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Category: Audio + Video

475. “destinos” television series

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Destinos series

Who else learned Spanish by watching the tv series “Destinos” besides me? There must be a few people who remember the scene filmed inside Recoleta Cemetery.

Produced in 1992, 52 30-minute episodes of “Destinos” taught viewers Spanish grammar & conversation in the format of a telenovela/soap opera. Lawyer Raquel Rodríguez is hired by Don Fernando to uncover a family mystery. As Raquel seeks clues in Spain, Argentina, Puerto Rico & México, the series does a good job of exposing learners not only to fantastic scenery but also region-specific variants of the language.

In Episode 12, Raquel travels to Buenos Aires to meet with Arturo. At 16:50, he takes Raquel to Recoleta Cemetery & reveals more about his family’s past. Dedication plaques shown in the episode are only props,& the exact location of filming was easy to find since there are only four diagonal walkways in the cemetery… looks pretty much the same today, except for the new sidewalk tiles placed in 2003:

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Destinos series

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires


457. globe trekker filming

Globe Trekker, television, Buenos Aires episode

In January 2012, the folks at Pilot Film & Television Productions contacted me about helping them with a new Buenos Aires episode of Globe Trekker. Of course I agreed. The idea was to show the production crew around the cemetery… essentially give them a tour of the highlights. Evidently I passed the test, because they wanted me to appear on camera with their presenter. Excellent!

The producers returned earlier this week & brought the camera crew with them. We ended up filming 3 hours inside the cemetery—much more than I originally thought—which will be edited down to a few minutes. I wonder what will be kept, what will be cut & most importantly, how I will look/sound on television :-)

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Robert Wright, Judith from Globe Trekker

Judith, the presenter, filmed a short intro first then we did a bit about Aramburu & Eva Perón. Roca came next, followed by Firpo, Rufina & eventually Eva Perón. Unfortunately there was no time for Liliana. Even though that doesn’t sound like much, we had to do several takes for each tomb plus scenes of us walking through the cemetery. We left with the security guards hounding us out.

Since I had no idea which tombs they would request or how much time they wanted to spend on each, everything I said during the taping was completely ad-libbed. And although lifetimes & influence are difficult to sum up in a few words accurately, I think I managed to do ok.

The only way to know will be to see the final result. The producers could not give me a release date, but they will send me a DVD when it’s finished. Or maybe I’ll see it on cable tv first! I’m guessing October-ish & will definitely post some screen captures in this blog.

Recoleta Cemetery, Globe Trekker crew, Judith, Robert Wright

Many thanks to the Pilot crew & the crash course about working in front of the camera!

Update (Nov 2012): The show has been released… read about it in this post.


414. la noche en vela

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, La Noche en Vela, videoprojection

Typical for an election year, cultural offerings in Buenos Aires have increased over the past few weeks. Incumbent officials provide a few months of frenetic activity in an attempt to erase 3.5 years of neglect. Last night in conjunction with Earth Hour, the city sponsored “La Noche en Vela” (Candlelight Night) with different cultural activities across the city. Recoleta Cemetery participated with an announced video projection on the entrance gate beginning at 21:00. Ironically, entrance gate lights had been shut off to support Earth Hour but a multimedia show which undoubtedly used more electricity replaced them.

Although starting on time, someone had made a big PR mistake. Instead of projecting on the main gate, the show took place on a smaller service entrance. Much less engaging. In the beginning, various images of vaults displayed while an actor dressed as a caretaker paced back & forth ringing a bell. Eventually the caretaker character appeared in the video, opening the gate for spectators to look inside. More vault images raced by like a passing train while a women desperately tried to escape her inevitable death. As she laid to rest—accompanied by a cat—more still images were projected. Videos below are from various moments of the show:


Even though the tombs of Pedro Ferré & Luz María García Velloso were incorporated into the show, there was little attempt at historical narrative. The timing of the show seemed a bit off as well… certain parts went very fast while others seemed to last an eternity. Many of the crowd of approximately 500 people drifted in & out, commenting that they did not understand the purpose of the show. I think an effort to incorporate information about the cemetery’s history would have been more appropriate than the overly dramatic theater skit. While mildly entertaining, Candlelight Night at Recoleta Cemetery could have been much better.


384. machinandiarena

Armando Bo, Recoleta Cemetery

María Teresa has laid in the Machinandiarena family vault since 1985, but her husband arrived a few years earlier. Producer, director & actor Armando Bó, one of the most interesting personalities of Argentine cinema due to his symbiotic union with—it’s impossible to speak about one without mentioning the other—the unrivaled Argentine erotic  diva, Isabel “Coca” Sarli.

