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Category: Current events

538. bombs & anarchists

On 14 Nov 2018 around 17:15—less than an hour before closing time—a bomb went off inside Recoleta Cemetery. Marcelo immediately sent me a message via WhatsApp & within seconds I watched the story unfold on TN’s live YouTube broadcast from my living room in Spain:

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, TN Vivo

The explosion occurred in the far left corner of the cemetery at the tomb of Ramón Falcón, & initial reports mentioned one of five home-made pipe bombs exploding… severely injuring one woman who was being attended by an EMT crew onsite. Forensic police arrived to investigate the scene as well as assess any potential threat from unexploded devices. Later that day, the following photos were released via the national news agency, Télam:

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, bombing, Ramón Falcón, Télam

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, bombing, Ramón Falcón, Télam

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, bombing, Ramón Falcón, Télam

The story wasn’t difficult to put together. The injured woman, 34-year old Anahí Esperanza Salcedo, had been responsible for the bombing & suffered facial damage as well as the loss of three fingers when the device exploded early… apparently while taking a selfie.

Salcedo entered the cemetery with Hugo Alberto Rodríguez, both disguised with wigs & sunglasses. They identify as anarchists & wanted to destroy the tomb of Falcón, who had been assassinated by an anarchist 109 years ago. In the end, the tomb survived while Salcedo remains in critical condition.

Police officials consider this crime linked to another pipe bomb thrown into the front patio of the home of judge Claudio Bonadio later that same day. Bonadio is currently investigating charges of bribery & money laundering involving members of the previous government, including former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. The following day federal police raided the anarchists’ base of operations in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of San Cristóbal & arrested 10 individuals after finding material used to make pipe bombs.

Marcelo went to Recoleta Cemetery to assess the situation two days after the bombing occurred. The first change he noticed is that bags are now being inspected at the entrance gate. While we aren’t sure if this checkpoint will become permanent, be prepared to have your belongings searched until further notice. Marcelo also confirmed the correct time of the bombing, misreported in local media as around 18:00… impossible since the cemetery promptly closes at that time every day. Forensic police were still working the scene during his visit:

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, entrance gate, Marcelo Metayer

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Marcelo Metayer

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Marcelo Metayer

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Marcelo Metayer

Marcelo also heard people ask in several different languages where the explosion had taken place. Word had quickly spread about the incident. He’ll return next week for an update, so stay tuned! In the meantime, tombs that are located inside the orange dashed line on the map below cannot be visited. This corresponds to locations numbered 41 to 44 in the PDF guide:

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, affected section from bombing

During 19 years of visiting & documenting Recoleta Cemetery, neither Marcelo nor I ever imagined this kind of violence taking place inside. Some speculate that it may be an attempt to disrupt an otherwise calm city preceding the G-20 summit. Whatever the reason, one lesson that Recoleta Cemetery demonstrates through almost 200 years of history is that violence is never the means to an end. And you can’t kill someone twice!

Update (22 Nov 2018): Apparently all cemeteries in Buenos Aires—Recoleta, Chacarita & Flores—will not allow visitors to enter with bags or backpacks, & handbags will be inspected by security. Photo courtesy of Susana Gesualdi:

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Susana Gesualdi, notice

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525. statue down


From the Argentine national news agency Télam

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Pedro de Anchorena, acidente

A 30-year old tourist was injured today when he fell along with a statue that he had climbed on in order to take photos in Recoleta Cemetery. Information comes from SAME (Sistema de Atención Médica de Emergencias, the EMTs for Buenos Aires), the Ministry of Environment & Public Space, & from Rivadavia Hospital.

Some witnesses who saw the fall said that it happened around 14:00, &, after identifying the young man as a tourist from the Spanish city of Málaga, they explained that the accident took place when he climbed on one of the two marble sculptures that “guard” the entrance to the Pedro de Anchorena vault.

“The sculpture separated from its base & fell, taking the young man with it”, informed a city government official who assured that there are signs on-site in the cemetery which state “it is forbidden to climb structures”.

According to city government sources, the tourist “is out of danger” after being immediately treated by SAME, who sent the patient to Rivadavia Hospital for evaluation.

