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Category: History

093. historic photo 2

Frank Carpenter 1923 photo of Recoleta Cemetery

Avid world traveler Frank G. Carpenter gets credit for this photo of Recoleta Cemetery. Included in the 1923 book The Tail of the Hemisphere: Chile & Argentina, Marc of Asado Argentina kindly scanned this for me along with many other wonderful photos of Buenos Aires in the 1920s. Thanks!

The accompanying text reads:

In the Recoleta Cemetery, the dead sleep in little marble palaces. It is divided into paved streets with the homes of the departed, a house and a lot for each rich family and humbler, more congested quarters for the poor.

A stunning photo for the lack of edification around the cemetery—dozens of tall buildings surround it today—much has changed inside the cemetery since then as well. After staring at this photo for 20 minutes, I found two landmarks which finally allowed me to pinpoint the location from where it was taken… the bell tower of the Iglesia de Pilar.


072. polish immigrants

While not a large percentage of the immigrant population, a fair number of people arrived to Argentina from Poland. The Unión de los Polacos has a large, modern mausoleum along the back wall of the cemetery:

Unión de los Polacos, Recoleta Cemetery

The most illustrious I’ve found are the Count & Countess Zoltowski. He served as the Polish ambassador until his death in 1973:

Conde & Condessa Zoltowski, Recoleta Cemetery

But not all Polish immigrants were so lucky. Many Polish women in the early 1900s were brought to Argentina under the pretext of marriage to a wealthy, local businessman. Unfortunately when they disembarked, they were forced to work in prostitution. It was as dangerous then as it is now & over 1,000 of those women were buried in Avellaneda in a place called the Cemetery of Lost Souls (Cementerio de las Almas Perdidas).


039. commemoration

With so many important people buried in one place, almost every day can be a special one. There’s no way to keep track of what might be happening in Recoleta Cemetery… the city or national government needs to start an official blog to announce burials & special commemorative events that take place. Like today.

I was wandering around taking photos for this blog when I heard a few trumpets play a funeral march. I went—along with hordes of tourists—in the direction of the music to see what was going on.

A small group of mostly women had gathered near the center of the cemetery along with a few Granaderos… an army regiment formed by San Martín during the independence wars. They now exist as mainly an honor guard & still sport the original uniforms. As I got closer, one woman was reading a biography which eloquently praised Remedios de Escalada, wife of San Martín. She’s buried by the only Granadero standing in the shade:

Honoring Remedios de Escalada, Recoleta Cemetery

The whole process took 15 minutes but the women had gathered to pay tribute to the wife of Argentina’s founding father on her birthday. She was born on November 20, 1797. I hope someone remembers my birthday 200 years from now!

Honoring Remedios de Escalada, Recoleta Cemetery

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033. tombstones in french

Like their Irish counterparts, French Catholics could also be buried in Recoleta Cemetery. There are even fewer of these tombstones left than the English-language ones.

The plaque below reads: “A Paul Ribeaumont, ses admirateurs et ses amis, 1851—1856” (To Paul Ribeaumont, [from] his admirers & friends, 1851—1856). Obviously it was given on the fifth anniversary of his death. The tomb has been chopped off by another family to the right who wanted a little extra space. No one seems to mind:

Paul Ribeaumont, Recoleta Cemetery

The tombstone below is simple & lacks decoration like some of the Irish ones. The text reads, “Ici réposé Alphonse Huppé, Né le 3 7bre 1820, décédé le 15 Aout 1858 / Priez pour lui” (Here lies Alphonse Huppé, born 03 Sept 1820, died 15 Aug 1858 / Pray for him). Oddly enough, the ground in front of the tombstone has been used at different times to grow green bell peppers by someone with a bizarre sense of humor. At the time of this post, nothing was being harvested:

Alphonse Huppé, Recoleta Cemetery


021. tombstones in english

Lots of Irish Catholic immigrants came to Argentina along with all the Italians & Spanish. For most of its history, only Catholics could be buried in Recoleta Cemetery so any new arrivals who practiced Catholicism qualified. These aren’t easy to find… pay special attention to nooks & crannies. Simple tombstones with English inscriptions hide among the grandeur of monster-size mausoleums.

The tombstone below reads: “Sacred to the memory of Rose Casey, native of Cº [County] Westmeath Ireland, who died [date unreadable] March 1881, aged 50 years.”

Rose Casey, Recoleta Cemetery

Another reads: “Sacred to the memory of Patrick McLoughin who departed this life on the 29th of Augost [sic] 1862, aged 40 years. His beloved wife dedicates this to his memory.”

Patrick McLoughin, Recoleta Cemetery

Another with a small, neglected statue states: “Sacred to the memory of Thomas Kenny, born in Ireland on the 5th Dec 1796 and died Feb 15th 1857. His children have erected this monument to his memory.”

Thomas Kenny, Recoleta Cemetery

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