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Category: Operation

237. storage sheds

Storage shed, Recoleta Cemetery

With space at a premium in the four city blocks allocated to the cemetery, storage sheds can often be found filling the gaps between family vaults. Caretakers like David Alleno need space for the tools of their trade. Not much effort is put into making the sheds look attractive or having them blend in with neighboring structures… they are purely utilitarian:

Storage shed, Recoleta Cemetery

When no space can be found to insert a shed, caretakers have appropriated tombs which families no longer maintain. Older vaults are usually subject to this secondary use, & caskets often remain inside. Kind of a creepy thing to have in an office:

Storage shed, Recoleta Cemetery

Storage shed, Recoleta Cemetery

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227. map development 5

In spite of a heavy workload & shifting focus to downtown Buenos Aires, I still considered publishing a guidebook to Recoleta Cemetery. But I couldn’t even find time to finish the map. As a compromise, I decided to publish a walking route of what I considered the Top 50 tombs to visit. It wouldn’t have the text of a guidebook, but I thought of it as the first step to a bigger project down the road.

During the summer of 2006-07, I stopped offering tours to work full-time on the map. By March 2007 it was ready for sale. There were a couple of typos that slipped by me, but for my first printed project I was happy with the final results. I had never dealt with printers before or even taken a course in graphic design. I couldn’t complain:

My map, Recoleta Cemetery

My map, Recoleta Cemetery

My map, Recoleta Cemetery

My map, Recoleta Cemetery

But distribution turned out to be a big problem. I talked with several kiosks around the city, & they wanted an extreme percentage of the profits. So that was out. I managed to obtain contact info for Horacio Savoia of the Friends’ Association of Recoleta Cemetery (ADACRE). I’d always thought to use them as my main distribution mechanism… they sell their own map plus other items at the entrance gate, so I offered to give them 10% of the sale price (2 pesos per map).

I explained that I did not want to compete with their own map but only needed a sales point if someone requested my version. I could promote my map online, & we’d all get something out of it in the long run. I’ve previously mentioned that the price of the ADACRE map is 4 pesos & part of that money goes to fund restoration projects as well as the salary for the women that sell the map. Considering I was willing to donate 2 pesos per map & not even have them actively market it, the proposal seemed fair.

The last I heard from Horacio was in July 2007:

Previo agradecer su atención paso a decirle que he recibido sus dos correos. Ambos los elevaré a la Comisión Directiva para que en su próxima reunión considere su propuesta. Lo tendremos al tanto de las novedades.

Thank you for your correspondence as I have received your two emails. I will present both to the Directive Commission so they can consider your proposal in their next meeting. We will keep you informed of any developments.

My response: Thank you very much, & I will await the response of the DC. I can deliver a copy of the map so that you have it for the next meeting.

Since there was no mention of when the next meeting would take place or even the slightest bit of gratitude for the two years of work put into the map, I wasn’t hopeful. In fact, I never heard from Horacio or any member of ADACRE again.

The whole scenario seems fairly typical for Buenos Aires. If you aren’t part of the clique, then you have no input. But since the cemetery had been neglected for so long & restoration work is expensive, it seems reasonable that anyone willing to donate cash would be welcome. Apparently not so.

My alternative was to start this blog & offer the map for sale via PayPal. It worked well since I’ve since recovered the cost of printing, but that map is no longer for sale. Better things are in the works… not involving the Friends’ Association.

Read the complete story in the following posts titled “map development”: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 6 & Part 7. Good news! The PDF guidebook is now available.


209. ongoing restoration

As reported by La Nación newspaper in March, further restoration works are now in full swing. Even though the number of projects scheduled for 2008 is fewer than those completed last year, it’s a relief to see planned restorations underway.

The exterior for the crypt of Nicolás Rodríguez Peña has been cleaned & a missing truncated column has been returned to its base. Interestingly enough, the inscription on the column is in French. For the moment, I can only make out a portion of the text describing inconsolable parents & their best son. I’ll have to wait until the scaffolding is removed & better light to add the full text to the original post:

Nicolás Rodríguez Peña, Recoleta Cemetery

Nicolás Rodríguez Peña, Recoleta Cemetery

Another vault currently getting a facelift is Rufina Cambacérès. One afternoon a couple weeks ago I noticed someone removing rust from the wrought-iron doors & decorative gate at the corner. Now scaffolding covers the entire structure. The restoration guy appears to be working from the top down since I could only see his feet:

Rufina Cambacérès, Recoleta Cemetery

While I don’t doubt that the finished restoration will look fantastic, the weathered & aged statue of Rufina has a certain charm to it:

Rufina Cambacérès, Recoleta Cemetery

So much restoration has been done over the past few years that an info panel now sits at the entrance to show visitors before & after photos of major works:

Restoration info panel, Recoleta Cemetery

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174. closing time

Bell, Recoleta Cemetery

Hidden when viewing the entrance gate from the front, a single bell crowns the southern side. Closing time is announced by ringing the bell at 17:50, ten minutes before the gates are locked.

If you don’t notice the constant clang, no need to worry. Guards also patrol the grounds looking for straggling tourists. It’s probably not a great place to spend the evening.

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155. map development 4

By early 2006, my general map was complete. But the entire project was put on hold since my walking tours were booming. It became impossible to juggle everything. Also, as I did more tours of downtown Buenos Aires, it seemed that a guidebook to that area was more important so I shifted focus to that.

At the same time, the Friends’ Association of Recoleta Cemetery (ADACRE) began publishing a map & selling it at the front gate for 4 pesos [Update: 2009 price is 6 pesos, 2011 price is 8 pesos]. Proceeds went to fund recent restoration work not done by any national or city organization in decades. Good for them. Although much better than previous maps, even their effort needed some improvement:

ADACRE map, Recoleta Cemetery

Both the foldable square format & the price were right. And 159 tombs were listed… many more than the 89 from the previous map. The interior contained a few black & white photos with a brief historical summary in Spanish, French, English & German. So far, so good.

But in an effort to be more inclusive, the design suffered. Due to space constraints, the only text that could accompany each name was a single word: President, poet, writer, politician. Most people outside Latin America have probably never heard of these people before, & a one-word biography seems worse than nothing at all. Finally, the list of personalities is not in alphabetical order & is not practical if you want to look for someone in particular:


But the biggest problem was the actual map itself. It looks like someone took the hand-drawn map pictured in Part 1 of this series, scanned it, & used it without editing anything. Lines are crooked & the tomb divisions are incorrect. The numbers used are placed haphazardly… no order at all. In the photo below, the entrance is shown with a huge range of numbers (#1, #42, #71 & #146). For easy use, the map should be arranged numerically or alphabetically, but this was neither:


The ADACRE map was by far the best yet, but apparently the graphic designer has little experience.

Read the complete story in the following posts titled “map development”: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 5, Part 6 & Part 7. Good news! The PDF guidebook is now available.