Bulletins From BA #02
08 August 2012
¡Hola! there… Rodger French here.
Photo Update Alert: www.picasaweb.google.com/rodger.french
"BA-Cementerio de la Recoleta"
Buenos Aires is by far the biggest city we have ever lived in. Of course, the second biggest is Atlanta, so that’s not much of a comparison; but this place is big. Really big. Like Nueva York - only bigger - big. Happily, la Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires (official name) is also topographically flat. Really flat. Like… well, you get the idea. It is a ciudad for walking. So, A.J. and I have decided to spend a good chunk of our weekends hoofing it around town; and, since we’re new here, we figured we might as well start with some tourist hotspots.
Last Saturday, we strolled to Basilica Nuestra Señora del Pilar, a Jesuit church built in 1732. The church is adjacent to Cementerio de la Recoleta, a muy famoso necropolis that dates from 1822 and is the final resting place of many notable personas. We arrived early (i.e., before Noon) ahead of the rush of visitors, which included many Argentinians. What a fascinating experience.
When we revisit this place, I think we will engage the services of one of the many “tour guides” who hover at the entrance. But for our first go, we elected to wander about in what is, quite literally, a city of the dead. And while many of the tombs are impressive indeed, housing the remains of presidents, generals, and the well connected, we found ourselves drawn to the neglected, melancholy resting places of those who have been forgotten.
Not forgotten, by any measure, is the most famous resident of Cementerio de la Recoleta, one Eva Duarte de Perón, aka “Evita.” This past 26 July marked the anniversary of her death at the age of 33 and Señora Perón is still much loved by many Argentinians and reviled in equal measure by others. Sixty years on, she, her husband Juan Domingo Perón, and Peronismo remain the subjects of passionate debate. The woman led a short, but appropriately theatrical and cinematic life.
Interestingly, the Duarte family vault where she is entombed is a modest affair. By the time we made our way to it, however, the crowds were out in force, so lingering became a less attractive option. I can tell you that the edifice is of black stone, and decorated with a multitude of flowers, mostly red.
In addition to the cemetery, our Saturday perambulations took us to some other interesting places. Por favor, permítanme a brief, but short, summary:
Buenos Aires Design – A commercial mall “dedicated entirely to design, construction, equipment and decoration.” Home furnishings; some very appealing in design, all expensive.
El Barrio de Recoleta – A wonderful neighborhood, full of tiendas (shoppes) and excelente fruit and vegetable markets. We also happened upon a very, very high-end leather store where I tried on a chaqueta (jacket) made from the skin of carpincho (capybara), a large aquatic rodent. Yeah, I know… laugh if you will, but it was the finest garment I have ever put on my body. Simply exquisite, but a tad pricey at 4700 pesos ($1000 and change). I had to take a pass.
Palais de Glace – This fabulous domed building, originally built in 1910 as a Belle Époque ice skating and social club and later converted to an elegant ballroom for tango, currently houses arts exhibitions. We took in “Muestra Anual de Fotoperiodismo Argentino” (Annual Show of Argentine Photojournalism). Lots of good work, including a photo essay of an old man caring for his dying wife that moved me to tears. (www.palaisdeglace.gob.ar)
Life is so short and there is so much to see.