A few weeks ago I wrote about Santiago’s Cementerio General, which is in the Recoleta neighborhood in Santiago. I’m a big fan of this cemetery. It’s gigantic, beautiful, and there is so much history.
I was excited to go to the Recoleta Cemetery which is also in the neighborhood called Recoleta in Buenos Aires. It’s no coincidence that they are both called Recoleta. The name refers to an order of monks (Franciscanos Recoletos) that had their monasteries in these neighborhoods and one of their missions was to take care of the dead. The Recoleta neighborhood in Buenos Aires is a very nice upper middle class neighborhood filled with lots of cafes and little shops. In Santiago, it is a working class neighborhood that is admittedly not as picturesque.
However, the Cementerio General in Santiago is MUCH bigger, more interesting, and I would even argue more beautiful than Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires. Granted, I have lived in Chile a long time and am much more familiar with Chilean historical figures, so it’s interesting for me to go see their graves. I’m not so well versed in Argentine history, so my visit to Recoleta was more about gawking at the ornate gravestones and mausoleums.
I do know one Argentine historical figure pretty well, and I enjoyed seeing Evita’s grave. We also saw Carlos Pellegrini’s grave, whose name we recognized from the name of a subte stop near our hostel. We later looked him up on google and found out he was a former president of Argentina from 1890-1892. So, we even learned something new!
It was also raining the day we went, and we didn’t have a guide to explain to us about the history of those buried in the cemetery. I probably would have enjoyed it a bit more if my feet had been drier and I had actually learned something about the figures buried there (Carlos Pellegrini notwithstanding).
The tombs were ornate and elaborate, that is for sure. However, it was all very crowded together in tiny alleyways. The whole cemetery isn’t more than one square block. The Cementerio General in Santiago is over 85 hectares large and has over 2 million people buried in it. It has roads that go through it.
Anyway, that’s my take on the two cemeteries. I’m not saying don’t go to Recoleta in Buenos Aires. It’s interesting, but unless you are an Argentine History buff, you don’t need more than an hour to see the whole thing.
However, I am saying MAKE SURE you go to the Cementerio General in Santiago, and give yourself at least a half a day to explore. It’s huge, and very impressive.