The Cemetery Series: Cementerio de la Chacarita

La Chacarita is the national cemetery of Argentina, and also the country’s largest.  It doesn’t get near the attention that Recoleta gets, which might explain why I saw maybe 10 other people and was asked twice if I was looking for something in the 90 minutes I was there.

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Yeah I am. I’m looking for ideas.

The enormous cemetery was established in 1887 following a yellow fever epidemic and is 230 acres.  It is chock full of notable figures including scientists (Nobel laureate Bernardo Houssay), artists (Antonio Berni, whose work I included in the MALBA post), and tango luminaries (Homero Manzi, Ángel Villoldo, Osvaldo Pugliese, and many others).  There are a number of former presidents, though they seem mostly from dictatorship eras, and also labor leaders and at least one guerrilla leader.  Botanical garden designer and namesake Carlos Thays is buried here, as well.  La Chacarita is absolutely full of Argentina’s history.

It is, unsurprisingly, also chock full of fancy, fancy vaults.

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Tribute to a beloved mother, now missing its inverted exclamation mark
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Very modern design for this crypt.
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Just like in Recoleta, some crypts are in really, really bad shape.

Group pantheons and vaults are also very common.

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Spanish-Argentine Mutual Society Pantheon
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Military pantheon
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The vault for the Sociedad Tipográfica Bonaerense, a 160 year old labor union of typographic workers, one of the first unions here.
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Here lie the founders of the Boca Juniors; I literally cannot overstate the importance of football (soccer) or of the Boca Juniors to it.
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Municipal employees, just in case you want to be buried with your closest co-workers.

Let’s look at two of the most famous burials in La Chacarita.  First up, Carlos Gardel, immensely famous and important tango guy.

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I was there around 4 pm and the shadows were terrible for photos.

The figure on the left is the man himself, who died tragically at the height of his career, at age 45.  Visitors often leave lit cigarettes in his hand.  The figure on the right mournfully hunches over a broken lyre.

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This is the tomb Jorge Newbery, aviation hero and namesake of one of Buenos Aires’s airports (although generally, that airport is referred to as “Aeroparque”).  He died in a plane crash at age 38.  Whoever designed his tomb really brought the drama.

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“Sorry, did you say there’s going to be a carrion bird on the tomb?”  “No, I said there’s going to be five carrion birds on the tomb.”
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“One of them is going to lurk over the actual crypt door.”

Don’t for a second think that I don’t believe with my whole being that this is incredibly awesome.

There are some pretty nice sculptures in La Chacarita, too.

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The broken columns and crumbling look are intentional, by the way.
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This is the memorial and tomb of Enrique de Vedia, a writer and teacher.

Just in case you’re not flush with crypt-levels of cash, the cemetery has several columbarium walls, the oldest of which (at least, as it appeared to me) serve in places as the cemetery’s border wall.

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The newer interments of this type are actually below ground, in a sort of open-air cavern of columbarium walls.

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I didn’t get a picture of the main entry of La Chacarita, as I came in one of the side gates, or a bunch of other buildings and tombs; the place is so freakin’ big, you guys.  I didn’t go into the British or German sections at all (I didn’t even find them).  I’m going to go back at some point, so I will post on those sections when I do.

El Cementerio de La Chacarita is the largest single thing in La Chacarita, with several bus lines and a few stops on the B subway line right near it.  It’s open from 7:30 am to 5 pm.  There’s a free tour in Spanish on the second and fourth Saturdays every month at 10 am (cancelled if it’s raining); check the website for the most up to date information available.

 

Museo Beatle [Beatle Museum]

Tucked in the Paseo La Plaza on Corrientes Ave, the “street that never sleeps” and a center of theater and tango, is the Cavern.

 

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Can’t buy me love, but can buy me a ticket to ride if by “ride” you mean “go into the museum”

Named for the Beatles’ frequent venue, it’s a Beatles-themed complex that includes a cafe, a club, a theater, performance spaces, and a museum.

The Museo Beatle belongs to one of the most charming categories of museum, “personal collection that got way out of hand.”  In this case, Rodolfo Vázquez began collecting Beatles stuff at the age of 10, and by 2001, he had the Guinness Book of World Records certified biggest damn Beatles collection (re-certified in 2011 by Guinness as having 7,700 items).

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Can’t buy me love, but can buy me the catalog in the gift shop

The museum is organized chronologically, and how else would you start, but with the Fab Four’s frickin’ births?

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Original birth certificates, I was told

Don’t worry, Pete Best fans, the museum’s got you covered.

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I’m not actually a big Beatles fan; I don’t know much about them.  I was surprised by how meteoric their rise really was.  They added Ringo and recorded their first album in 1962, released it in 1963, and by 1964, the merch production was insane.

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Authentic Beatle wig, and those squares at the bottom are candy. Licorice candy.

 

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Sure, sounds fun.

 

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That is PANTYHOSE, with their FACES ON IT.

Continuing on through Beatlemania…

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Several videos available throughout the timeline.

…and on to Sgt Pepper’s something something.

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Pig Ringo’s eyeliner wings on point.

I understand Beatles memorabilia, not unlike their aesthetic, gets weirder from here.

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All of us cohabitate in a lemon-hued submersible.
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And we are clean and sober as the day is long.

There are various records, advertisements, and autographs of anyone even tangentially related to the band throughout the museum.  All that is well and good, but you want a photo op.  Of course you do.

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The only true Beatles photo op.

You do, eventually, come to that point on the timeline when things, as all good things do, come to an end.

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Bummer.

But as I’m sure every other person on the planet knows, because I know this, the Beatles didn’t just vanish in 1970.  They all had solo careers!

Visitors will find nooks dedicated to each man’s solo efforts and life decisions.

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I heard John remarried.

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Ringo…well Ringo did some things I was entirely unaware of until five seconds before I took this photo.

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After visiting the museum, you can walk across the courtyard to the cafe and have a typical and filling Argentine lunch for 250 pesos (about US$5.50).

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If you’re a Beatles fan or just want to see a bunch of Beatles stuff, you’ll find The Cavern in the San Nicolás barrio at Av Corrientes 1660, inside the Paseo La Plaza, which is a actually a really lovely complex of shops, restaurants, performance spaces, and trees in the middle of a busy place.  It’s close to the D line and B line of the subway, Congress, the Obelisk–a thousand ways to get there.  The museum entries are 250 pesos (about US$5.50) for foreigners, 200 pesos for Argentines and residents, and free for kids 10 and under.  Check the website for the hours.

Buque Museo Fragata ARA Presidente Sarmiento [Frigate ARA Presidente Sarmiento Museum Ship]

AHOY!

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There are two museum ships in Puerto Madero:  the ARA Uruguay  and her more famous yet less interesting sister, the ARA Presidente Sarmiento.  But just because she doesn’t have the very cool history of the Uruguay doesn’t mean the Presidente Sarmiento is boring.

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I’d say that it might be unfair to compare them, but it’s impossible not to, as they are literally within sight of each other.

The Sarmiento was a training ship for the naval academy.  It was English-built and launched in 1897.  Retired in 1961, it’s been a museum since 1964.

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I love passageways on ships!  This one has a lot of plaque bling.

Lots of stuff to see from the glory days:

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Training sailors got a mattress on their hammocks, so that’s cool.
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This guy had a really fancy pillow embroidered to commemorate his voyage around the world.
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Arf.

The sign wasn’t super clear on the origin of the taxidermied Lampazo here, but it seems like in 2014 they decided that he’s probably Buli, owned by Lt Calderon and ship’s pupper on the 37th voyage.  I don’t know how he came to be taxidermied and under glass on the Sarmiento, and I didn’t see anything on board to shed light on that.  Such pressing questions remain mysteries.

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There’s no meal service.

The crew dining room now has a video you can watch, and going on through it leads to the officers’ digs, which are nicer.

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If you’re an officer, you mattress doesn’t swing.

The Captain’s quarters are off-limits to visitors, presumably because the naval personnel currently assigned to the ship have taken over the best space for offices.  But there’s a nice little model of it.

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Command and comfort.