Armando Bo, Recoleta Cemetery

Armando was already famous for producing & acting in “Pelota de trapo” (1948), a master work which can be compared to the best in the Italian Neorealism genre. But he discovered Isabel Sarli—Miss Argentina 1955—& created an  amazing 27 films where cheap melodrama & syrupy love ballads mix with fantastic landscapes & exotic tropical locales. It all served as a backdrop for the voluptuous body of Isabel, who in spite of her professed shyness filmed some of the most steamy scenes ever in Argentine cinema… often in the nude, bathing in every river or lagoon appearing the movie. Armando Bó & his son, Victor, were the men in her movies, making for a strange, incestuous love triangle. But despite his well-known affair, Armando never left his wife, María Teresa.

Who better to explain that strange relationship than John Waters? The video clip below contains his introduction to the movie “Fuego” (1969) as part of his television series “John Waters presents movies that will corrupt you.” Following the intro are selected scenes from movies containing the Bó-Sarli duo… ending with the phrase which has turned into Coca’s trademark: “¿Qué pretende de mí?” meaning “What do you want from me?” It’s pretty obvious.

Armando Bó had numerous problems with censorship in Argentina, & all of his movies were shown with entire sections cut. He passed away three years before the end of the last military dictatorship & its oppressive censorship. One important detail about the Machinandiarena family vault… it is not common to see a side door like this one, used to place caskets inside without having to navigate the narrow main door:

Armando Bo, Recoleta Cemetery

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378. where is eva perón? ◊

Eva Perón, Recoleta Cemetery

A question asked several times throughout the past 50 years :) With no signage to mark the way, visitors only have a few options to find the tomb of Eva Perón: use our PDF guidebook (yes, shameless self-promotion), buy a map from the women at the entrance gate, ask one of the caretakers… or take notes from this video:

Oddly enough, the Duarte family vault was once marked but at least not in last nine years. This abandoned sign was previously found by the women’s restroom:

Evita sign, Recoleta Cemetery

Of course, Eva is easier to find on her birthday (07 May) or on the day she passed away (26 July)… just look for all the flowers!

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366. official image

gobBsAs tourism webpage, Recoleta

How a city chooses to promote tourism often reflects its own self-image. After the 2001 economic crisis & following devaluation, Buenos Aires became a very popular tourist destination. Naturally, the city government jumped on the bandwagon & developed an extensive website to provide information about Buenos Aires to visitors. They did a spectacular job in a short period of time.

A series of audiotours was made available for download, one in particular focusing on the neighborhood of Recoleta. Although basic, it attempts to introduce tourists to the general layout of the area. As for the cemetery, there is no separate audiotour available… but three minutes (of a 72-minute recording) are dedicated to the most popular attraction in Buenos Aires. Text on the webpage describes the site:

History & art are summed up in the passageways of Recoleta Cemetery, one of the most notable necropoles in the world. Among the most relevant figures buried here are Eva Perón, Adolfo Bioy Casares, & Facundo Quiroga. Listen to author López Mato recount stories about the cemetery.

Spanish speakers can listen to the three-minute segment below. Strangely, the text above lists Bioy Casares & Quiroga as noteworthy, but they are not mentioned in the audio… a minor oversight but Sarmiento would be better to highlight than Quiroga:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

For non-Spanish speakers: According to the audioguide, the most important people in Argentine history are buried in Recoleta Cemetery. No doubt. Its architecture is important & over 70 tombs have been declared National Historic Monuments. Good so far. Omar López Mato discusses the meaning behind the dates inscribed on the floor of the main entrance. Not so important but fine to mention. Eva Perón is here, important for her social work & fight for women’s right to vote. Then López Mato tells the urban legend surrounding Rufina Cambacérès. What’s a cemetery without a few urban legends?

However… No mention is made about restoration works in progress. There is no discussion about the origins of the cemetery. And probably the worst omission is that no effort is made to convey all the historical sagas contained within its walls.

Like no other cemetery in the world, Recoleta wraps up almost 200 years of national drama… Rosas, Lavalle & Dorrego all wound up in the same place. Juárez Celman, Roca, Pellegrini, Alem, & Campos are all neighbors (well, JC has since been moved). Aramburu, Lonardi, & Evita rest in peace together. I doubt they ever thought they would all end up in the same spot. Anyone who knows minimal Argentine history cannot ignore the irony of that.

A visit to Recoleta Cemetery should remind visitors that the same fate awaits us all—friends & enemies alike—& turn that observation into a lesson about Argentine history. It’s a twist that few tour guides or authors emphasize & doing so would present a more complete image of the city & the nation.

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