Recoleta’s City of the Dead

Good morning everybody!  Wake up, let your Light shine, and brush away all those dusty cobwebs!  On a beautiful Buenos Aires day we decided to explore the Recoleta Cemetery. The portal to the Recoleta Cemetery is Nuestra Señora del Pilar, built in 1732 by the friars of the order of Recoletos Descalzos.

When the order was dissolved a hundred years later, the convent garden became the first public cemetery of the city of Buenos Aires. The portal to the cemetery is imposing:

Portals can be rather overpowering, and the giant “REQUIESCAT IN PACE” was no different. But at least it wasn’t that portal… you know, Dante’s portal. The one that says “Abandon all Hope, Ye Who Enter Here.”

Somebody pulled his hoodie down over his arms! Juxtaposed here with symbols of religion, servitude, and the possibility of immortality, the image with two kneeling figures is quite stunning.

a watchful presence

Though you might find sadness here, there is also a feeling of lightness, a sense of reconciliation. Things lighten up, as you are taken on a visual tour of last resting places for your earthly body, if not your immortal soul. My favorite movie on the theme of death is Ingmar Bergman’s classic The Seventh Seal, filmed in 1957. The knight plays chess with death, hoping to win some extra time. He’s depressed, disillusioned, and trying to make it home from the crusades to see his family again. Will he really cheat death?

But the knight does cheat death: the hooded reaper is so intent upon their game he doesn’t notice the innocent young couple and baby slip away. The knight has traded his life for theirs.


These art deco tombs are streamlined and modern. Looking at them gave me a more detached perspective on death and dying. But this one pulls on your heartstrings: a young girl.  There she is, immortalized in marble.  If you step inside and look up, there is a blue stained glass skylight, and the light shining through is rapturously blue, the bluest blue, a celestial blue.

young girl's tomb

The viewer feels the anguish of losing a child. The more beautiful the sculpture is, the more heartbreaking!

see the cats?

a dead end

The crowded streets of the city of death, busy with stone saints, angels and likenesses of the dwellers below, do lend a certain spirit of solidarity. Even if your bones are resting 6 feet below, you’re not alone!

gothic spire

And you’re in the exalted company of the old guard: generals, presidents, statesmen, doctors.  Rich dead guys.  And their families.  The previous couple of centuries’ most esteemed citizens.

Ben at the chapel

The sculptures and statuary abound with angels, wise ones, laurel wreaths and holy palms.

three guardians

This intersection practically needs a stoplight!  Do angels ever have mid-air collisions?

City of the Dead

So many guardian spirits!  Amongst depictions of life’s toils, struggles, rewards and recognition.

busy neighborhood

I find this very personal interaction visually compelling.

conversation with an angel

Eva Duarte Perón found her final resting place here, though Perón is buried elsewhere.  Evita’s body took the long, scenic and wierd trip home. You will find the longest lines and prettiest offerings at her tomb.

Evita's tomb

But Kristina, la Presidenta, in her efforts to be placed upon the same cloud, consciously and opportunistically evokes Eva’s image daily. So I’m not sure how rested Evita is feeling!

Tomás Guido's cave

This rocky cave-tomb reminded me of the 49ers (NOT the team! please!). I mean the gold panning whisky drinkin’ ones! Those raucous, smelly, flapjack flippin’ miners who married mules and coined the phrase “Whiskey’s for drinkin’, water’s for fightin’ over!”

Fandango in Alta California!

church street

You see many colors of marble in the cemetery, though black and white seem to be the most common.  I get the feeling this guy left someone behind who really missed him:


I haven’t quite figured out what this angel is signaling; let’s go? your time’s up? c’mon? Andale!

solitary angel

This one with the palm fronds is hard to decipher:

palm doors

But the lock on the doors is no mystery. Keep out! This means you!

uncared for & crumbling

These neglected tombs make me think about what might have happened to the relatives. Are they all dead? Live in another country? Too poor to spend money on restorations? How sAD.

uncared for & overgrown

When will your time be up?

Our fear of death keeps us from living, not from dying.

a spirit emerging, free at last!

If you were to die today, would you be happy with your life?

Not to worry, eternity will be so relaxing!

Ciao from Buenos Aires!

One thought on “Recoleta’s City of the Dead

  1. Greetings Willow –
    your adventure in Patagonia sounds fantastic! Great stories. Spring break here …. yahooooo! Is it Fall in Argentina? Hasta la vista – Imke


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