Receiving 2,000 visitors each day, Recoleta Cemetery renews its historical brilliance; more than 100 monuments have already been restored & works continue this year.
Byline: Susana Reinoso
María Rosa Lojo writes about Recoleta Cemetery: “In this museum of mortals, the personal ramblings of its inhabitants —famous or obscure— blend inextricably with Argentine history.” In her work Hidden Stories of Recoleta which was just republished by Alfaguara, the novelist exquisitely states that whoever walks with their ears alert can hear in the cemetery, one of the most popular places in Buenos Aires for tourists, “the murmor of remarkable lives against the immense chorus of collective memory.”
Precisely because this mortuary museum brings together much of the best funerary architecture & statuary in Buenos Aires, the city government will continue the Recoleta Cemetery Revaluation Program, which aims to conserve & restore the sculptures, vaults, sepulcres & tombs. Approval [for continued funding] came at the end of 2007.
With the intervention of the Subsecretary of City Heritage, the Friends’ Association of Recoleta Cemetery —headed by Marta Salas— and the General Administration of Cemeteries —whose director is Néstor Pan— they have completed since 2002 a remarkable plan of recovering that architecture.
Art & Remembrance
Each day the cemetery receives an average of 2,000 visitors. That equates to more than 700,000 people per year since the cemetery is open Monday through Sunday.
“Over 100 monuments have already been recovered, & we rely on group of highly qualified restorers who work with love & a sense of patriotism,” says Marta Salas to La Nación newspaper.
The President of the Friends’ Association points out: “This effort comes from the fact that we consider Recoleta Cemetery to be the most relevant historical/artistic space in our country, & we are proud to show it to the thousands of tourists who visit it.” The organization, which sells detailed maps of the cemetery to tourists, uses part of the proceeds for restoration of historical monuments.
A brief walk through, like the one taken by La Nación reporters, confirms this. The crowds never stop coming, & there are not enough guides to answer every question. Visitors always make a pilgrimage to the sepulcre of Eva Duarte de Perón.
The director of the cemetery, Carlos Francavilla, states that the revaluation of the cemetery is not [immediately] visible to most people. However the scaffolding & work materials around certain monuments make people realize that restoration is in progress.
This year the program has planned to restore the sculptures & vaults of Adolfo Alsina, Nicolás Rodríguez Peña, Juan José Viamonte, Rufina Cambaceres & Pedro J. Díaz.
In each instance, the work of restoration & maintenance carries out the elimination of invasive vegetation, replacement of missing material, elimination of the deteriorated outer layer, chemical cleaning & an anti-corrosive treatment.
In 2006, restoration was performed on the sepulcres & mausoleums of Bartolomé Mitre, Domingo Fidel Sarmiento, Carlos Pellegrini & Juan Martín de Pueyrredón. Last year, works focused on the mausoleums of Luis María Campos & Nicolás Avellaneda, the vault of the José C. Paz family, the Pantheon for Meritorious Citizens & the sculpture of Christ in the cemetery chapel.
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