Día de la Revolución de Mayo Buenos Aires

Néstor and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner

Néstor and Cristina Kirchner

May 25th is important to the Argentine people. It’s the date in 1810 when a junta took over from the Spanish Viceroyalty and the country declared independence from Spain. I knew Buenos Aires would celebrate their independence day but didn’t know exactly what to expect.

La Cámpora Demonstration

25th de Mayo Marchers

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T-Shirts Néstor & Cristina Kirchner, Juan Peron

Monday morning I went into the city center to find a local artist – Bastién – and maybe buy a painting. It was quiet in Recoleta and I took the subway which was surprisingly empty. I figured people were hanging out at home taking it easy on the national holiday. Imagine my surprise (yikes) stepping out of the Cathedral subway station and being surrounded by thousands of people in the streets!

La Cámpora

La Cámpora

It wasn’t clear if people were getting an early start celebrating Argentina’s independence from Spain or reacting to current political events in Buenos Aires. This is an election year and there’s speculation about who will succeed President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. She has served the maximum two consecutive terms allowed by Argentina’s constitution.

Frente Para La Victoria

Frente Para La Victoria

Politicians from the Front for Victory proposed an amendment to Argentina’s constitution to allow unlimited re-elections. Opposition resisted the proposal and it did not pass in Congress.

As mentioned in an earlier post, an appellate court recently dismissed a criminal case against Kirchner and her supporters accusing them of “conspiring to hide Iranian officials’ involvement in a bombing in Buenos Aires in 1994″. The New York Times published an article about the controversy in March. It’s a sore subject in Buenos Aires.

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Near Plaza de Mayo

From observation, people in Buenos Aires either support Kirchner or vehemently oppose her. There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground. I don’t know which side has more advocates – those for or against her? I’m not familiar with viable opposition candidates for the presidency – if there are any – but intend to research it.

A large number of President Kirchner’s staunchest supporters are part of a “super-charged youth movement” composed of young, outspoken students who are advocates of Peronism. I’ve seen them passing out pamphlets on street corners and even chatted with one student who spoke English.

Eva Peron

Eva Perón (Evita)

Juan Peron

Juan Perón

Héctor José Cámpora.

Héctor José Cámpora

Maximo Kirchner, son of Néstor and Cristina, created the political youth organization known as La Cámpora. The group is sometimes called “Cristina’s soldiers”. La Cámpora supports the governments of Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. The group formed in 2003 and was named after former Peronist President Héctor José Cámpora.

La Cámpora became politically influential in 2010, after President Néstor Kirchner died of a heart attack. There are interesting articles about La Cámpora including one from the Southern Pacific Review based in Santiago, Chile and another from The Bubble, a local Buenos Aires news organization.

Fireworks Plaza de Mayo

Fireworks Plaza de Mayo

Never thought I’d get caught up in a demonstration. In all my travels I’ve tried to avoid them. One close call was while visiting Athens in May 2013. My hotel was near Syntagma Square, the frontline of Greek European Union austerity protests. The sight of riot police in full gear and the sound of thousands of demonstrators is unforgettable.

Getting unexpectedly caught up in a large group of excited people happens quickly. I’ve never experienced anything like it. Once I got swallowed up there was no way out. If you exited the Cathedral subway station at the wrong time, like I did, you were swept up in the crowd whether you wanted to be or not.

Tango Dancers 25th Mayo Celebration

Tango Dancers 25th Mayo Celebration

Maximo Kirchner

Maximo Kirchner

Kirchner’s supporters were raucous. They belted out chants while being egged on by their leaders. There wasn’t any violence, at least I didn’t see any. It was the sheer number of people and their intense passion that was scary. I kept hoping things would calm down, but they got louder. The number of people in the group was increasing. They just kept coming.

Families were dealing with young children who were crying and terrified of the growing crowd. The largest gathering was near the main square and government buildings between Avenidas De Mayo and Rivadavia. These major avenues intersect near the Casa Rosada (Presidential Palace), the State Intelligence Bureau, City Hall, and Plaza de Mayo.

25th Mayo Celebration

25th Mayo Celebration

25th de Mayo Celebration

La Cámpora formed a human wall around their demonstrators who were carrying banners mounted on bamboo poles. After about an hour, I spotted an escape route and sneaked away.