You can climb up on the decks, too, which afford a nice view of the Woman’s Bridge and other ship stuff.

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I wasn’t entirely sure I was allowed up on this part, but two navy dudes saw me climbing down and didn’t yell at me, so I assume I was.

The Presidente Sarmiento is open seven days a week, 10 am to 7 pm.  It’s 20 pesos to get on board (at the moment!) and located in Puerto Madero, kind of across the street and to the right from the Casa Rosada.  It’s a very short walk along the river to the ARA Uruguay, so if you’re super into museum ships, you can hit them both.

 

 

Biblioteca Nacional Mariano Moreno de la República Argentina [Mariano Moreno National Library of the Argentine Republic]

The National Library!

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Sometimes the beauty of a library is in the idea, and not the stupid brutalist architecture.

Established in 1810, the library inaugurated its current building in 1992, thirty years after it was first designed (because Argentina).  There are a few things associated with the National Library that I will be including here, such as the Museo del Libro y de la Lengua, which is actually more of a small space for temporary exhibitions and events–not quite enough to do a whole post on.

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“…because the library is yours.”  Hell. Yes.

Currently, there’s a couple of exhibits up, one of which is on scientist, novelist, and impressive prizewinner Ernesto Sabato.  You might remember him from a really life-affirming subway display I found awhile back.

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“God exists, but sometimes dreams: his nightmares are our existence.”

The upstairs currently houses a show on Sara Gallardo.

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Like I said, not a whole lot to the museum itself, but as it’s at the back of the library complex, it can easily included in a visit to the whole shebang.

There’s some remodeling happening on the grounds of the library, but there is one small open building that houses the showroom of the Centro de Historieta y Humor Gráfico Argentinos (Argentine Comic and Graphic Humor Center).

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At the moment, the building is dedicated to the 90th anniversary of Patoruzú, who looks VERY QUESTIONABLE to me but is still an icon here, and widely considered Argentina’s first super hero (he’s got super strength and he’s also rich, which is Batman’s sole power, so Patoruzú already has one up on that guy).

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The main library building also has its own exhibit space.  You need an ID to go in, a fact that has stuck in my mind since the library played a small part in the story of a man who walked from Canada to Buenos Aires with the aim of visiting the library, only to be turned away because he didn’t have ID.

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Pictured: Most secure border in the Western hemisphere.

Right now, there’s an exhibit on the books of Arthur Conan Doyle.  It’s pretty fun.

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Sherlock Holmes fan fic has been a hugely profitable genre in its own right, and I especially enjoyed the inclusion of “Cat Holmes.”

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The Lost World room! Argentina is rich in dinosaur fossils, and that there is native son Bajadasaurus pronuspinax.
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Yeah, they even got the fairy stuff.
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Interview with the man himself in the spiritualism room.

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I can absolutely feel the librarian’s giddy enthusiasm for being able to create this room.

If I don’t get a haunted mirror for Christmas this year, why do I even have a family.

There were a few of these pictures that were activated when you walked close to them.  This whole thing was neat.

At the back of the library’s complex, near the Museo del Libro y de la Lengua, is an adorable little shop.

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ADORKABLE

It’s the National Library’s bookstore for its publications, where you can also get sweet library merch, like a coffee mug or poster.  There’s also this TINY BOOK VENDING MACHINE SO BRING 20 PESOS IN COINS OK?

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Objects in photo less blurry than they appear

So if libraries are a thing for you (as they are for all quality people), you can roll a visit to the National Library into your Recoleta meanderings, as it’s a couple of blocks from the Recoleta Cemetery, the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, and the Las Heras subway stop on the H line.  There’s a cafe of the basic snack and coffee sort on the first floor of the main library building (second floor by US reckoning), but obviously plenty of other places are around.  Check the website for the hours of all the various elements mentioned here.

The Cemetery Series: El Cementerio La Cumbrecita

Welcome to the first entry in the Cemetery Series!  Things will be slightly different in this series–for one thing, I will be including cemeteries that I have visited not-super-recently, which I don’t do for museums because exhibits change, etc.  Cemeteries tend to be a bit more consistent.