“The young man showed early signs of trauma to the thorax & was later evaluated by the emergency room in Rivadavia Hospital”, said the spokesperson for SAME, Alberto Crescenti, just after the accident.

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Pedro de Anchorena, acidente

The sculpture that fell “could not have done so by itself. That would have been impossible for a statue like that. Someone must have climbed on it”, said Raúl Rivas, who organizes guided visits & is familiar with the cemetery’s architecture.

According to the guide, “the aged, white marble sculpture, no more than 1.5 meters tall, is one of two female figures in sorrow with a small bouquet of flowers in their hands that ‘guarded’ the entrance of the Pedro de Anchorena vault, a member of the well-known & powerful landowning Argentine family”.

The sculptures that frame the entrance of the Anchorena vault, according to Rivas, have a base that is proportional to the rest of piece, so it “is impossible that it would fall without an external force”.

The Pedro de Anchorena vault is located in the Sector 1 of the cemetery, to the left-hand side after the entrance gate & leading to monuments dedicated to Facundo Quiroga & Sarmiento.

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Marcelo & I struggled to come up with an accurate-but-nonjudgmental title for this post. In the end, this is just one more cultural loss due to stupidity. The accident reminds me of a similar incident in Lisboa last year at the Rossio train station. This should go without saying, but just in case: Please respect Recoleta Cemetery while visiting so its artistic legacy can endure.

Photo credits to news agencies Télam & DyN.

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524. famous visitors

Buenos Aires attracts millions of tourists every year & among those are quite a few celebrities. Whether in BA for promotion, performance or just to relax, many see the city’s top attractions. However, only few have left a public record of their visit to Recoleta Cemetery.

One of the oldest celebrity photos we’ve found online is from Liza Minnelli‘s visit in 1993. Below, she leaves flowers for Eva Perón:

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Liza Minnelli

During a Rolling Stones concert tour, Mick Jagger strolled through the cemetery apparently unnoticed in February 2016… except for staff taking photos for his Twitter account:

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Mick Jagger

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Mick Jagger

Ashton Kutcher traveled to Buenos Aires in March 2016 to promote his latest series The Ranch. He really made the rounds, as Armando Besada posted in Instagram:

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Ashton Kutcher

A surprising omission: Madonna first visited Argentina in 1993 during the Girlie Show World Tour, then returned three years later to film Alan Parker’s version of the musical Evita. Amazingly, no photo ever surfaced of her visiting Eva Perón’s mausoleum. Did she go undercover? After hours? Would that have even been possible? Madonna brought the Sticky & Sweet Tour to Buenos Aires in 2008 & finished the MDNA Tour in 2012 in Argentina. Although she didn’t miss a photo-op with former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner & another visit to the Casa Rosada, there has never been a public photo released of Madonna in Recoleta Cemetery.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Madonna, CFK

Did we miss a celebrity? Send a photo along with details, & we’ll add them to this list.

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521. entrance fee?

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Marco Avellaneda

Funny how a newspaper article can draw attention to a law passed a year & a half ago. La Nación reported on 17 Nov 2015 that Recoleta Cemetery would begin to charge an admission fee soon… well, maybe.

The city legislature passed Law 4977 in May 2014, establishing a series of measures to guarantee burial rights to all residents of Buenos Aires as well as promote architectural heritage & culture to visitors. It’s about time some regulations were put into place… I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had to bite my tongue because I overheard guides give false information during a tour!

Chapter 4 of Law 4977 breaks the situation down in seven sections:

  • Article 136 establishes a body for regulating tourism within all Buenos Aires cemeteries.
  • Article 137 requires that all tour guides must be registered & fulfill all city guide requirements.
  • Article 138 states that all tour guides—whether they are registered or not—must take special training to lead tours inside public cemeteries.
  • Article 139 creates a General Cemetery Tourism Fund that will receive income from tourist fees as well as the sale of books, posters, etc.
  • Article 140 exempts the collection of fees from students of all ages who visit cemeteries for educational purposes, also retirees & Argentine nationals who visit without a guide.
  • Article 141 grants control of funds to a specific body.
  • Article 142 informs that conservation, maintenance & production of materials to be sold will be paid for via the General Cemetery Tourism Fund (apparently falling out of jurisdiction of the Asociación de Amigos)

No specifics are mentioned as to the amount to be charged or a deadline to have some system in place.

