August 9th, 2004

Ant

Cemetary

A way to get to know a country is to know how they tread their deaths. Hence visiting a cemetary is a good way to get to know a culture. I visited two yesterday.

First I went to Recoleta. Aparently this is were the elite goes after their time has come. According to my guide book it might be cheaper to live it large in Buenos Aires than to be buried at Recoleta. Once you get there, you see why. None of the graves are just that. All of them have got huge tombs, almost like little houses. Thinking of it, not even little. Given the height and the frolics, many small town village would be happy with a church of the same size. Okay, I`m exaggerating, but just to get a picture.

Plenty of great and rich families have their family graves there, several former generals and presidents have been buried here as well. The most famous for a foreigner is without any doubt Eva Peron Duarte, also known as Evita. Her presence apparently isn`t appreciated by everyone, as she was not one of the elite, but someone from a simple background, hence shouldn´t be there at all. Her tomb is standing out, flowers are still being left behind and a personal letter from someone has been attached to the door as well. People queue to have their picture taken in front of it.

In the afternoon I went to Chacarita, apparently a cemetary for the people. At first it seems very comparable to Recoleta, just a bit more spacious, I guess the ground was a bit cheaper. But apart from a lot of big tombs, there are also the cellars where hundreds of `normal` people found their permanent rest.

At Chacarita Evita`s husband, former president Juan Duarte, was placed in the family tomb. Some old lady explained the whole story to me and some German backpacker in full detail, explaining the whole family structure and telling us about the 15 meters, 3rd floor down, where he was laid to rest.

The best grave of the day though is the one where famous tango musician Carlos Gardel has been buried. Not only does he have a statue of himself on his tomb, but also hundreds of plaques are comemorating him. From his relatives to tango clubs, fans, foreign admirers to god knows who, order yourself a piece of metal, write your name on it and stick it with super glue to the tomb and you`re one of the many whose name is forever attached to Carlos.



He also has someone keeping his grave, as soon as I arrived some old man gave me some photocopies with a picture and some article why everybody must love him. Not only that, he also brought an old radio tape player and played his music. Once in a while he changed the cassette and then we heard a new song. All very quiet, we are at a cementary after all, but somehow very appropriate. I would have loved to talked to him for a while, but his accent and especially the fact that he hardly had any teeth left made it impossible for me to understand him, I noticed within two sentences.

A quiet sunday in Buenos Aires. One more day in town, before I`m heading south.