I did visit this one, recently, however: El Cementerio La Cumbrecita.  La Cumbrecita is a small pedestrian village in Cordoba, Argentina, that relies entirely on tourism.  It was founded in 1934 by German immigrants who missed the scenery of the old country.  It was rocky, treeless hillscape at first, and there were no roads, but slowly it was transformed into an Alpine-style town surrounded by the pine and spruce trees they planted.  The town went from German-immigrant-summer-home village to a tourist spot, where visitors can now have the slightly dissonant experience of a European village widely populated by green parakeets.

The cemetery is not very easy to get to.

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While I found it on Google Maps quickly enough, it is at the top of hill, necessitating a long, occasionally steep walk.  As I discovered later, the cemetery path off the main road is no longer marked.  That’s it on the right there.  I continued left.

Eventually, I ran out of road.  But it was a very long walk, and I wasn’t in the mood to give up.  Looking around, I saw a plank.  Must be a reason for it, right?

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All cemeteries should have moats.

I walked carefully across it.  It was readily apparent that there was no path on the other side of the plank, so I hugged the hillside on the right for a couple minutes and then ran out of place to walk.  But, there was a gate, beyond a lame-ass fence up the incline on the right.

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Looks promising!

Seemed like an unorthodox way to get into a cemetery, but I didn’t see a more legit looking entrance, so I climbed up the hillside and wiggled under the fence, as you do.  Maybe it was the back gate?

It was in fact the front, and only, gate.

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It was unlocked! I wouldn’t have scaled the wall if it had been. Probably.

The cemetery yard is a very small place, laid out on the hillside.  I have to think that most of the graves are for ashes (or are only memorial plaques), because they’re rather teeny.  It’s a peaceful, overgrown spot, full of wildflowers and buzzing insects.

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It only takes a few minutes to walk though the whole place, which you might or might not find gratifying after the long hike up, depending on how into quiet, hidden graveyards you are.  I discovered on the way out that there was a path that did not require wiggling under a fence that led to the main road.  So that was nice.

You can find more information on La Cumbrecita here; it’s a lovely little place to relax and hike and dip your feet in the river.

Museo al Banco Central de la Republica Argentina [Argentina Central Bank Museum]

You might recall I have visited a bank museum before, that of the Banco Ciudad.  It was a very interesting look at the bank’s founding and role in society, and I was slow to add any other bank museums to my list when I found another one.  I assumed it would be similar.

BUT IT WASN’T.

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The new entrance is a bigger version of this one.

Banco Central is the national bank of Argentina, and its history is of course tied to the economic history of the country, which is, to put it generously, bonkers.  The museum, officially known as the Museo Histórico y Numismático Héctor Carlos Janson, takes an entirely different course than that of Banco Ciudad and focuses on the history and development of currency.  That history is also bonkers.

The first room of the museum looks briefly at the history of currency in South America.

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Oh, hey, is that a painting the recreates elements of a 17th century map? Probably pretty charming!
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Is…is Buenos Aires Mary? Or Jesus? You know what, nevermind.

Anyway, back before Europeans arrived for their extended pillage-murder spree, frequently used currency items included cocoa beans, leaves, small metal pieces, and cowrie shells.

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Only nobles had access to cocoa trees and the bean store houses. Yes, there were also counterfeit beans.

Next up are examples of colonial-era currency.

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Obviously everything in this museum was in a glass case, so it’s a whole post of just super shitty photography.

The colonial coins were minted in Potosí, in Bolivia, close to Cerro Rico, a huge silver mine that Spain spent years plundering.  A stunning number of miners have died there over time, earning the place the name “the mountain that eats men,” because nothing in colonial history isn’t horrifically grim (mining the mountain continues to be horrifically grim).

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VTRAQUE VNUM: “Both Are One” (Spain and the colonies), LOL.

Next up, the first currency minted following independence:

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Money was minted by the provincial governments, which is why the gold coin above says “Provinces of the Rio de la Plata.”  The Banco de las Provincias Unidas del Río de la Plata was created with the aim of unifying the nation’s printed currency, but the other provinces were not cool with this so it did not happen (had a lot to do with economic troubles from the war with Brazil).  So, money from all over continued.

