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