I did it the wrong way round. First I went to the enormous city of the dead, Recoleta Cemetery, where you can see Evita’s tomb, a flat panel of black marble dedicated to the Family Duarte (Eva Peron’s family name) studded with gold plaques, tributes to the family’s most famous daughter. A group of camp black Americans pranced in front. ‘Do your stuff honey’, they cooed, as a tall, striking guy in jeans and a designer sweater posed and pouted for a cat call of photos. ‘You look fabulous’, his friends purred. And he did.
The whole place is rather fabulous. It’s full of dead people but it feels restful rather than gloomy. It’s packed with a riot of tombs laid out in streets, ranging from the simple to the ornate. Some are like miniature churches, complete with stained glass windows. One even seemed to have a vent, as though for a central heating boiler. Some of the tomb doors are eerily ajar, as though someone just popped out and is expected back. On one of my visits a caretaker was sitting wedged between two open tomb doors, like a little garden gnome, resting nonchalantly with a stack of coffins draped in white lace table cloths behind him. As a fellow traveller commented: ‘That is one cool cemetery’.
Then in back-to-front fashion I went to the Evita Museum, which celebrates her life (and also mourns her death). It’s in a classic early 20th century mansion, which Evita bought in 1948 through her Social Aid Foundation, to provide emergency temporary housing for homeless women with children. It has high ceilings, a wonderful dark wood floored, Moorish-style tiled upstairs hall, and smells a bit like jelly babies. The exhibition is interesting but saccharine-coated, to the point of almost beatifying her when her sister compares her to Jesus. Over the top, certainly, but it did leave me intrigued to know more about Argentina’s famous First Lady. Argentina’s current President is a woman, Cristina Kirchner (I’m ashamed to say I didn’t know that before I got here), and while I know nothing of her politics, I guess it’s a major leap forward since Eva Peron’s time, when she was the first presidential wife to be included in an official portrait. I kind’ve wish I’d seen the film now …
If you liked this, you might like:
- At home with Pablo Neruda, my post about Chile’s famous poet
- South America Exposed, my short review of Tate Modern’s photography exhibition
- Key to the City, my post on Open House London 2012