Notes were printed abroad, and included portraits of important figures of independence in the New World, such as Simón Bolivar, George Washington, Ben Franklin, and William Penn.

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Things got weird, as things tend to do, during the civil war.  General de Rosas, blurrily pictured below, dissolved the national bank and created an administration to issue paper money and coins.  These were monedas corrientes.  I am not nearly as well-versed in Argentine history as the museum’s informational panels assume, so I can’t much fill you in beyond that.

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You will note, possibly, two things about the following bill: One, its domination is 1000, which means it was rapidly devaluating, generally not at all a good thing; and two, it’s got palm trees and kangaroos on it.

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Unexpected!

The money was at the time printed in Buenos Aires, but the plates were engraved in London.  The museum notes that printing houses at the time worked for several countries and contends that’s why the kangaroo and llama appear together on an Argentine banknote, but frankly I still have a lot of questions.

I also find the next phase of currency a wee bit confusing, something that can likely be attributed once again to my lack of knowledge of the nation’s history, but next you get “pesos fuertes” and “pesos corrientes.”

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If there is any unifying lesson to this museum, it’s that the Argentine economy has never been all that stable.

Here we take a small detour into a historical oddity.  A French lawyer showed up in the west of the country and in 1860 declared himself “King of the Araucania and Patagonia.”  He then created a constitution, a flag, and a national anthem, and started minting money.

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Orélie-Antoine de Tounens, looking a lot like a dude that would just go do something like that.

He was arrested, declared insane, and deported, but he apparently took his claim very seriously and tried, for the rest of his life and without success, to really make it stick.  He died childless, but people have claimed to be his heirs for awhile now, and they actually still mint (technically worthless) coins, I guess for the sole purpose of having them displayed at the Central Bank museum.

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Cool?

Now, I’m going to hop forward about 100 years, skipping a major financial crisis, to get to the financial crises of recent history.  There was a substantial devaluation during the military dictatorship, which attempted to stabilize things, but, spoiler alert, did not.

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These are from the last couple years of the dictatorship, the early 80s.

The military dictatorship fell and democracy was restored in 1983, but there was still a huuuuge problem in the form of a massive external debt, currency devaluation, and serious inflation.  The new government started whacking off zeroes, so that 10000 old pesos would equal one new peso.

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It did not work.  These were printed in 1983; by 1985, 10000 peso notes were back in circulation.  That year, the president decided what the country really needed was to start from scratch.  The peso was old and busted.  The Austral was the new hotness.

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Alas:

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The name “peso” made its return with the “pesos convertibles” in the 90s, when the peso was pegged to the US dollar at a 1 to 1 rate.  This also didn’t work and led to the financial crisis of 2001, which many Argentines can tell you absolutely wild stories about.  The president famously fled the Pink House by helicopter.  Some of the bills from this period are still in circulation; I could dig some out of my wallet right now.

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This time of utter economic collapse led to a widespread return to a barter economy, leading to the use of these barter network vouchers.

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Things got…okay after that.  And then less okay.  That’s kind of how it goes here.

The current government, for political reasons I’m not going to get into, decided that the money needed a makeover, so now it’s all about the nature.

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Oh, hey…we’re back up to 1000 pesos notes.  Huh.

After the rooms of currency, the museum has some historical artifacts related to the history of banking in Argentina, including French scales used to weigh coins.

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Eva Perón spent a few months working out of the Central Bank, and they have her office furniture.

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I think I’ve mentioned before that it’s hard to overstate Evita’s importance here.

I’m going to wrap this us with the museum’s most endearing feature, a selfie point.

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These denominations should be good for a few months, at least.

The Banco Central Museum is located in the financial district of Buenos Aires, blocks from the Plaza de Mayo, at San Martín 216.  It is open Monday through Friday, 10am to 4pm, and is free.  There are some information cards in English for each room, although several were missing when I visited, and they are not particularly complete.  The main signage is solely in Spanish.  As it is located in the city’s heart, you can get to the museum in a million, billion ways.