01 March 2009

Chacarita Cemetery :: Cementerio de la Chacarita

The Chacararita Cemetery is the people's cemetery. The Recoleta Cementery is for the elite--wealthy patricians, famous politicians, minor fútbal stars--but Chacarita is for el pueblo. It's a huge, expansive cemetery in the West Side of Buenos Aires that seems to continue forever, filled with eclectic mausoleums, French + Spanish Relief Societies, one drab building that looks like a parking structure, a house of deceased orphans, a separate English subplot, and so much more that is timeless, eerie and heart-breaking.

Here are several things I noticed:

1. Unlike the Recoleta Cemetery, quite a few of the mausoleums have glass doors that you can look into. It's even creepier than it sounds. Sometimes a family will have a library of caskets that start in the basement leading all the way up to the door

2. Some of the mausoleums weren't locked. Not only that, several of the doors were half open, like a ghost has just walked through there to pay a visit. And the interior of some of these places was just downright scary. It was straight out of Turn of the Screw: dust-covered coffins, broken windows, cracked floor boards, downcast statues of angels holding massive swords in their hands, tormented crucifixes, silver candelebra with red wax spilling over the handle, dead flowers on the mantle, old wooden coffins slowly rotting

3. Fotos. Some people put pictures of their deceased daughters or husbands next to their name, instantly humanizing them. And some Porteños died at such a tragically early age, it's just unbelievable

4. LB and I realized there was a separate cemetery annex that almost looked like a garden from a distance. The graves were very simple, some had hand-painted tombstones. After walking around for awhile, I realized every person in that particular lot had died in 2001. It's crazy to think about it this way, but the Economic Crisis literally broke people's hearts. A lot of people died that year because they lost everything they had. It's an insane correlation, but it makes sense, if not a bit astonishing.

5. There was a sign warning cemetery visitors not to leave still water due to concerns over yellow fever. Again, though quite rare now in Greater Buenos Aires, this was another peak into what BsAs was like forty years ago, before mosquito control

6. A few of the mausoleums had been completely abandoned, vandalized, used as storage or a makeshift bedroom, or the family placard has been ripped off. And I'd never seen litter, soda cans, cigarette butts or broken bricks, inside a house of the dead before. Something about it just felt so completely wrong to me

7. After LB told me this story about how her mom and she got locked into a cemetery once while she was taking pictures in a cemetery on a gloomy Halloween day for her photography class, we walked to the front gate and realized the same thing had happened to us. We got locked in



















18 comments:

Lety said...

Again, thanks for sharing. My grandfather and my cousin were buried there. It gives me goose pumps.

JACKSON BLISS 水と魂 said...

Hey Lety,

Nice to hear from you. Yeah, I know what you mean. There's something about this cemetery that breaks my heart and freaks me out a little bit. But it's nothing if not woefully human. And I appreciate that despite the escalofríos I got. I hope Nocal is treating you well. Besos.

Lety said...

I guess that Recoleta is urban-chic. NorCal is rainy and rainy, btw any news on that front? I did get a job, I am going to Middlebury College, now I *just* have to finish my bendita thesis. Besotes.

Devin said...

thanks as always for your lovely posts Jackson! -and pics too-best to you and LB as always!

leigh said...

wait... how did you get out?

pumario said...

Bonitas fotos y bonito blog. Mario

JACKSON BLISS 水と魂 said...

Hi Lety,

No news yet. It's starting to drive me crazy. I'd pull my hair out and boil it if I didn't shave my head twice a week. I'll let you know how it turns out. Congrats on the Middlebury gig, it's a great school in a pretty part of New England. Cold in the winter, but very beautiful.

Devin,

Thanks so much. Right back acha.

Leigh,

We had to use a trampoline and jump over the gate on person at a time. No, I'm kidding. Actually, I asked this old guy and he told me to keep walking "over there" and you'll find it eventually, and sure enough we did. There was a secret late-night exit for people like us. Besos.

Mario,

Muchas gracias. Me alegro que te guste mi blog y ojalá que vuelvas a echarlo un vistazo más tarde. Saludos cordiales.

Tomas Hein said...

Hi there, Im from Buenos Aires studying in London... Very nice blog !!!!!! I didn't really miss all this you write about until I read it, perhaps I took it for granted... thanks for a fresh view on a city I love but have neglected...

Best
Tomas

JACKSON BLISS 水と魂 said...

My pleasure Tomas Hein.

Cheers.

Fernanda Ibañez said...

Saliste en el diario la nacion! felicitaciones :D voy a visitar mucho tu blog, simplemente me encanta. Ya viajaste en el tren a las 6 de la tarde? o fuiste a Liniers? jajaja hay buenos aires para hacer dulce de leche!

Alis said...

JACKSON : Me gusto mucho tu blog como describis cada detalle ,lo encontre en la Nacion, y me puse a chusmear como nos ven desde afuera.Es increible como vivimos los argentinos de apurados y no notamos las riquezs de nuestro pais con sus falencias...

Un Saludo Alis

Apfel said...

It's good to know that people want to share something non turistic.

Actually... whenever a friend from the US comes here, I prefer taking them to the Chacarita one, rather than the one in Recoleta. Of course... they go by themselves, but still I encourage them to go to the places that are not like Recoleta, or Puerto Madero. For example... a friend that came from Chicago, got amazed as how the people live, and how they just sell or do whatever in the streets of Once. I tried to convince him to go with me to Liniers, but when I described it to him, I think that he got scared... LOL.

Regards...

Alan Schamber.

Fernanda Ibañez said...

Liniers is to scare haha

JACKSON BLISS 水と魂 said...

Fernanda, Alis, Alan,

Gracias chicos. Les agradezco sus comentarios. Siempre aprecio la gente que entra mi blog para echar un vistazo y comunicarse conmigo. A propósito, donde está Liniers? Suena escalofriante, pero no de la misma manera que es el cementerio de la Chacarita.

Dale. No se desaparezcan y vuelven a visitar.

Saludos Cordiales.

Fernanda Ibañez said...

Ir a Liniers es como hacer turismo aventura. Tendrías que tomar el tren sarmiento en Once, es muy parecido, pero los puestos que venden choripanes (habanos de carne)están multiplicados. Hay partes que son como la ciudad de Mordor, del Señor de los Anillos, a pesar de que el día está despejado por alguna razón hay mucha oscuridad. Aunque está bueno, es bizarro.

Fernanda Ibañez said...

Me olvide de poner lo siguiente en el anterior comentario:

If you go to Liniers you have pelotas, for real

Pablo said...

Don´t miss Avenida Alvear, it is plenty of very nice buildings of the 19th century ...

JACKSON BLISS 水と魂 said...

Dale Pablo,

I'll go check them out sometime soon I hope.

Peace,

--j2b