APRIL 15 – M – Mausoleum
A mausoleum is essentially a free-standing tomb or crypt where a body is buried. Think back to the days when you studied Romeo and Juliet; essentially, Juliet was buried in the Capulet crypt, or mausoleum, waking to find herself surrounded by the real dead bodies of her relatives and her beloved. That is a damn spooky scene, and now that I’ve seen such buildings holding the dead first hand, I have a whole new appreciation of her terror and turmoil! In Argentina people are generally buried just like we are in North America, but in Buenos Aires there is the infamous Recoleta Cemetery of mausoleums – a mini city of the dead – where the wealthy families are buried, along with the controversial burial of Argentina’s beloved first lady – Eva Peron – Evita!
The soap opera saga has the legendary Evita finally laid to rest in Recoleta Cemetery, by President Peron’s second wife, and the then President of the country, Isabelle – twenty-four years after Evita’s death. Essentially she was hidden in an anonymous grave in Italy for years, plus had some other heralding experiences as a corpse. Isabelle brought Evita back to Argentina, to Recoleta, in the hope of quelling the peoples political unrest. Of course the irony continues with that Evita – the first lady of a Socialist government, and the hero of the poor – is now resting in in the tomb of her family (although her birthright is questionable too), in the cemetery of the rich, the same upper class who despised her! Read the whole story here!
The legend of Evita lures millions of people into the cemetery every year, but it is the beauty, serenity, architecture, sculptures, and gothic awe (and a wee bit of the hibby-jibbies) of the whole memorial town that keep people like me in the walled city of the dead for hours! I never really knew what to expect other than mini-houses with the dead buried inside. What I never expected was that you can actually look in windows and see the actual coffins, the alters, the decor, the urns! There you are face-to-face with actual coffins! And you can feel the energy in the place with moments of glee, moments of solemnity, moments of sorrow, and moments of chills. Lacking a more intellectual phrase – it was totally freaky!
What was really eerie was how many of the mausoleums had broken windows and doors making us think the walking dead and phantoms had escaped! If I had dared – as this video shows – I could have entered some! This videographer was someone who was brave enough and sacrilegious enough to enter an unlocked mausoleum; it certainly wasn’t me – hell, no way! Although my friend Gina tried to look like she was entering one for a photo, until dew/rain dripped on her head leaving her screaming that body juices were hitting her!
Another moment of hilarity was when we saw the “direct TV” satellite atop a tomb! Upon further investigation we discovered a custodial closet behind the tomb and realized it was the custodians TV! Phew! I was a bit concerned that people were being buried with televisions on.
Essentially, Recoleta Cemetery is a haunting place and an architectural wonder of pure beauty that it must be experienced! Some mausoleums were just lined with caskets, others had religious alters for prayer, some were garden houses, some displayed cherished items from the life of the beloved one who had passed on, and others even had chairs for prayer and solemn visitations. Some were in pristine condition carefully maintained with great love and care, while others fell into complete disrepair and neglect. It was fascinating!
My daughter Tulia and I think that I should get a mausoleum when I die. Just a cozy little one will do! One that looks like a romantic gothic library inside. I would want it to house my ashes in the cosy library space – one where people can enter, curl up, and read to me! Outside my mausoleum I’d like a garden that attracts butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees with a statue and fountain. Tulia thinks there should also be an espresso maker in the mausoleum – I think she is onto something here!