The Dead Centre of Town – The Best in The World!i
Saturday dawned and yet again the rain threatened. Not the huge dumping sub tropical down pours, where streets become rivers in a matter of minutes that I am used to, but enough to put a dent in your day. Another difference with the rain in Buenos Aires and my home is that it is cold, not the reprieve from the sticky heat of summer usual on the Sunshine Coast. I had forgotten that when rain falls in most places and you get wet, you get very cold, very quickly, as is the case in BA.
The sun eventually made its appearance from behind the clouds around 4.00 pm and I took the opportunity to wander around my neighbourhood, including the Recoleta Cemetery, which apparently holds much prized title of “Best Cemetery in the World”. If the bus loads of visitors is the criteria on which the title is judged then I know why it won. The 5.5 hectares of burial ground sits snuggly nestled in amongst the busy up market shopping and restaurant precinct. Just walk out McDonalds front door, across a narrow cobbled road and you literally run into the 2 metre high encircling brick wall. What really earns the cemetery it’s renown is the approximately 4961 tombs. Tightly packed like everything in Buenos Aires, the ornate mausoleum’s are the last resting places of some of Argentina’s most prominent citizens.
On the the southern flank of the cemetery lies a lush green park, the abundant muddy puddles indicating just how much rain the city had received. As it was Saturday the regular weekend market was in full swing. I walked along the path between the two trying to decide which course to take; finally take the opportunity to visit Evita’s tomb or wander aimlessly around the market? Of course I chose the markets but in my defence I did reason that as I live around the corner I could go on a day I wasn’t battling crowds.
Once I had made that fateful decision what happened next was almost a forgone conclusion. As I walked my brain became totally engrossed in thoughts of what I may find at the market. Stepping off the concrete path I was blissfully unaware that I was walking onto what could only be described as a skating rink of slimy mud. One, two, three steps, it was fine because I was still propelled by the momentum of forward motion. The point at which my upper body didn’t have as much momentum as my feet to keep it moving forward came quickly after that. The actual feeling of sliding through the mud was quite exciting really, it was just not that much fun landing on my knees and then struggling to get up onto my feet.
To say that my legs, from the knees down, were caked in mud is no exaggeration. Maybe a centimetre thick all over, including my sandals, it was horrific. Thankfully I was wearing a coat, which had suffered a little bit of mud but not as much as I first thought and at least my clothes underneath were protected. Feeling very sorry for myself I stood in a state of confusion for about five minutes, trying to think how I was going to get myself cleaned up enough to make my way home. The realisation that the cemetery should have public toilets ( believe me when I say that isn’t always a given in Latin countries) was a very welcomed thought. As I made my way to the front gates I wondered if the security guard would let me in. Then I realised that with my hair in disarray, some tear tracks down my face ( and possibly running mascara) not to mention the mud, they probably thought I was something that had crept out of the crypt and needed to go back.
…… PS …. if you’re wondering …… as you can see from the photo’s I did eventually go for a walk around the cemetery. Yes Evita’s grave is there but quite unremarkable really. The cemetery is still in used for burials if you have the right family connections. The last internment being only two weeks ago.