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.

 

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.