Around 7:00 p.m. President Kirchner addressed the Argentine Nation from Plaza de Mayo. After her speech, the “Party of the People’s Nation” continued until midnight with music, fireworks, and other festive activities. Over one million people attended.

I’ll think twice before exiting another subway station ;o) but what an interesting day!

Notorious Jazz Club Buenos Aires

Notorious Jazz Club

Notorious is a popular jazz club in Buenos Aires. From the outside it looks like a CD store. Once you’re inside, the storefront leads down a corridor to a jazz club and restaurant in the back. The club is on Avenida Callao (pronounced cashhou) a few blocks from my apartment in Recoleta.

Notorious Jazz Club

Notorious Jazz Club

I stopped by to check it out and bought a ticket for last night’s jazz session. Notorious is open every day of the week, from 9:30 p.m. onwards. Tickets are necessary for the early performance but a late show begins at around 1:00 a.m., no ticket required.

A few groups are regular performers at Notorious. La Fusa de Vinicius De Morales is a group of Brazilian and Argentine musicians led by singer Josi Dias. They play the music of poet and Brazilian musician Vinicius de Morales. Morales is a primary figure in Brazilian contemporary music.

The legendary album Vinicius in La Fusa, recorded in Buenos Aires, is the biggest selling album of Brazilian music in Argentina. Morales collaborated with many Brazilian performers, including popular Brazilian singer and guitarist Toquinho.

Jorge Anders

Jorge Anders

I bought a ticket to hear the Jorge Anders Jazz Orchestra. Jorge Anders beautifully recreates the music of Duke Ellington’s swing band. Anders composed arrangements for the Duke Ellington Orchestra between 1982 and 1987. He made his début in Buenos Aires and then moved to New York where he and his quartet became part of the mainstream jazz scene.

Anders released albums in the United States and Argentina. The Jorge Anders Jazz Orchestra consists of 4 trumpets, 3 trombones, an alto sax, 2 tenor saxophones, a baritone sax, piano, double bass, drums, and a female singer from Brooklyn New York. The pieces they played last night highlighted the incredible skills of each member of the orchestra.

Jorge Andes Jazz Orchestra

Jorge Andes Jazz Orchestra

It’s awkward going out alone at night but since the club is near my apartment it seemed a great idea. It was one of the most pleasant evenings I’ve spent on this trip. You couldn’t ask for a mellower group – the artists performing and the fun audience. The sold out performance was an eclectic crowd in age and appearance – 20s to 70s. The music was flawless – fantastic group of musicians who played impeccable, incredible jazz!

The added attraction was the handsome and hilarious waiters who danced their way back and forth to the tables they were waiting. There wasn’t room for dancing but some people were dancing in their chairs!

La Boca Neighborhood Buenos Aires

Street Art

La Boca Street Art

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Street Scene

La Boca

La Boca

La Boca is one of the last neighborhoods I’ve explored in Buenos Aires. It’s a long walk through traffic and crowded streets. None of the subway lines go there, so I had to overcome a hesitancy to take Buenos Aires buses. The packed buses are sporadic and it’s hard to find the pickup points – some marked, others not.

Yesterday I hopped on the number 29 which passes from Recoleta through Monserrat, San Telmo, and La Boca. The first time I caught the 29 it took almost an hour to maneuver through bottlenecked traffic and get across town to La Boca. By the time we arrived it was late afternoon and almost dark outside. Yesterday I went earlier and the trip was painless and faster.

Tango Dancers

Tango Dancers

La Boca isn’t my favorite part of Buenos Aires. It’s unique but very touristy and a bit dangerous. It’s a poor area rich in history and creativity. The 29 bus had a strong vibe. Some of the people were scary. Others had worn faces and tired looking eyes, maybe indicating a hectic day or a hard life.

On the first bus ride to Boca I sat next to a woman holding a small child – both seemed to be fast asleep. Magically they woke up the moment the bus arrived at their stop.

Yesterday I waited for the bus with a group of people including four friends who were entertaining everyone at the bus stop. They were funny and even with malo Español I caught a few of their jokes. Everyone was laughing.

It’s a holiday weekend in Argentina. Monday, May 25, is Argentina’s Independence Day. Major plazas are blocked off for festivals and streets are teeming with fast-moving pedestrians.

Benito Marti

Benito Marti, Artist

La Boca is on Riachuelo River, a small inlet of Rio de la Plata. The port of Riachuelo and a railroad, Vuelta de Rocha, are key elements of the neighborhood. Most La Boca residents are descendants of Italian immigrants from Genova. They speak with a Genoese or Xeneize dialect.

Genoese immigrants settled in La Boca in the early 1900s. They built their houses on high sidewalks to protect them from river flooding. Many of the buildings have wrought iron balconies and the people painted their homes in bright, spectacular colors using leftover paint from the dockyard.

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Building Art

La Boca is a popular area for local artists. One of the most visited and photographed tourist spots is Caminito, a street with colorful murals and graffiti. Many artists display their work there. Caminito is famous for markets that sell art, souvenirs, and other local merchandise. Leather goods at La Boca markets are cheaper than anywhere else in Buenos Aires.

Puente Nicolas Avellaneda

Puente Nicolas Avellaneda

Along the river boardwalk are the Foundación Proa, a modern exhibition center, and the Fine Arts Museum of La Boca. Foundación Proa hosts six contemporary art shows a year featuring works from Argentina and abroad. They also conduct art workshops, courses, conferences, and concerts. The Fine Arts Museum displays the work of beloved artist Benito Quinquela Martí, considered a “son of La Boca neighborhood”.

In 1890 nuns found infant Benito opposite the door of the House of Abandoned Children, an orphanage. He lived at the orphanage until a family adopted him. As an artist Martí worked on Theater La Ribera and Bridge Nicolás Avellaneda, named after Nicolás Avellaneda president of Argentina 1874-1880.

Churches in La Boca include beautiful San Juan El Evangelista and the Sanctuary Nuestra Señora Madre de los Emigrants which pays tribute to immigrants who arrived in Argentina from different countries. You see statues and caricatures of Pope Francis, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, throughout La Boca. The people of Buenos Aires are very proud of their Cardinal who became Pope.

La Boca has abundant tango studios and Italian taverns. Dancers often perform in cafes and on the street. The restaurant where I stopped for lunch had fantastic live tango and flamenco dancers. After their performances the dancers circulated throughout the restaurant to talk with people and collect tips.

Soccer is a major force in La Boca. Soccer highlights are the popular Club Boca Juniors soccer team and La Bombonera (chocolate box) stadium. Boca Juniors is regarded as the club of Argentina’s working class. Many famous soccer players, including Juan Román Riquelme and Carlos Tévez, came from Boca Juniors. La Bombonera stadium holds 50,000 spectators and is also used for concerts. The Museo de la Pasion Boquense monument idolizes the famed La Boca soccer team.

It was an interesting day and I learned many new things about Buenos Aires!

Piazzolla Tango Performance Buenos Aires

Piazzolla Tango Performance

Astor Pantaleón Piazzolla

Astor Pantaleón Piazzolla

Last night I attended a tango performance in Galería Güemes, a restored Belle Époque building in Buenos Aires.  The Art Noveau design is gorgeous and the building has a gallery, apartments, offices, and restaurants as well as the tango theater and cabaret.

Galleria Güemes

Galleria Güemes

The Four Seasons of Tango by Piazzolla Tango was performed in the Galeria’s underground theater. The performance featured the traditional songs of Astor Piazzolla, the world’s foremost composer of Tango music.

Tango Dancers

Tango Dancers

The Argentine version of tango requires great physical strength and the power and energy of the wonderful dancers was impressive! The show lasted two hours with amazing music, dancing, and singing.

The performance included twenty vignettes accompanied by musicians – two bandoneons, two violins, a bass, and a piano. In between tangos, singers performed solos and passionate duets. Each tango was unique with spectacular costumes and lighting.

Astor Pantaleón Piazzolla

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Galleria Güemes

Carlos Gardel

Carlos Gardel

Astor Pantaleón Piazzolla was born in 1921 in Argentina. When he was a boy his family moved to New York where Astor’s father gave him a bandoneón (similar to an accordion). He took lessons and became a virtuoso.

Astor Pantaleón Piazzolla

Astor Pantaleón Piazzolla

In New York Astor met Argentine actor and singer Carlos Gardel, famous for his tango ballads. Gardel became a close family friend. He hired Astor as a translator and encouraged him to become an actor.

Astor made a short appearance in one of Gardel’s tango movies – El Día Que Me Quieras (The Day You Love Me). The small part introduced him to classical Tango and the many ways tango could be expressed. Astor became the bandoneonist and composer who changed tango music forever by incorporating elements from jazz and classical music.

Galleria Güemes

Galleria Güemes

Tango Dancers

Tango Dancers

Piazzolla’s family returned to Argentina in 1936. Astor started playing in bands and joined several famous orchestras. He continued producing experimental compositions through the 40s and 50s. During the 60s through the 90s he perfected his controversial style and performed all over the world. In June 1983, Piazzolla proudly played a program dedicated to his music at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires.

The extraordinary performance last night inspired me to take a few tango lessons before leaving Buenos Aires. It will be a fun experience. During the time here I’ve seen the presence of tango everywhere. Buenos Aires and tango are inseparable – exciting city, exciting dance.

Since the performance ended late I decided to take a taxi and not ride the subway. At night the city lights in Buenos Aires are magic and it was a lovely ride home!

Teatro Colón Opera House Buenos Aires

Teatro Colón Concert Hall

Teatro Colón Concert Hall

Frescoes

Frescoes

I’ve been looking forward to attending a performance at Teatro Colón, one of the world’s most famous opera houses. I’ll miss prime ballet, opera, and symphony productions but got tickets for two drastically different off-season performances.

Breve Sueño

Stained Glass

Stained Glass

Breve Sueño (Short Dream) was performed for a small audience in Theater Colón’s basement studio. It’s one of several “new work” performances commissioned by the Center for Experimentation Teatro Colón (CETC).

The performance, Short Sleep, is described as a “diptych made up of the work – Beyond – by composer Patricia Martínez in collaboration with choreographer Mélanie Alfie”. The avant-garde piece was modern dance with some theater, singing, and percussion accompaniment. The interesting production is difficult to describe but I enjoyed it. Many in the small crowd of about 200 were friends of the performers.

Mozarteum Argentino

Main Hall

Grand Stairway

Mozarteum Argentino, a private, non-profit musical institution in Argentina, organizes special performances at Teatro Colón. They provide scholarships to some of Argentina’s most able musicians. The performing artists, Germany’s ATOS Trio, were magnificent!

ATOS Trio has only been playing together for a few years, but they’ve already won many awards. Some members of the group have played at Carnegie Hall and this is their second appearance at Teatro Colón. Last night they played trios from Haydn, Mendelssohn, and Dvořák. The group consists of Annette von Hehn – violin, Stefan Heinemeyer – cello, and Thomas Hoppe – piano. The audience loved them and gave them a well-deserved standing ovation.

Teatro Colón History

Small Exterior Balcony

Small Exterior Balcony

Teatro Colón opened May 25, 1908 with a performance of Verdi’s Aida. The theater became one of the world’s premiere opera centers. Over the years Teatro Colón hosted many notable composers, performers, and conductors, including Italian Arturo Toscanini, French opera singer Jane Bathori, Italian tenor Enrico Caruso, Greek soprano Maria Callas, legendary Luciano Pavarotti, and Argentine Tango bandoneon maestro Astor Piazzolla.

Teatro Colón Gold Room

Teatro Colón Gold Room

Beginning in 2005 the Colón went through four years of extensive renovation. The theater reopened on May 25, 2010, the 200th anniversary of Argentina’s May Revolution and the country’s split from Spain.

The renovated Colón was to reopen two years earlier on May 25th, 2008, the 100th anniversary of the first opening of the theater. Renovations took twice as long to finish and cost four times more than expected.

ATOS Trio

ATOS Trio

Teatro Colón’s history is dramatic. The original opening in 1908 was almost twenty years after construction began in 1889. A series of tragedies complicated and delayed the originally scheduled opening.

The project director, Italian architect Francesco Tamburini, died soon after construction began. His friend and associate, architect Vittorio Meano, took over. Shortly after, Meano was murdered in a love triangle quarrel. Then, a third Italian architect, Angelo Ferrari, took on the project. Ferrari was assassinated and followed the other two men to the grave!

Soldi Frescoes

Soldi Fresco

After the three dramatic deaths, a Belgian architect, Julio Dormal, finished the project. Dormal also managed construction of other grand Buenos Aires buildings, including the Confiteria Richmond on Florida Street.

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Soldi Fresco

Perfect acoustics are one of Teatro Colón’s main attractions. The sound “reaches every audience member perfectly – no matter where you are sitting”. The beautiful ceiling frescoes surrounding the stage are not the originals which were damaged by moisture in the 1930s. Argentine Muralist Raúl Soldi repainted the frescoes in 1966. Soldi’s work is also found on the ceiling of the huge Galerias Pacifico shopping center.

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Stained Glass Hallway

Ceiling Frescoes

Ceiling Fresco

The concerts at Teatro Colón will remain fond memories of my time in Buenos Aires. It will be exciting to be here for the 2015 Día de la Revolución de Mayo celebration. This national holiday in Argentina is always celebrated on May 25th, regardless of the day of the week. It honors the First Independent Government in Buenos Aires formed on May 25, 1810 after a small revolution took place.

“The May Revolution wasn’t so much a revolution but more a series of political and social events in Buenos Aires. During the early part of the nineteenth century those events led to the first local government not designated by the Spanish Crown in the region known as the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata, which contained the present-day nations of Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay.”

Colonia del Sacramento Uruguay

Basílica del Santísmo

Basílica del Santísmo Colonia del Sacramento

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Cobblestone Street Colonia del Sacramento

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Renovated Building

I spent Friday exploring Colonia del Sacramento, the only Portuguese settlement along the Rio de la Plata. In the 1600s Colonia was the focus of a struggle between the Spanish and Portuguese over control of the area. Colonia is one of the world’s best examples of early Spanish and Portuguese architecture.

Bull Fighting Ring

Bull Fighting Ring

In the 1600s Colonia was a walled port city dealing in contraband and evading the Spanish crown’s trade rules. Today it’s a sleepy resort on the Bay of Colonia del Sacramento – an agricultural and textile trade center and free trade zone (FTZ).

In Colonia del Sacramento you can use USD, Euros, ARS (Argentine Pesos), or UYU (Uruguayan Pesos). ATMs dispense US dollars as well as local currency. Many Argentinians make regular trips to Colonia to get USD which they exchange on the black market.

Tree-Lined Street

Tree-Lined Street

Restored House and Antique Truck

Restored House & Antique Truck

Boats run daily between Buenos Aires and Colonia. The 8:30 a.m. boat (Buquebus) was packed with mostly Argentine tourists. The ride from Buenos Aires along Rio de la Plata takes about an hour each way on a fast boat and three hours via a slower less expensive one. Passengers were not allowed on the outside deck.

I was a bit groggy Friday. On Thursday demonstrations spilled over from Central Buenos Aires into nearby Cordoba Avenue in Recoleta. Listening to the demonstrators late at night and again early in the morning made it difficult to sleep. While in Buenos Aires I’ve experienced demonstrations knotting up traffic in parts of the city. The demonstrators know how to cause pandemonium. Whatever their demonstrations were about, hope they accomplished something other than disturbing Recoleta residents.

There are interesting historical attractions in Colonia del Sacramento, including:

  • Puerta de la Ciudadela, a drawbridge built in 1745 to safeguard the city
  • Bastion del Carmen, a cultural center that was once a factory and wharf
  • El Faro Lighthouse constructed in 1857 of stones from the ruins of a convent
  • Museo Portuguese with Portuguese architecture and furnishing artifacts
  • Plaza de Toros bull ring built in 1910 which saw only 8 bullfights before bullfighting was prohibited in 1912
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Café in Colonia del Sacramento

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Marina

Colonia del Sacramento is an artful restoration of an original colonial city. Homes, gardens, and parks dating back to the 1600s have been meticulously restored to their original grandeur. The trees and antique cars throughout the city are spectacular and the weather is temperate all year. One of the most popular and romantic places to stay in Colonia is Plaza Posada Mayor, a beautifully restored colonial hotel. Colonia reminds me of a smaller, more conservative Cartagena, Columbia with fewer tourists.

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Boat Dock

“Built in the Portuguese style of houses and cobblestoned streets, the historic part of Colonia is reminiscent of old Lisbon with winding streets and colorful houses. The historic quarter, Barrío Historico, on a small peninsula jutting out into the river, was named a UNESCO heritage site in 1995.”

Colonia Restaurant & Cafe

Colonia Restaurant & Cafe

It was a mellow, quiet day in a colorful place of historical significance. The weather was clear, in the mid-70s, and perfect for walking around in such a pleasant atmosphere. I chatted with some of the other passengers on the boat and then along with many others fell asleep on the way back to Buenos Aires! Some passengers went crazy over the duty-free shop and almost bought it out. There were many bargains compared to the high prices in Buenos Aires.

Recoleta Cemetery Buenos Aires

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Crosses Against the Sky

Visiting Cementerio de la Recoleta is unforgettable. The cemetery has tombs and elaborate mausoleums of notable Argentinians including presidents, Nobel Prize winners, writers, poets, priests, military men, statesmen, Eva Perón, and a granddaughter of Napoleon.

It’s known as one of the world’s most beautiful cemeteries and a “relevant historical and artistic monument of Argentina”. Its residents “lie in silent testimony honored by the presence of thousands of Argentine and foreign visitors who enjoy a truly magnificent human creation”.

The cemetery is set on 14 acres in Recoleta and cordoned off by a brick wall. The tombs in the cemetery create an eerie yet mesmerizing symmetrical pattern of crosses and angels spread out on the sky.

Cat Caretaker

Cat Caretaker

Most people find that visiting the cemetery one time isn’t enough. Having a guide walk with you to point out the details of some of the more interesting mausoleums is worthwhile. There is so much history, art, and symbolism in the cemetery it’s difficult to comprehend.

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Mausoleum of Historiographer Bartolomé Mitre

The tombs are close to each other and depending on the time of day and weather, getting good photos can be difficult. Some of the tombs are marble and others stone. A few stray cats live in the cemetery and are known as the cemetery “caretakers”. The groundskeepers must feed them as they are friendly and healthy.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The cemetery was built around the convent gardens of the Jesuit Order of the Recoletos Monks who lived in the area in the early eighteenth century. Beautiful Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Pilar built in 1732 is part of the grounds.

250px-Argentina,_Recoleta_cemetery,_looking_up_at_tombsRecoleta Cemetery became the first public cemetery in Buenos Aires In 1822. Governor Martin Rodríguez and government minister Bernardino Rivadavia were responsible for creating the cemetery. A French civil engineer designed the original layout and an Italian architect remodeled the cemetery layout in 1881.

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250px-Recoleta-tower-TMThe cemetery has 4,691 vaults, all above ground. Ninety-four of the vaults are National Historical Monuments protected by the Argentine government. Entrance to the cemetery is through striking neo-classical gates with tall Doric columns.

250px-Buenos_Aires_-_Cementerio_de_la_Recoleta_-_20090104-17OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe elaborate marble mausoleums have decorative statues in a variety of architectural styles such as Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Baroque, and Neo-Gothic. Between 1880 and 1930 most materials used to build tombs were imported from Paris and Milan.

The design of each mausoleum reflects the life of the family or person buried. Many are breathtakingly beautiful. The cemetery is laid out in sections like city blocks, with walkways branching into sidewalks filled with mausoleums.

 Our Lady of Pilar

Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Pilar

Recoleta Cemetery Walls

Recoleta Cemetery Walls

Among the memorials are works by Argentine sculptors like Lola Mora and Luis Perlotti. The unusual tomb of Liliana Crociati de Szaszak is of special interest. Many flock to the tomb of Evita and the Duarte family which is beautiful but not the most impressive.

The grounds are well maintained and most of the mausoleums are in good condition. A few of the older ones are crumbling and need repair. Sadly, a few have broken glass and litter.