For several years I have followed a blog written by the Asociación de Guías de Turismos de Buenos Aires (AGuiTBA). On November 10th—a week before the article in La Naciónthey posted that a big meeting had been held with the General Director of Cemeteries, tourism agencies & other interested parties. An agreement was reached to postpone charging any national or foreign tourists 100 pesos, previously set to take effect on November 15th. The main reason for postponement was that many operators had already been paid for tours which included a visit to the Recoleta Cemetery.

So by our understanding a fee is coming. Likely 100 pesos. But the date has yet to be set. As more information becomes available, we’ll post it here.

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500. reflections

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, reflection

Time to celebrate… and take a look back. Honestly I don’t know how I managed to arrive at 500 posts about Recoleta Cemetery!

But it’s been a labor of love. I still remember my first visit to the cemetery in March 2000… wandering everywhere just to find Eva Perón’s tomb. In fact, the beauty of the place distracted me so much that I forgot about Evita until a few visits later! After moving to Buenos Aires, I developed a successful tour of the cemetery & had a crazy idea to map the entire place. Yep, I counted every single tomb, crypt, mausoleum, & cenotaph. Whew.

This blog came about in 2007 to help market that map but soon took on a life of its own. Despite a couple of long breaks & an extended stay in Australia, AfterLife continued to grow & gained readership… there’s no other English-language source like it. The map later transformed into a PDF guide & then an iPhone app with the birth of Endless Mile. Below are a few stats about this interesting journey:

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First post: 03 Oct 2007

Total # of posts: 500

Total word count: over 110,000 or about the size of a novel

Readership: averages between 4,500 & 5,000 unique visitors per month, about 300 per day. Amazing for a blog about a cemetery

Most comments: Liliana Crociati de Szaszak (currently 107)

Total number of photos posted: over 1,600… & only a few used elsewhere online without my permission!

Number of bilingual posts: currently 155, or 31%

People guided since 2003: just under 1,000! Remarkable since my groups average between 2-6 people. This number also includes maps & guides sold online.

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Here’s the big news: today & today only I’ll give away a free copy of the PDF guide to anyone who sends me their email address (robert AT recoletacemetery.com). Not only will this help spread the word about Recoleta Cemetery, but it gives everyone a chance to test drive an Endless Mile guide.

Thanks for everyone’s continued support!

Update: As of Aug 2015, the iPhone app is no longer for sale.

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474. touchscreen map

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, touch screen

Recoleta Cemetery can now boast some of the latest technology: a touchscreen monitor with an electronic map & information about more than 200 of its most important residents. Listings are categorized mainly by occupation: President, lawyer, engineer/architect, politician, military, etc. A search function also allows users to find tombs by typing a family name. Once an entry is selected, a photo gallery & biography are displayed. Cool.

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, touch screen

Tapping the button ¿Cómo llegar? displays a pop-up window containing a complete map of the cemetery. As if that wasn’t snazzy enough, a green arrow flashes to show the tomb location. Colored sections on the map correspond to official divisions, & all red numbers have information available… no wonder this took a year to put together!

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, touch screen

A general information section has details about guided visits plus other services, a historic background & even a bibliography. All text is available in both English & Spanish… definitely a plus for visitors. Translations could be better but all things considered, this is a great improvement over the previous lack of information in English. As an example, take a moment to read the text for the Herlitzka family vault:

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, touch screen

Unless already familiar with the cemetery—very unlikely for the majority of people who visit—the touchscreen is more useful on the way out rather than when first entering. No print copy is provided from the search, so first-time visitors would have trouble remembering the location of any tomb not on a main walkway. Of course, they could purchase a map then spend some time marking tombs of interest. But a better way to take advantage of this resource would be to search for tombs you’ve already seen. Scroll through your digital photos, then search for info.

I know from experience how difficult it is to put together a useful guide to Recoleta Cemetery. It’s so dense with tons of history & art packed inside… any attempt at organization is overwhelming. But this is a good complement to the most visited attraction in Buenos Aires.

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