In 2015, we wrote about a possible entrance fee being established for Recoleta Cemetery. The idea was shelved, then COVID hit in 2020 & the cemetery closed to tourists for almost two years. But as of April 4th —with very little advance notice— the Buenos Aires city government will charge foreigners 1400 pesos (at this time almost 13 USD) to visit what is still declared by Law 4977 as a public space.
A Clarín article from 30 Mar 2022 by Karina Niebla states that income generated will be used for maintaining all cemeteries in Buenos Aires (for example: renovating the pantheon in Flores, restoring niches in Chacarita & reinforcing security in Recoleta). Let’s hope so. Still, we can’t help but wonder why is the entrance fee so expensive or why a public space is being privatized.
Another problem the city government failed to address is that tour operators that have already sold packages including a cemetery visit must absorb this extra cost until the fee can be incorporated into future services. This argument halted implementation of an entrance fee in 2015 & still remains valid. With no grace period or temporary exemption, tour companies must take yet another cut in income after two years of almost no clients at all. We’ll have to wait & see how the situation unfolds.
Residents of Argentina can enter for free, except if they visit on a guided tour… then they must pay 700 pesos (currently a bit over 6 USD). Guides are exempt from the entrance fee, but at some point all cemetery guides will have to participate in a training course given at the cemetery. We’re all for that!
The online ticketing system seems straightforward enough, but authorities have cut two hours from visiting time. Recoleta Cemetery opens at 07:00, but visitors cannot enter until 09:00. Sneaky & a shame since those early hours have incredible light from the sunrise. Clicking through various screens generates an electronic ticket as shown below:
Tickets are only available online. Our Recoleta Cemetery PDF guidebook will be updated soon with this new information & links to pre-purchase tickets.
Two cases of copyright infringement related to the content of this blog & its corresponding PDF guide to Recoleta Cemetery have recently come to our attention. Although we have initiated claims or contacted the parties who used our material without permission, we doubt a resolution will be ruled in our favor. At least as owners of this blog & all the material herein, we can leave record of these cases… & hope we’ll never have to add to this list!
I rarely watch YouTube videos about Recoleta Cemetery, but a few months ago a random recommendation seemed interesting: a 26-minute video in English with excellent photography. While watching, I thought: wow, this guy has done his research. Then the voice-over commentary began to sound all too familiar. Ah yes, channel owner David Owens purchased the PDF guide in November 2017. My guide was not the only source material used, but in many places Dr. Owens quoted the guide’s text directly without any change. Also, the general organization of his video closely follows that of the PDF.
After reporting this video to YouTube, they asked for additional specifics. I rewatched the video to take note of exact usage & could only make it through 18 minutes. It’s disheartening to see your own hard work & decades of investigation claimed by someone else. I sent the list below to YouTube to establish a claim, complete with phrases used, minute marks & corresponding pages of the PDF:
“branch of Franciscan monks” 01:36 (page 07)
“grassy plots with simple tombstones… a number of early modest tombs” 02:38 (page 09)
Exact statistics (55000 square kilometres, 4700 tombs, 350000 departed) 03:48 (page 07) – no one ever agrees on these numbers & the tomb count comes from my own investigation
“1946 tombstone” + “fading relief of her father” 6:00 (page 18)
“crucifix placed above a small altar with recently deceased in caskets beneath” 07:25 (page 10)
“metal grate in the floor” 09:07 (page 10)
“network of lookout stations connected by telegraph to major forts in what was indigenous territory” 11:53 (page 24)
“battles against Brazil… forged from a cannon from one of his ships” 12:58 (page 53)
“actually buried in the church beside the cemetery” 13:54 (page 52)
“founded War College in 1900” 15:14 (page 42)
“made life better in Buenos Aires by improving city sanitation” 16:55 (page 20)
“to help establish US teaching” 17:05 (page 29)
“record of 32 wins out of 38 title matches” 17:43 (page 29)
These direct quotes demonstrate that Dr. Owens did not use my guide as a resource but rather lifted whatever text he needed to produce the video. In several other instances, my text had been slightly reworded yet I recognized it as mine.
What shocked me most was no mention of this blog nor the PDF guide. No credit where credit is due… as if Dr. Owens became an expert on this particular cemetery overnight.
