Beginning at time marker 12:10 & running until 13:01 –almost a full minute!– is the first video footage from 1949 of Recoleta Cemetery that we’ve seen. (Clicking play above will start the video at the proper moment.) Uploaded to YouTube by the Archivo Historic de Radio y Televisión Argentina, this video highlights the modernity of the Perón era but also fits in a quick look at Recoleta Cemetery.
Tombs & mausoleums are easily identifiable & still exist to this day… although a few have changed their appearance. Occupying the last few seconds of cemetery footage, the Unión Cívica Radical mausoleum had a multitude of plaques covering the entire obelisk:
As with the tomb of Sarmiento, plaques became so numerous that they were eventually removed & placed by the underground entrance or on the ground surrounding the obelisk:
Enjoy this rare glimpse of Recoleta Cemetery with no tourists & without Eva Perón!
Apologies for a backpost, but this audiovisual art installation took place in 2005 & we’ve only now found information about it! This blog began in 2007; however, I often went to the cemetery to guide tours & for pleasure even before then… I must have been working in Europe when this event happened. Fortunately good documentation exists online, so we can add it to our archive of cemetery events here.
Nicolás Varchausky & Eduardo Molinari created this installation using sound clips taken from historic archives, augmented with other sounds from diverse sources such as animals, weapons, screams & objects. Visual effects were also necessary since this project took place at night… one of the few occasions that Recoleta Cemetery has been opened to the public after dark. The name “Tertulia” also alludes to one of the event’s goals: a dialogue or exchange of ideas based on a different way of looking at this particular physical space packed with so much history.
As they wrote in a book published in 2016 —eleven years after the event— which is available in an abbreviated form for free download on Issuu:
“Tertulia proposes an audiovisual exploration of a space, attempts to extract its resonances as well as its historic reflections. The projection of images (again, coming from archives & subject to technological intervention) and illumination in conjunction with a display of sound works toward a new & profound way of hear-see that, in these moments of increased effort to recover our history, is essential.”
Sound clips can be found on the project website. If anyone has photos from that evening’s event, we’d be happy to post them here!
Coinciding with Halloween, a radio program recently debuted that I’d recorded earlier this year with Rick Steves –a popular, US-based travel pro & my employer for the past 20 years. I’ve recorded several radio shows with Rick, but this one was particularly fun. We discussed why it’s important to visit cemeteries, how Recoleta Cemetery is run & of course, shared a couple of popular legends: Rufina Cambacérès & David Alleno. Check out the first 15 minutes of program #581 on SoundCloud (linked below):
Blair Jollands recently filmed the music video for “I’ll Remember You” in Buenos Aires, using Recoleta Cemetery & the Jardín Japonés as shoot locations. Could this be the first time the cemetery has been used in a music video?
Filmed in Buenos Aires in 1988, Apartment Zero features a very young Colin Firth as Adrian Leduc—a reclusive cinema buff with a mentally-ill mother. American Jack Carney, played by hunky Hart Bochner, answers a newspaper ad to share Adrian’s apartment & everyone in the building falls for him, including Adrian. Of course, no 1980s movie based in Argentina would be complete without a Dirty War subplot.
What does all this have to do with Recoleta Cemetery? When Adrian’s mother dies, she is buried there. A reader of this blog suggested I watch Apartment Zero just for the cemetery scenes… thanks for the recommendation, Manuel:
The tomb used in the movie was easy to identify, belonging to Álvaro Barros & family:
I’ve read that Highlander 2 used the cemetery for a single scene, but I’ve yet to find the footage. Know of any other movies filmed here? Let us know!
Every so often, I’m surprised by people’s interest in Recoleta Cemetery. Most appreciate its beauty as well as enjoy Argentina’s history condensed into four city blocks. And many people admire the cats… but no one loves them more than Blake.
Blake Kuhre contacted me several months ago about his plan to make a documentary telling the story of Recoleta Cemetery’s most famous living residents. Marcelo did some investigation as to their well-being & care several years ago, but Blake went even further. He actually managed to interview the woman who organizes & pays for keeping the cats healthy & happy. Access we couldn’t get in 2010!
Blake talks about his inspiration for the documentary on the Kickstarter project page:
Visitors from all over the world visit Recoleta Cemetery expecting to just pop in and see a few famous tombs, take in the gorgeous architecture, then check it off their list and move on to their next spot. But before they leave, so many are smitten with the dozens of friendly cats that have been part of Recoleta Cemetery for many years. How did they get there? Who’s taking care of them? How can I help? These were all questions we asked ourselves 7 years ago when we first visited, and it killed us to return home to the US, back to our day jobs, all the while wondering and wishing we had closure.
By contributing to our campaign, you’ll help help preserve the legacy of the Guardians of Recoleta for many years to come. We say “Guardians” because cats are very independent and no one actually “owns” them, the cats themselves are de facto guardians of the cemetery, our main character has been their Guardian for 20 years, and you’ll also become a Guardian by contributing to our campaign. Ideally, we’d like to see every cat adopted but the truth is even if this goal were achieved, people will still use Recoleta Cemetery as a dumping ground for their unwanted felines. Your donation will help get our documentary made and distributed, spread awareness to the situation and cause, champion pet adoption, TNR, and help us establish & partner with a Buenos Aires non-profit to ensure every cat will continue to receive care.
With three weeks left for the campaign, Blake’s project became a Kickstarter staff pick and was featured in the Film & Video category. 25% of funds have been raised as I write this… please help spread the word & contribute!! I’ll be donating as well as giving an exclusive tour of the cemetery for some lucky contributors.
Thanks for the support!
Update (03 Oct 2014): Very happy to report that Blake reached his goal, so the cat documentary will become a reality! We contributed USD 500 to the project & will soon be hosting Blake in Esquel. More behind-the-scenes production news soon…
Update (24 Nov 2014): With funding secure, Blake got to work scheduling interviews. I offered to fly to Buenos Aires, but he had a better idea… why not film my interview where I live? Brilliant. Blake spent only one evening in Esquel, but I was able to show him a little of what makes Patagonia special. The scenery will be a good counterpoint to the cemetery, & I’m happy about my first big screen appearance!
Update (06 Dec 2017): Featured in the New York Times, Blake’s documentary premiered at the first NY Cat Film Festival in December 2017. At last! No word yet from Blake as to how it went, but here’s what the NYT said:
…That practice [catch, neuter & rerelease] has fueled debate, and another documentary, “Guardians of Recoleta,” by Blake and Adrienne Kuhre, explores an alternative. The film looks at feral cats in Buenos Aires, particularly the doted-on “guardians” of a major tourist attraction, the Recoleta Cemetery. Well-meaning Americans take some of the cats to Chicago, converting them to indoor pets, with decidedly mixed results.
“These cats had hundreds, if not thousands, of people interacting with them, and they’re now sort of under house arrest,” Mr. Kuhre said in a phone interview. “They’re not exposed to the elements, but is their quality of life better?”
You don’t get to hear my Southern accent in the following trailer, so you’ll have to seek out the documentary for yourself: