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Dead Famous (or Famously Dead?) in La Recoleta

“Mark, quiet! Shshsh..!”

I’m not particularly superstitious or a stickler for etiquette, but I didn’t want Mark to shout in the cemetery. Sure, La Recoleta is very touristic and people sip Starbucks coffee wandering between the graves, yet I feel I have to show some respect. That involves shushing my kid who is asking “church? Church?” every two meters—for Mark, anything that looks old is a “church”.

“It’s not a church, Mark. It’s a…”

I pause for a second. The easy way out would be to say “it’s a cemetery”. When Mark doesn’t know the meaning of a word, he usually nods and stops asking. But I felt like I owe him a basic explanation.

“It’s a place where people do dodo, we have to be quiet to not disturb them.”

Dodo is short for “dormir”, our code work for sleep. A good enough explanation.

La Recoleta is where the rich and famous are buried in Buenos Aires, including Eva Perón—her grave is easy to find, this where the alley is blocked by tourists waiting to snap a shot. The cemetery is very pretty, even though it feels weird to call such a place “pretty”. But it is, especially under a deep blue sky.

As we wandered around, I tried to read the names of the people buried there—seems like he least I can do, considering I’m stepping over hundreds of bodies. Some graves are very new, other are very old. Some, regardless of the date of death, are well cared for, with recent memorabilia—family pictures, flags, copy of degrees or honorific titles even—while other are covered with spider webs and broken glass. Many names sound Italian, a few German. Half of the “famous dead people” are high-ranking military officials.

This makes me think… I wonder what happens to “unsavoury” people, as times are changing. Former dictators and their entourage, for instance, or military officials who could be now held for responsible for dirty wars and acts of violence and torture. Do we leave them buried with honours? Should the dead be allowed to rest in peace, no matter what they did?

This is a bit too deep for such a lovely day, and Mark is asking for another picture. Wait… did he just call the coffin he is sitting in front of a “boat”?

Oh boy…!

La Recoleta
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La Recoleta (Eva Peron's grave)
La Recoleta (Eva Peron’s grave)
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