provided to caretakers per month is very little… less than 500 pesos or US$ 130 at the current exchange rate.

Tools of the trade, Recoleta Cemetery

Some of the biggest vaults, like that of the Familia Leloir, also pay the aguinaldo (a year-end bonus equivalent to one month’s salary) to the city which ends up going to the caretaker. In addition, some families give extra cash directly to the caretaker to ensure better maintenance… a tip of sorts.

Caretakers appear everywhere in the cemetery, visible at any time of day. They are easily recognized by their gray workclothes & their characteristic way of referring to the cemetery:  the capacity of a vault is measured in “beds,” not coffins, & the dead who occupy them are “tenants.”

What unites them, as mentioned in the beginning of this post, is their love for Recoleta Cemetery. And their dream, their personal utopia, might just be reaching the status of the most famous caretaker of them all: David Alleno, the only cemetery worker who is buried there.

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349. map development 7

Here’s a preview of things to come:

Map development 7, PDF Recoleta Cemetery

Map development 7, PDF Recoleta Cemetery

I know I’ve been promising this forever, but my life from February until now was spinning out of control. Only now do I have the time & energy to finish this project… hopefully making it part of something even larger. Stay tuned for that. Once a few design issues are resolved & the text revised, the only PDF guide to Recoleta Cemetery should be ready by mid-December consisting of approximately 20 to 25 pages.

Naturally it will have sections about history, symbolism, a walking route with descriptions of 70 tombs, the complete story of how Eva Perón finally came to rest there & a few urban myths… basically an abbreviated version of this blog to carry with you while inside:

Map development 7, PDF Recoleta Cemetery

Map development 7, PDF Recoleta Cemetery

Map development 7, PDF Recoleta Cemetery

Thanks for your patience!

Read the complete story in the following posts titled “map development”: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 & Part 6. Good news! The PDF guidebook is now available.

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