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.
Chano Moreno Charpentier —the music world knows him as just Chano— headlined the popular Argentine group Tan Biónica from 2002 until their break up in 2016. For over a decade they have released hit after hit, enjoying phenomenal success. Chano publicly distanced himself from the group & embarked on a solo career but has been surrounded by scandal. Among the more publicized cases are: physical & psychological abuse of an ex-girlfriend, attempted robbery, car accidents & being shot after attacking police with a knife under the influence of drugs. Quite the role model.
Chano recently turned 40 & is making a comeback once again. YouTube algorithms picked up on this & have been showing me older videos of Tan Biónica when then it appeared… our second music video filmed in Recoleta Cemetery. Although just a lyric video, all scenes for “Víctimas” were shot with a hand-held camera inside the cemetery & highlight some of the more famous sculptures:
Perhaps the most difficult issue to overcome is access to previous publications about the cemetery. Print runs in Argentina are notoriously small, often around 3,000 copies… in a capital city with almost 15 million people & a national population of 45 million! During the 14 years I lived there, I’d scout bookstores each month with the hope of obtaining new resources before they disappeared from sight. Much like a treasure hunt —fun but not practical for most researchers.
Libraries presented another problem: source material spread across the entire city with incomplete collection catalogs. After finding a good publication, I would scour the bibliography for additional leads. However, sources mentioned were often unavailable, in private collections or worse, completely missing. Also, most library staff had insufficient knowledge of holdings or lacked initiative to help users discover additional information. Budget cuts also affected operating hours. Navigating the system took more time than actual reading!
Fortunately the digital age has improved the availability of early texts about Recoleta Cemetery. A recent search on Scribd revealed two gems from the 1990s that I never found in physical form…
Although without a publication date, Recoleta: Cementerio, Arte e Historia contains a prologue signed by Fernando de la Rúa… acting as head of the Buenos Aires city government. That means this 36-page booklet had to be published sometime between 1996 & 1999. Also oddly missing is the author’s name; credit goes to a large number of public officials.
What a shame this publication was not reedited or reproduced in later years! I would have loved an introduction like this on my first cemetery visit. After a brief overview, a hand-drawn map —with correct dimensions— marks 50 tombs of interest. If the route were followed by number, quite a bit of backtracking would be involved. But that’s a minor issue.
Text for each point of interest is brief but with good & surprisingly neutral information about people who were often anything but neutral 😉 Interesting photographs accompany most descriptions. An updated version of this guide in several languages would have been a best-seller at the cemetery entrance gate during the tourism boom of the early 2000s:
Unfortunately this publication has been delegated to the city government’s library & will likely never return.
Issue #5 published by the Board of Historic Studies of Recoleta (Junta de Estudios Históricos de La Recoleta) had a complicated title… something akin to “Recoleta Cemetery: Unraveling its Sites”. The 1970s witnessed a birth of local historical associations, often composed of self-appointed elite who supported a particular vision of their neighborhood. Cemetery heritage director Carlos Francavilla co-authored this 42-page booklet with architect Victor Villasuso. 63 points of interest dot their map marked with a very clear walking route:
Descriptive text & photographs do not mingle; each have their own dedicated pages. In general, mausoleums receive elaborate architectural explanations —so much so that a glossary is included at the end— while occupants & their deeds are secondary.
While interesting for its choice of mausoleums (several of which are rarely mentioned in other guidebooks), overly simple design makes this publication difficult to use as does such grandiloquent language. Oddly cropped photographs also fail to highlight the beauty of mausoleums. Consider this a secondary resource for those interested in lengthy architectural descriptions rather than a practical guide.
Signed by Italian architect Aldo Antonio Gaetano Flándoli, this striking Roman temple replica fails to attract much attention from visitors due to its location: a small walkway off a main path. The grandeur is also difficult to appreciate in such tight quarters but fortunately we have some artwork at eye level to appreciate.
Statues in the triangular pediment above as well as two door reliefs below are signed by another Italian immigrant, Troiano Troiani. The four Evangelists —Mark, Luke, John & Matthew— with their corresponding symbols flank larger depictions of Jesus & Mary. The descent of Christ from the cross is also shown in a lower center relief. Other works by Troiani in Recoleta Cemetery include a massive statue topping the Familia Manuel Cerini tomb as well as sculptures for the Familia D’onofrio. These are no less spectacular:
My main question is who are the Peiranos & how did they afford such a luxurious final resting place? Instinct leads me to believe they are part of the Uruguay-based Peirano family, known for owning a huge number of businesses in South America including banks, public transportation plus supermarket chains Santa Isabel in Chile & Disco in Argentina (often gathered under the Grupo Velox brand). Uruguayan courts found three of four Peirano brothers guilty of money laundering & fraud in 2013… but are their relatives here in Buenos Aires?
The only plaque on the mausoleum lists four burials from the mid-20th century, with no trace of anyone on the internet. If you have information about Elitreo Strucchi, Margarita D’Abové de Peirano, Antonio Peirano or Luisa Subazzoli de Strucchi —or any of the Peiranos— please let us know!
Born in Montevideo in 1851, the Cané family returned to Argentina when Miguel was only two years old. Their self-imposed exile from Rosas likely influenced the young Cané to become involved in Argentine politics, but he also left behind a body of literature that reflected the spirit of a new nation discovering itself.
In the 1860s, Cané attended the prestigious Colegio Nacional de Buenos Aires along with classmates who would also become leaders of Argentina. With a new curriculum directed by Amadeo Jacques, twenty years later Cané would look back on his time there & write a memoir titled Juvenilia:
After participating in the War of the Triple Alliance, Cané accompanied his cousin on an extended trip to Europe. He also became a European correspondent for the newspapers La Tribuna & El Nacional while on the road, covering conflicts & recording his experiences. Travelogues were all the rage & allowed Argentine readers to get a vicarious taste of travel.
On his return, Cané married & had two children then graduated from law school. His political career began as mayor of Buenos Aires. Eventually Cané crossed over to national politics & served in Congress as well as became ambassador to Colombia & Venezuela in 1893 under the presidency of Luis Saénz Peña. The largest plaque on his mausoleum reminds visitors that he became president of the influential Jockey Club in 1894. After many years of public service, Cané passed away in 1905. His neglected tomb sits along a major walkway in the cemetery, barely attracting the attention of tourists on route to see the nearby burial place of Eva Perón: