Join me at La Recoleta and La Chacarita Cemeteries in Buenos Aires, Argentina to learn about the intertwined histories of these two famous (and not so famous) cemeteries. The former is hailed as one of the top 10 most beautiful cemeteries in the world, while the latter, although equally magnificent, you may have never heard of! You can also watch and share this video on Facebook and YouTube.
La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires
When I asked my friends what I should see in Buenos Aires, everyone kept telling me to go see La Recoleta Cemetery. I was surprised that a cemetery was top of everyone's lists. I wondered what was so special about a cemetery and why I would want to go see a bunch of graves?
Well it turns out, the cemeteries in Buenos Aires tell him much bigger story.
Our unofficial dia de los muertos began in the famed La Recoleta – the premier cemetery in Buenos Aires where the who's who come to spend eternity, including Argentina's beloved first lady, Eva Perón, who you might know better as Evita.
Hailed as one of the top 10 most beautiful cemeteries in the world, La Recoleta is definitely worthy of a visit, but what I learned is that just 7 km away there is another cemetery with an interesting and slightly unappreciated history of its own.
La Chacarita Cemetery in Buenos Aires
Cementerio de la Chacarita is the largest in Argentina, but its humble beginnings weren't so grandiose.
This cemetery owes its existence to the yellow fever epidemic of 1871. Cemeteries at the time were filled to capacity and the upscale La Recoleta Cemetery refused to allow the burial of victims of the epidemic.
Students of the College of San Carlos stepped up to the plate and appropriated 12 acres in the adjoining Colegiales area for this purpose which eventually became the New Chacarita Cemetery in 1887.
And now, 130 years later, La Chacarita is still living in the shadows of La Recoleta!
Even though La Chacarita is 17x as big, equally magnificent, and also home to former presidents, artists, and elite, it rarely makes a top 10 list and doesn't drive nearly as many tourists each year as its upscale neighbor La Recoleta.
Even in my own personal experience of asking for suggestions of places to visit in Buenos Aires, at least 10 people told me to go see La Recoleta, but no-one mentioned La Chacarita. That is, until right when I was heading out of my hotel to shoot a video about La Recoleta. My friend Will Byers messaged me on Instagram. He had spent 3 months here in Buenos Aires and wrote to me:
Everybody does Recoleta Cemetery, and it's beautiful and accessible but crowded as hell. Go check out Chacarita Cemetery. It has many, many of the esame style mausoleums, old trees, a giant wall, a boxer's graveyard, a huge underground network of catacombs.
I wrote something and took a ton of photos there. Part of me doesn't want to give it up, because it still feels like a personal place for Argentines. Certainly being discreet with a camera in the underground galleries was a good idea. I think you should see it at least, if you have time.
(Sorry for publicizing your favorite cemetery Will!)
He also sent me the link to his blog post entitled Chacarita Cemetery in Buenos Aires which tells a deeper history than I was able to in a 2 minute video – so check that out if you're interested in learning more or seeing his photos of the cemetery.
I was literally walking out the door to head to La Recoleta when Will's messages came through, so I stopped what I was doing to read his blog post and do additional research about Chacarita. I rewrote the script on the way to La Recoleta and decided to focus my video on the intertwined histories of the two cemeteries instead of solely on their touristic appeal. My adventure partner Delfy and I had plans to visit both cemeteries that day, but ended up spending way too much time at Recoleta. We didn't want to be rushed at Chacarita so we spent the next day there instead.
While shooting this video over the course of two days, Delfy asked me why a video about cemeteries was important? The reason is that most of us will spend more time in a cemetery than we will anywhere else during our lives. We spend our whole lives looking for acceptance, seeking fulfillment, and just wanting to be good enough. The last thing I'd ever want is for a cemetery to tell me that I'm not good enough to be buried there!
Have you visited the cemeteries in Buenos Aires?
If so, what are your thoughts on Recoleta and Chacarita Cemeteries in regards to being a destination to visit in Buenos Aires? I'd love to hear what you thought about the cemeteries if you've visited them. If you took any spectacular photos while you were there, drop the link to your blog or Instagram so we can check them out.
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