The show must go on… even if you aren’t around to see it. Important funeral homes like Lazaro Costa offered rental carriages for grand processions to Recoleta Cemetery. The above photo appeared as an advertisement in the society magazine “Caras & Caretas” with the following text:
For 200 pesos, a good funeral service with four horses & a footman, including an imitation mahogany coffin, open casket service, liveried carriages, notices placed in newspapers, etc.
Although a friend sent me this photo & did not record the publication date, surely this is from the early 20th century. Assuming this could be from 1915, 200 pesos would be the equivalent of $83 USD, or $1,930 USD in today’s currency!
A favorite photo from the Colección Witcomb shows quite a different Recoleta Cemetery than the one that can be visited today. A few façades & domes remain to provide orientation, but sadly what was likely the largest mausoleum of that time no longer exists:
Its identity remained uncertain until the following clip appeared in the excellent collection of images curated by Argentina Vintage:
Just what I’d been looking for! A bit of research & a similar photo can be found in society magazine Caras y Caretas for Columbus Day, Día de la Raza, Día de la Hispanidad… a.k.a. October 12th.
As self-help organizations grew along with immigration, so did the need for burial space. The Asociación Española de Socorros Mutuos moved to Chacarita in 1896, eventually selling their group pantheon in Recoleta. Although demolished today, the new mausoleum by architect Alejandro Christophersen proved to be even more luxurious.
The Cementerio Alemán opened along with its neighbor, the British Cemetery, in 1892. German Protestants had the same difficulty as other non-Catholic immigrant groups in finding a suitable place for burials. Hungarian architect Juan Kronfuss designed the entrance in 1926, & the chapel contains extraordinary stained glass windows from Franz Mayer in Munich. The greenery & perfectly manicured plots make for a nice break from the hectic vibe of Chacarita.
One of its most famous graves belongs to Capt. Hans Wilhelm Langsdorff, commander of the armored vessel Admiral Graf Spee. Damaged in the 1939 Battle of the River Plate off the coast of Montevideo, Langsdorff scuttled the ship & his crew were taken prisoner. Transferred to Buenos Aires, Langsdorff committed suicide two days later. Some of the crew passed away—waiting out the end of the war in either Argentina or Uruguay—& are also buried here.
The crew of the Graf Spee are not the only Nazis interred there. Rodolfo Freude formed part of Perón’s secret service & is thought to have been one of the organizers behind ODESSA. He died in 2003, & the full story of bringing Nazis & Nazi wealth into Argentina may have died with him.
Other notable figures: Swimmer Jeanette Campbell was the first Argentine to win an Olympic medal… ironically at the 1936 Berlin games. Photographer Annemarie Heinrich took some of the most well-known portraits of celebrities & politicians, including my favorite images of Tita Merello & Eva Perón:
Architect Carlos (Karl) Nordmann designed the Legislature of the city of La Plata, along with its museum & other fine works throughout the country.
Alexander Asboth, a Hungarian immigrant to the USA, commanded Union troops during the Civil War. He later became US ambassador to Argentina & Uruguay, dying in Buenos Aires. Asboth was initially buried in the Cementerio Alemán, but his remains were transferred to Arlington National Cemetery in 1990. The original tombstone can be found by the entrance:
A few other pics… there are some fantastic works of art, mostly near the entrance:
Although sharing the same gigantic plot of land as Chacarita Cemetery, walls separate the Cementerio Alemán from Chacarita. The only entrance is along Avenida El Cano, near the intersection of Avenida del Campo.
Photo of the Legislatura in La Plata by Marcelo Metayer.
Photo taken by Samuel Boote, circa 1885, & part of the Colección Carlos Sánchez Idiart. The entrance gate had just been remodeled by Juan Antonio Buschiazzo four years earlier, so it looks practically new in this photograph. Grottos were all the rage in late 19th century Buenos Aires, so naturally Recoleta had a few for rest & relaxation. A gem of a photo.
The Cementerio Británico opened in 1892 after the Cementerio Victoria filled to capacity & local residents requested its relocation. The cemetery’s current look dates from the 1930s & 1940s, designed by the architecture firm of Conder, Follett & Farmer… probably best known for the main train station in Retiro. The British fondness for brick is visible at the modern entrance gate, certainly the least decorative in Buenos Aires. The chapel also follows the same lines:
In general, the cemetery has a decent amount of greenery, quite a few trees & is well-maintained. Most graves are decorated with simple tombstones, but large crosses & obelisks are common as well:
Military memorials are found along the wall to left of the entrance gate, just behind the chapel. John Thorne, an American naval officer who fought for Argentina during its early days, is buried there along with several fallen from both World Wars:
As the major non-Catholic cemetery for several decades, many Armenians are buried here as well as immigrants from other nations. Members of the Jewish community have also been buried in this cemetery:
Unique to Buenos Aires is the Familia Gorkin plot… unsure why they chose the Asian theme:
Not surprisingly, important religious figures from the non-Catholic community are buried here. Two of the more elaborate graves belong to Reverend James William Fleming of St. Andrews Scots Presbyterian Church & Willam Patterson McLaughlin, pastor of the First Methodist Episcopal Church from 1892 to 1921. McLaughlin’s relief is similar in iconography to that of Atilio Massone but signed by Chambers y Thomas… best known for the fabulous First National Bank of Boston building on Diagonal Norte:
Of historical interest are the many monuments & tombstones brought from the Cementerio Victoria before it became a public park in 1925. Tombstones are affixed in rows along the rear wall (right of the entrance). Several contain references to early railroad companies of Buenos Aires, a good number have Hebrew inscriptions & some are very solemn:
And while there may not be as many sculptures as in Recoleta Cemetery, the few present are wonderful works of art:
This is one of the most peaceful cemeteries in Buenos Aires & is definitely worth an early morning stroll. Although sharing the same gigantic plot of land as Chacarita Cemetery, walls separate the Cementerio Británico from Chacarita. The only entrance is along Avenida El Cano, near the intersection of Avenida del Campo.
Spanish speakers can find out many more details about the Cementerio Británico on Eduardo Kesting’s thoroughly researched website.