Skull and crossed bones image at La Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina

It was a dark and stormy night . . . .

Well, not really. When we first visited the world-famous La Recoleta cemetery in Buenos Aires, it was a beautiful, sunny spring morning. Even so, my first impression was that La Recoleta was the creepiest place I’d ever seen. But as we wandered around, gobsmacked by the incredibly ornate mausoleums in every state of repair and disrepair, I began to feel more reflective. It doesn’t really matter how much money your family spends on an elaborate tomb – once you’re gone, you’re gone. And eventually, our earthly remains all end up in the same state whether we’re in a stunning marble monument created by the best Italian sculptors of the day, or a pine box in the ground. It’s all just . . . . (sorry, Kansas) . . . dust in the wind.

We spent eight days in Buenos Aires in 2016 as part of a bigger trip to Argentina and Uruguay, and La Recoleta Cemetery was a big highlight. Here’s the official website with more information about visiting the cemetery.

These are the La Recoleta stories that moved us the most.

The Horror Story

Tomb of Rufina Cambaceres, La Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos AiresHonestly, I want to take this one with a grain of salt. It’s the kind of story your crazy uncle might tell around the campfire to try and freak everyone out. But it’s so lurid that it’s probably true.

Once there was a teenage girl named Rufina Cambaceres who suffered from a type of epilepsy that could render her unconscious for hours at a time. On an evening in 1902, while preparing to go out with her mother, Rufina had a seizure. Many hours later, it appeared that she had finally died – and this was confirmed by at least two doctors. Rufina was laid to rest in La Recoleta.

As the weeks went by, there were rumors of strange noises coming from Rufina’s tomb, and cemetery workers found the lid to her coffin slightly ajar (are your hairs standing on end yet?). When they finally decided to investigate, they discovered scratch marks on the inside of the coffin lid and on her face. Apparently she had come to, panicked, and tried to claw her way out. When she couldn’t escape, she finally succumbed to a heart attack.

Poor Rufina’s mother was so overcome with guilt and grief that she laid her to rest in a fabulous new tomb – a stunningly elegant example of the Art Nouveau style of the period. At the door of the tomb stands a marble statue of Rufina. She’s standing outside with her hand on the latch, because her mother wanted her never to feel trapped again.

Liliana Crociati de Szaszak tomb at La Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires

The Heiress

Liliana Crociati de Szaszak died tragically in an avalanche in Innsbruck, Austria in 1970. She was only 26, and she was on her honeymoon. Her overcome parents laid her to rest in a lovely Gothic Revival tomb and commissioned a bronze statue of Liliana in her wedding dress.

When Lilliana’s beloved dog died a few years later, his statue was added and he was also buried in the crypt, against cemetery rules (apparently it’s OK to inter pet ashes, but not pet bodies). A couple of levels down in the tomb, where Liliana’s casket rests, is a to-scale replica of her bedroom completely with Persian rugs and silk cushions.

Lillana had some company from a feral cat the day we were there. Visitors have petted the dog’s nose to a sheen.



The Woman With a Grudge

Tiburcia Dominguez de del Carril was the wife of Salvador M. del Carril, a prominent politician – and she was quite a shopaholic. Apparently her spending was so out of control that her husband finally took out an ad in the paper saying he was no longer responsible for her debts. She never forgave him, and although they stayed married until his death 30 years later, they never spoke to each other again. In her will, Tiburcia specified that she should be buried in her husband’s tomb but in a separate vault, and her marble likeness should face away from his. BURN.

The PugilistTomb of Luis Ángel Firpo, La Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires

In the 1920s, Luis Ángel Firpo was Argentina’s most famous prize fighter. In one of the sport’s most famous and controversial fights, Firpo challenged Jack Dempsey for the world heavyweight championship in 1923.

Firpo almost won when he knocked Dempsey out of the ring. Apparently Dempsey had a little more help getting back into the ring than was really legal, and there was some question about the speed of the count (the referee had counted four but it was more like 14).

Despite the charges of a rigged match, Dempsey hung onto his title.




The Final Rest

For many of us, Eva “Evita” Perón needs no introduction, as the first lady of Argentina from 1946 until her untimely death from cancer in 1952. Depending on who you talk to, she was either a whore who slept her way to power and (together with her husband Juan Perón) destroyed the Argentina economy, or a saint and champion of the poor whose programs benefit Argentine citizens to this day (a fact). No one has a neutral opinion about Evita.

When she died in 1952, Evita’s body became a political football. It’s a long and fascinating story – just Google it – but the upshot is that the corpse traveled to Europe and back and got passed around quite a bit before finally ending up in the Duarte family tomb in La Recoleta (she was a Duarte before she was a Perón).

Compared to the grandeur of many of the tombs here, this one is rather underwhelming; not at all what you’d expect. Eva’s final resting place is five meters down in a vault that’s supposedly designed to withstand a nuclear attack. At least, they CLAIM she’s there! Bwhahahahaha!

La Recoleta is easily one of our favorite places in Buenos Aires. Here are more pics of this beautiful, peaceful, and yes, haunting place.

(Mouse over images for captions, and you can also click through them in “slide show” format.)

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  1. What an amazing post, you two. It seems we learn a bunch of cool stuff every time. A real-estate agent who specializes in used tombs? Who knew? Suppose there’s an MLS listing for those things? Location, location… My favorite is the epileptic girl and her pseudo demise. If that’s a true story, it really does shiver your spine. And the whole thing lends itself so well to your great photography. Well done, and keep ’em coming!

    P.S. Thx again for yesterday’s adventure.

      • You’re right Susan, we will be making that trip in 2017. My dad was a sexton while I was growing up, so I absolutely love cemeteries. By wasn’t sure what to make of my affinity for stopping & wandering through graveyards when we first started dating. Now he just knows we’ll likely be seeing a cemetery or two in our travels. Mariah

  2. Mike Potts Reply

    Another literary home run and how appropriate for Halloween.  Great writing and great photos.  Well done on all fronts.  I’m impressed!


    Sent from Samsung tablet.

  3. Great post! Looks like we are going to have a very hard time doing what we want in BA when we go…..seeing it is on New Years Eve! Apparently, according to Orlando, not too many people want to do anything on that day. Maybe we can at least hail a taxi and have him take us to the cemetery and back to the port at the very least. I have an email enquiry in to 2 tour businesses that Orlando suggested. Guy

    On Sun, Oct 30, 2016 at 4:16 PM, Latitude Adjustment wrote:

    > Latitude Adjustment: Two Wanderers in Panama posted: ” Not really. The > first time we visited the world-famous La Recoleta cemetery in Buenos > Aires, it was a beautiful, sunny spring morning (since we were there in > late September, right on the cusp of winter into spring for that latitude). > My first impression” >

  4. Oh, every time I read one of your posts, I say, “This is my favorite.” But, THIS post is truly my favorite by far. I love cemeteries and am always fascinated by the stories. These stories are fitting for Halloween. Thanks for sharing.

  5. candice chrestman Reply

    Wow! I got me some Halloween chills! Gorgeous pics and a great story! Thanks for sharing!

  6. Sue Leverton Reply

    What a wonderful trip. I love cemeteries…cremation sure lacks theatre.

  7. I have never thought of visiting a cemetery but La Recoleta is certainly a must visit…What stories you have got there…especially about Rufina..

  8. Oh..I’d like to share this post on twitter. Do you have a twitter account? Then I can mention you as the author of the post.

  9. Pingback: Havana has cemetery stories, too | Latitude Adjustment

  10. Really interesting stories! I shoud had read this post before visited the cemetary :3

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  12. Oh my, what a timely post! I love Recoleta too, and especially the ghost stories. We must have been on a similar tour (Free Walking Tours?) as we were treated to similar versions of these stories. I’m sad that I missed the tomb you’ve described as sending shivers up your spine—it does!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Yes, we’re so glad we took a tour! And we barely scratched the surface of all the stories about that place. It’s on our long, long list to return to 🙂

      • So, I did read your post! It’s coming back to me. When you read so many great posts it’s hard to keep track of things. You’re right, it’s surprisingly similar to my post. Such an awesome place (who would have though a cemetery could be so cool).

  13. This is a really cool post! I normally like to visit cemeteries- bummed I missed this one in Argentina. I’d love to rub that pups nose!

  14. Sue Davies Reply

    Love the ghost stories. And the photos. Need to go visit Recoleta.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you!! Glad you enjoyed the post 🙂

  15. I absolutely love this post. This was one of our favorite places in Buenos Aires as well. The ghost stories are great, perfect timing for Halloween:)

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you so much, Bonnie! I’ll bet you have fantastic photos of La Recoleta 🙂

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks – glad you enjoyed it 🙂

  16. Loved this post the first time around and have wanted to visit this eerie place with its gorgeous tombs and ghostly tales ever since. I especially love the grudge tale. I wonder why they won’t let pet bodies be buried there. And that casket exposed to the sidewalk is seriously creepy.

  17. I loved this post the first time around and have wanted to visit this eerie place with its gorgeous tombs and ghostly tales ever since. I especially love the grudge tale. I wonder why they won’t let pet bodies be buried there. That casket exposed to the sidewalk is seriously creepy.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      I know, seriously creepy. I couldn’t believe I was looking at a pile of human ashes just sitting there. It’s so sad when people have such grand schemes for their final resting place, and then their tombs are completely neglected.

  18. Definitely don’t like the story of being buried alive! When my mum died and kept appearing in my dreams – my subconscious obviously was trying to explain her continued existence and in my dreams she was mad with me because we had buried her alive – but somehow got out to shout at me and make me feel terribly guilty 😉 Shelley x

  19. Heading to BA myself next year so certainly adding this to the to do list.
    Thanks so much for the advice 🙂

  20. How fascinating and creepy all at the same time. I still have hair standing on end from the first one and the thought that the daughter was buried alive!

  21. Love the stories from the crypt so to speak. I visited the Recoleta cemetery in the early 1990’s and was also astounded at the vast array and variety of resting places for the passed. I remember the endless avenues and streets in the cemetery making me envision it as a city for the deceased!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Such a fascinating place, isn’t it? I think we barely scratched the surface of the stories in Recoleta. Hope we can go back someday. Thanks for your comment!

  22. We are headed to Buenos Aires next month so I’m checking out your Argentina content. We are staying in Recoleta and I am very much looking forward to spending time in the cemetery. We love visiting cemeteries when we travel, because they are always so interesting, and I suspect this one may be the best yet! Especially with stories like these!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Hi – glad you liked the post! You will love La Recoleta. As I recall, we hired an English-speaking guide just outside the gates to the cemetery, and he was the one who shared these great stories. It’s well worth it to have a guide, but just wandering around on your own is great too. Enjoy your trip to BA!
      – Susan

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