Update (Aug 2021): No one informed me directly, so I’ve just seen that the YouTube claim has been resolved… in my favor! The video has been removed. Nice to see the system working:
Update #2 (Aug 2021): By coincidence I noticed that Dr. Owens had tried to contact me & his email went to my spam folder. After our conversation, he suggested linking to the PDF guidebook in the video description. I thought this recommendation might promote sales, so I dropped the claim & the video is once again on YouTube.
In 2011, Sergio López Martínez asked if I would participate in a massive national project to catalog Argentina’s architectural heritage. Of course I agreed. His particular interest was in a set of photographs on a separate blog which I’d taken of the interior of the Confitería del Molino. At the time, the building had been closed to the general public & was in real danger of disintegrating into rubble. But for one week in 2004, the city government commandeered the former café & pastry shop to allow visitors inside. I sent him the photos I had, & they appeared in the series… along with a thank you credit + an invite to the formal release of the first book:
If I hadn’t been planning a move to Esquel, I would have used those connections to participate in more projects. But I left for Patagonia & couldn’t even get a hard copy of the volume with my photos. Years have passed —now I’m living in Sevilla— but find online the two-part book series pictured above: Monumentos Históricos Nacionales de la República Argentina (Ciudad de Buenos Aires). An update of a previous publication, Sergio wrote the section for Recoleta Cemetery as well as took most of the photos. On further examination, two photos looked very familiar… but he takes full credit:
In both cases, a disregard for research & investigation is evident. On many occasions, I’ve received payment for my photography as well as for published articles. But I have also allowed my images & text to be used for free on request… depending on who asks & for what purpose. AfterLife has been online since 2007 & takes no small effort to maintain. PDF sales each year fund this website as the most complete online resource about Recoleta Cemetery. Period. When using information or images from an independent webpage, please consider all the work involved by the author: ask for permission, offer compensation or give credit. Thanks!
As of today, Recoleta Cemetery —as well as the other two burial grounds in Buenos Aires— will reopen… but only for their intended purpose: funerals or visiting deceased relatives. The above announcement lists the following conditions:
Hours are Monday to Friday (including holidays) from 08:00 to 17:00.
Only two people per family will be allowed to enter.
Length of stay: 1 hour maximum.
Tourism or recreational visits are not allowed.
For burials, five people + a religious minister are able to enter together.
Basically if you don’t have business inside Recoleta Cemetery, there’s still no option to enter. Staff confirmed that regular cleaning & maintenance has taken place since closure on 13 Mar 2020, but workers have been the only ones permitted inside. While it remains unclear how these new regulations will be enforced, please refrain from tourism until further notice. Gracias!
Update (Dec 2021): Recoleta Cemetery is now open for all visitors & with regular hours of operation!
Recoleta Cemetery remains closed to visitors for the time being. But in the spirit of our last post & of armchair travel –all that’s available at the moment– we’d like to share some our other favorite cemeteries from around the world, along with a few suggestions for the future of travel as it relates to cemeteries.
Tourism will change as a result of the pandemic, but that’s good… the industry is long overdue for new paradigms. Crowded museums & big-ticket expositions will likely become a thing of the past. Travellers may search for less-crowded sites to explore & as open-air museums with little public, cemeteries provide a perfect alternative.
