The list of occupants of Recoleta Cemetery reads like a Who’s Who of Argentine history & society. The elite, an aspiring middle class, friends, enemies & those who contributed to the general welfare of Argentina all share space in a miniature city of mausoleums & monuments.
During a visit, you’ll stroll past Presidents & politicians (some naughty, some nice), Nobel Prize winners, literary greats, entertainers, scientists, military leaders, sports figures & even some who died tragically. The cemetery’s most famous resident, Eva María Duarte de Perón —simply Evita to her devotées— even had a bizarre post-mortem journey before finally resting in peace in Recoleta.
Time to celebrate!! Recoleta Cemetery has been in operation for 200 years as of today! I’d hoped to make it back to Buenos Aires for such a special event, but Rafa & I are currently in Iowa visiting my aunt… family duty for the living calls 🙂
But I’m definitely there in spirit. How could I not be? By investigating the cemetery’s past, I’ve learned so much about Argentina. And instead of death, what fascinates me most are the lifetimes of those who rest in peace in Recoleta Cemetery. How families choose to be remembered as well as lessons to learn for the future are vital to understanding how the nation has grown.
Next week I’ll post as many news reports about any event that takes place. Marcelo received the following invitation & plans to attend, so we’ll share his observations & photos too.
But this month also holds another special anniversary: 15 years of blogging about Recoleta Cemetery! With all the twists & turns of my own life, I’m not sure how I’ve been able to keep publishing new content regularly… even after moving away from Argentina in 2015. If you look back to the beginning, the first post dates from 03 Oct 2007 —but I backposted to have more to read on launch in November. Sneaky.
Although I’ve yet to publish all my photos of Recoleta Cemetery nor shared all its stories, these joint anniversaries are the perfect moment to pause & take a break. I won’t be posting new content monthly, but AfterLife will remain online… hopefully forever! It’s too valuable as an English-language resource to remove from the internet.
I will continue to update theRecoleta Cemetery map & guide as often as necessary; the PDF will always remain current. And if an important event happens, of course I’ll cover it here. I may even write a few new entries from time to time. But other projects require my attention at the moment, so AfterLife will remain on hold until further notice.
I’ve had lots of fun showing thousands of people around one of the most intriguing cemeteries in the world —full of so much more than invented ghost stories or questionable interpretations of symbolism. Appearing on the GlobeTrekker television program was a definite highlight! Support from families with mausoleums in Recoleta Cemetery has been for the most part positive & very much appreciated. I’d also like to thank Marcelo Metayer for his invaluable assistance with writing, photography & overall support. Couldn’t have done this mega-project without you, Mar!
If you visit Recoleta Cemetery this year, think about how it might look over the next 200 years.¡Gracias a todos!
Located on a prominent corner near the far-right section of the cemetery, the family mausoleum of Antonio Gonçalves Borrega has always been a bit of a mystery. Plaques say one thing while imagery shows another…
Reliefs with medical scenes decorate the top: the left panel appears to be a surgery or perhaps an autopsy, while the right panel looks like Asclepius healing a sick person. The original occupant must have been a physician, but new owners occupied this mausoleum in 1950.
One plaque is dedicated to the wife of Antonio, Joaquina da Conceição Braz, & another names Antonio as the owner of a fábrica de envases… this would most likely be a glass bottle factory or perhaps factory that produces packaging like containers, boxes, etc.:
The 1942 Anuario Kraft —a huge guide to regional commerce— mentions the Gonçalves factory was located at Calle Venezuela 538 in Buenos Aires. Other attempts to find business references have turned up nothing.
One other source states the mausoleum first belonged to “Dr. Ferrari,” but we have no proof to confirm or deny that claim. Finally, we’ve always wondered if the bust above is of the previous owner or of Antonio??? Yet another Recoleta Cemetery mystery to be unraveled…
Occupying a massive mausoleum along a main walkway, Amancio Alcorta (Sr.) descended from a long line of city founders in north & central Argentina. He was born in Santiago del Estero five years before Argentina declared independence from Spain & gradually moved closer & closer to Buenos Aires… first studying literature in Catamarca, followed by music studies in Córdoba. A law degree moved him in the direction of politics, occupying a number of positions before being elected Senator of his native province.
However Amancio was not your average politician; he was part of a generation who balanced political careers with the arts. One of the first Argentine-born composers, many of his works have been unfortunately lost. But surviving pieces incorporate early folklore rhythms as well as influence from Rossini, popular during his lifetime. Amancio was so beloved that he takes the forefront in a monument near the center of the cemetery:
Amancio had six children, two of which are depicted behind him: Santiago Damiano Alcorta Palacio on the left & namesake Amancio Mariano Alcorta Palacio on the right.
Amancio (Jr.) followed in his father’s footsteps, studying law & becoming a prominent politician. One of his distinctions was serving as the Minister for Foreign Relations under four different presidents, almost continuously from 1890 until his death in 1902.
Some of Amancio (Sr.)’s musical abilities must have been genetic because his grandson, Alberto Williams, went on to be one of the most recognized pianists of his generation & founded the Music Conservatory in Buenos Aires. Williams, who passed away in 1952, is also buried in the Alcorta family mausoleum:
Another important figure, Carlos Maschwitz, is also buried here. He married a granddaughter of Amancio (Sr.) & improved the national train network as Minister of Public Works alongside Emilio Mitre. He died in an automobile accident while driving from Paris to Bordeaux & has a town near Tigre named after him:
The Centro Naval was founded in 1882 by a group of young officers as a gathering point, a conference center & a place to form bonds on a more social level outside of a military setting. Still going strong after 140 years, its beautiful location at the busy intersection of Calle Florida & Avenida Córdoba also supports academic & cultural activities as well as book publishing. Although closed to non-members, they offer occasional guided tours… definitely worth a visit just for the fancy ballroom:
In Issue #850 of their bulletin published in 2019, author & contributor Enrique Aramburu began by investigating famous naval officers buried inside Recoleta Cemetery. He later expanded his research to include all those involved in maritime activity who found their final resting place in Recoleta:
The result is a fantastic resource for anyone interested in a visit focused on Argentina’s naval history. Forty important figures are listed in the article, accompanied by a brief biography & several historic portraits. We’ve already covered quite a few of the people mentioned here, including: