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Category: In the press

119. new york times, 10 jan 1999

Written before tourism took off in Argentina, this interesting piece by Barbara Cansino skillfully avoids many of the clichés found in more recent articles about Recoleta Cemetery. It’s also interesting to see how things have changed since then:

“In Buenos Aires the elegant neighborhood of Recoleta is the fashionable place to stay, to while away hours in cafes and museums, to walk the poodles in the park. And when it’s all over, it’s the place to end up. Across the grassy way from the outdoor cafes, a great white portal marks the most exclusive address of all: Cementerio de la Recoleta, Recoleta Cemetery, burial place of Argentina’s elite. Here patricians and presidents, heroes and heroines, rest in astonishing grandeur.

Mausoleums built side by side resemble Greek temples, Gothic chapels, Egyptian pyramids, fairytale grottoes, postmodern boutiques — or just elegant little houses. They have marble steps, wrought-iron doors, appointed interiors. There are marble Saviours and Madonnas and sculptures of the departed and their pets. The city skyline gives way to palm trees and cypresses, crosses and steeples, busts and domes, great stone angels reaching to heaven. The mausoleums can cost the earth. And the earth they are on, occupied by generations of the high-born departed, is the scarcest — and costliest — land in the country.

Recoleta Cemetery is one of the world’s extraordinary graveyards, a study in architecture and sculpture, a country’s history, mores and soul. A number of tombs are national historic monuments. It is a place of spiritual beauty and extravagant taste. And thanks to Madonna and Broadway, it is hotter than ever as a tourist attraction. Travelers stream through the portal, cameras in hand, and ask the custodians the way to ”Evita.” Some even ask for ”Madonna.”

Evita’s tomb says ”Familia Duarte,” her maiden name, and — with a simple black facade on a narrow side street — is nothing special by Recoleta standards. The masses of flowers, however, the crowds of visitors and the fact that she is there in the first place — surrounded by the rich she despised and who despised her — are ironic. In this enclave of wealth, with tomb inscriptions from national banks and the elite Jockey Club, the plaques to Evita are from the Buenos Aires Taxi Drivers Union or the General Confederation of Labor, an umbrella organization of unions. The inscription in Spanish on the latter plaque ends with her battle cry, first used by Spartacus in leading a slave revolt against the Romans:

”. . .I keep the hope for glory,
I wish only to serve
The humble and the workers”
I will come back and I will be millions. . . !

Eva Perón plaque, Recoleta Cemetery

On a given Monday there are three huge floral arrangements at her tomb. Carnations, roses and fuchsia are stuck in the door wherever there’s space. Fourteen people are crowded three deep, most of them tourists, posing for photos in front of the plaques, discussing why they are there.

A curator from Bilbao: ”I visit cemeteries. In Paris I go to see Oscar Wilde. Here I came to see [Domingo] Sarmiento, one of the fathers of the country, and Eva Peron, who worked for the poorest of the country. She was a myth who overshadowed Peron.” A tourist from Dallas: ”I saw the musical five times in Los Angeles.” A British Airways flight attendant: ”Argentina’s not Argentina without Eva Peron, is it? And I thought Madonna, the actress who portrayed her, should have won an award from the Academy.” And, on a quiet weekday morning, away from the fray, an old woman with no teeth and holes in her shoes stops at the tomb, touches Evita’s face on a plaque, deposits a bunch of daisies and prays.

Evita aside, the main attractions of Recoleta are the architecture, the grandiose aura, the sense of rubbing shoulders with Argentine history. The cemetery, inaugurated in 1822 and redesigned in 1881, encompasses 13.5 acres. The departed include Argentine presidents and vice presidents, governors, generals, admirals, industrialists, publishers, judges, doctors, professors, writers, poets, scientists — and their families. Some of them — Alvear, Dorrego, Pueyrredon — are familiar from the Buenos Aires streets and plazas that bear their names. Others, such as Jose Estrada, are known from the Literature of Argentina shelves in bookshops. Still others, such as Dufour, Barchiesi, O’Shea, Zoltowska or Breitman, reflect the many facets of Argentine society…”

The original article, along with two more pages of text, can be found here. The above photo is by the post author.

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066. mansions of the night

Marcelo writes about a recent photo exhibit:

Even though I’ve loved photography for a long time, I never had the chance to show my pictures in a exhibition. A couple of months ago, Eugenia—a dear friend from the “El Acorazado de Bolsillo” poetry magazine—offered to let me set up a one-night show in an old house in the city of La Plata (70 km south Buenos Aires). I had no doubt about the topic: images of cemeteries. I also chose the date for the show, November 2nd, traditionally known the Day of the Dead in many Western cultures.

I had a huge amount of photos to choose from, but most of them were taken with my old BenQ camera with very low resolution & I couldn’t make good large-size prints with them. But a week before the exhibition, Robert & I went again to Recoleta Cemetery & found a sky full of clouds, perfect for the macabre style of pics I wanted. Those photos were the core of the show.

Las Mansiones de la Noche, Marcelo Metayer

The exhibit was named “Las Mansiones de la Noche” and was a really great experience… a lot of people looking at the photos, discovering images & unexpected tricks of shadow and light. It’s as if the photos weren’t mine anymore… they belonged to the beholder.

Las Mansiones de la Noche, Marcelo Metayer

Now I’m trying to exhibit the pics in other places. Next time it could be in Buenos Aires… who knows?

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060. herrera-noble

Herrera-Noble, Recoleta Cemetery

Roberto Noble founded Clarín on 28 August 1945 & is currently the most widely distributed newspaper in Argentina with over 400,000 copies printed daily… notable for retaining the tabloid (not broadsheet) layout to this day. The entire first edition was released as a PDF for its 50th anniversary in 2005. Below is that first front page headlining the atomic bomb dropped in Nagasaki & subsequent end of World War II:

Clarín, first edition

After Noble passed away in 1969, his wife—Ernestina Herrera de Noble—has successfully managed the paper. In the 1990s, she branched the company into all types of media. Currently the Grupo Clarín owns:

  • an AM station (Radio Mitre)
  • an FM station (99.9)
  • the AGR publishing facility
  • multiple regional newspapers
  • a national news agency (DyN)
  • the Canal 13 Buenos Aires public tv channel
  • three major cable stations (24-hr news coverage with Todo Noticias, sports coverage with TyC & classic Argie programming with Volver)
  • the Multicanal & Cablevisión cable networks
  • much, much more!

Herrera de Noble appeared in the news in 2002 after being indicted for adopting two children during Argentina’s last military dictatorship (1976-83). The children were up for adoption since their parents had been killed by the government & supposedly figured among the nation’s estimated 30,000 desaparecidos. The trial was later ruled in Herrera de Noble’s favor & charges dropped. But the results weren’t good enough for some people… additional DNA screenings performed in December 2007 proved negative for two families claiming to be birth relatives. Important not only for healing wounds caused by a dictatorship 40 years ago, other families will likely think twice before attempting to claim the enormous fortune of Herrera de Noble.

The adopted children underwent further DNA screening in July 2011, with results compared to the national DNA database of families who had children stolen during the years 1975 & 1976. All results were negative & hopefully the issue has been put to rest. At this point, many feel a formal apology should be issued since President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner & Grupo Clarín have been at odds for years… CFK likely hoped to send Ernestina Herrera de Noble to prison for human rights violations.

The Sociedad Argentina de Actores y Compositores de Música left a beautiful wreath in January 2008 on the anniversary of Noble’s death. During his time as a Representative in Congress, Noble pushed through a 1933 law establishing intellectual property rights.

S.A.D.A.I.C. wreath, Recoleta Cemetery

Ernestina Herrera de Noble passed away on 14 June 2017 at the age of 92. Clarín published an extensive biography of her life & success at the helm of company holdings. Three weeks before she passed away, Herrera de Noble was absolved from another court case backed by CFK’s former government. Ernestina had the last word after all.

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Ernestina Herrera de Noble

Last image published in the online edition of Clarín.

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057. new york times, travel section

Our former walking tours of Recoleta Cemetery appeared in the 04 Feb 2007 travel section of the NYT:

To most visitors, the Recoleta Cemetery in the upscale Recoleta district (intersection of Junín and Guido) is known as the place where Eva Perón’s body is buried. But the graveyard is also the final home of several presidents, scientists and other influential Argentines. Urban Explorer [a company run by Robert from 2003 to 2008] offers a history-filled recorded tour through the Art Nouveau, Art Deco and Modernist-style mausoleums. Highlights include the tomb of Luis Ángel Firpo, an Argentine heavyweight who once knocked Jack Dempsey out of the ring.

The original article can be found here.

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041. map recommendation

Budget Travel magazine (published by Frommer’s) highlights Buenos Aires in their latest edition.

Budget Travel, Dec 07/Jan 08 issue

Among their suggestions for activities while in town is a visit to Recoleta Cemetery… & to buy a map from me. I couldn’t agree more 🙂

Budget Travel, Dec 07/Jan 08 issue

For more info, click on the “walking tour map” link in the left sidebar. Thanks to all those who have already purchased a map… proceeds help keep this blog going!