Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The overlooked Recoleta

The famous Recoleta cemetary is in Buenos Aires. You can marvel at the statuary, take the requiste photo beside Eva Peron Duarte's grave, and have a posh and overpriced lunch all in the course of a couple of hours. It's easy enough to find what you're looking for there in Buenos Aires. Stop walking for just a moment, and amid the scruffing of a cat beside the nearby crypt, you can hear the sound of a thousand cameras snapping. That's where you need to go.

There are no such crowds at "our" cemetary in Recoleta. Recoleta is an old, working-to-middle-class, centrally-located neighborhood in Santiago, and it houses a couple of cemetaries. A friend and I biked over to the "general cemetary" the other day to take pictures and enjoy some quiet. There's a mini history lesson to be had here. President's graves and a giant wall inscribed with the names of those disappeared and executed during the dictatorship.

But there's also just a whole lot of graves there. Mausoleums and crypts and those drawer-looking grids with plaques on the front, naming the difunto (deceased) inside. And what really grabbed my attention was how people use these jars, these household jars, that used to hold Nescafe or jam, or who knows what else, and they set them up on a ledge and put flowers in them to remember their loved ones. Jars. Nothing special, not a vase, nothing decorated or decoupaged or painted. Just jars. With flowers. And I couldn't help but wonder, now that everything comes in plastic envelopes or bags or plastic jars, what are people going to use to put flowers in?

2 comments:

Pam said...

I LOVE visiting cemeteries and taking pictures in them, though I often feel a little sheepish. I mean no disrespect, ever, and I wonder if it would be odd to stumble across someone snapping away at your loved one's last stop...

Thanks for this.

Eileen said...

You're welcome. That's kind of why I posted black and white picture. It seems more historical, more cataloguey than taking a picture of all the flowers etc. Though anyone who saw me take the picture wouldn't have known how or to what effect I was shooting it.

Thanks for commenting!