One concept that should disappear along with coronavirus is the outdated notion that a kind of world cemetery hierarchy exists. Somewhere, someone invented a statement that Recoleta Cemetery ranks as one of the most important in the world, along with Père Lachaise in Paris & Staglieno in Genoa. On who’s authority? To our chagrin, that tired comparison has been copied & pasted as much as “Buenos Aires is the Paris of South America”:
“la Recoleta es considerado uno de los tres cementerios más importantes del mundo, junto al Pére Lachaise, de París, y el Staglieno, de Génova“
“Renombrado como uno de los cementerios más monumentales del mundo junto con Père Lachaise en las afueras de París y la Colina de Staglieno en Génova“
“Es uno de los más importantes del mundo junto con el de Staglieno en Génova y el Père Lachaise de París“
Basta ya. Each cemetery has something special in its own right. Regular readers of this blog know that Recoleta Cemetery is unique due to its compact nature, its location near the city center, its high concentration of art & architecture & the opportunity to discover almost all of Argentina’s history. The list could go on & on. Recoleta Cemetery needs no comparison… only interest in unlocking its secrets, as with any cemetery around the world. Below are a few of our other favorites:
Milano · Cimitero Monumentale – Not only is the entrance monumental, but fascinating sculpture continues to the very back sections of this grand cemetery. Something breathtaking lies around every corner:
San Sebastián · Cementerio de Polloe – Terraced landscaping takes visitors up & down on the hunt for tombstones written in the Basque language… in spite of being prohibited during the Franco era:
Sydney · Waverley Cemetery – Sure, Rookwood is fantastic; we can all agree with that. But the cliffside location of this cemetery overlooking the water makes for beautiful views throughout:
Washington, DC · Arlington National Cemetery – simple tombstones placed row upon row of those who gave their life for their country, the tomb of the unknown soldier & monuments to both victories & tragedies:
Madrid · Panteón de Hombres Ilustres – Art Nouveau memorials to national greats:
Bucurešti · Bellu Cemetery – Packed tight & full of nature, the rustic layout invites exploration:
Variouslocations with a single sculpture or a dominant style · Some cemeteries have a monumental piece (or two) that draw pilgrims to see them in person. Others possess a predominant architectural style, & often the stories associated with tombs also attract many visitors:
We hope this brief list of cemeteries other than La Recoleta provides inspiration for future travel. Tombs & mausoleums reflect their time as well as let us know how their occupants wanted to be remembered. Do you have a favorite not listed here? We’ll share more of our travels on request, & we’re always looking for new places to explore. Let us know your best cemetery experience. With a bit of luck, cemetery visits may become part of mainstream tourism soon!
There’s nothing quite like a pandemic to reflect on the nature of life & death. The past few weeks have been difficult for the primary author of this blog who lives in Spain. Four weeks of official quarantine have passed, but another two await… with likely more to come if the number of deaths remain high. The death toll due to coronavirus in Spain reached over 900 people daily for awhile, but recently numbers have dropped a bit. Argentina –far from the global epicenter of the pandemic– has only had 83 deaths total to date… a far cry from the almost 17,000 deaths here in Spain. The graphic below is from the 12 Apr 2020 edition of the Spanish newspaper El País (click to expand):
However, Buenos Aires is no stranger to epidemics. Several swept through the city over a century ago with the most devastating being a yellow fever outbreak in 1871. An estimated 10% of the population died within a few months. Doctors & scientists had yet to discover the vector or an effective treatment, so people fled Buenos Aires… like the plague. Recoleta Cemetery even prohibited the burial of yellow fever victims. Deserted & left to its own devices, scenes of empty streets from current quarantine measures surely resemble what the city experienced almost 150 years ago. What artwork will come to define our modern experience like the famous painting of a victim of yellow fever by Juan Manuel Blanes?
One thought holds some comfort in these difficult times; major outbreaks of disease aren’t the only opportunity to reflect on death. In previous centuries, certain religious orders throughout Europe built a chapel specifically for that reason. Several can be still be visited, but my personal favorite is in a Franciscan church in Évora, Portugal. A somewhat chilling –but true– statement greets the visitor even today: Nos ossos que aqui estamos pelos vossos esperamos. Our bones that are here await for yours.
Shocking for some, walls covered with skulls & other assorted bones have a simple purpose: to familiarize the visitor with the fate that awaits us all. This particular chapel has been on the tourist circuit for some time, & a wonderful account was written by British architect James Murphy after a visit in 1789-90. A monk explained to him:
“It was for this purpose that sepulchres and cemeteries were made adjoining to the churches, and in the most frequented parts of the city, with a view to divest the people of the idea of terror at the sight of a corpse, and to the end that the continual sight of bones, graves, monuments, and funeral obsequies, should put them in mind of their frail condition.”
Death is indeed less terrifying when it becomes part of our lives, & no better time to consider our own place in the world than now. This blog will continue to provide a space for that kind of reflection, pandemic or no. That said, no need to rush to join those other bones… stay healthy, but make cemetery tourism a part of your future travel plans wherever you may go.