The Day of the Dead

 

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Is it true that if you spend long enough in a cemetery the dead will talk to you?

One of the places to visit in Buenos Aires is the cemetery in Recoleta, like Brompton or Highgate it is monumental with rows of family mausoleums like rows of retirement bungalows and each containing a stair down to the coffins in the basement, where there is a constant humidity and coolness for the bodies to stay preserved in their death gowns.

This particular cemetery is home to many of Argentinas presidents, lawyers, architects, statesmen, princes and princess. People from the past that have shaped Argentina and the world, one Eva Peron lies in the Familia Duarte mausoleum and at night is said to walk down the narrow lanes looking for the Casa Rosada.

What is unusual today is as we approach the huge white portico entrance we are met by a woman who just seems to appear in front of us, she is skeletal and thin and her clothes barely fit, as she floats towards us she greets us in a perfect English accent, uncanny almost royal sounding. ‘Hello’ she breathes, then describes the layout of the cemetery.

She points to people and places and describes the souls that lie here, she hands us a map and tells us of her previous life living in London where she spent time in Kensington and Knightsbridge, Mayfair and Chelsea, was this where she learned her distinct royal accent? As she speaks we can see that her teeth are black, her eyes are grey and hollow and her hair hangs limp and colourless.

She asks us to promise that on our return to London we eat a chunky kit-Kat as in her previous life these were her favourite.

We are suddenly standing in the middle of the cemetery and she is gone.

We follow her map which takes us through the labyrinth of graves, some doors are open a gap and you can see stained glass, a stair down or an upper coffin, a baby’s coffin lies on the floor of one, secret doors and hatches line the wall of another.

One man Queroga is buried upright as a sign of courage, Rufina Camboceres was buried alive after a cateleptic attack, she managed to prise her coffin open then died during the night from a heart attack.

We then happen upon Liliana in the 17th section, born 10 March 1944, she married an Austrian and went to Innsbruck skiing, there was a snow storm that blocked the roads preventing their return in February, while they were asleep one night a massive avalanche fell on their hotel, the husband escaped but Liliana was entangled in the sheets, she was rescued but died later on 26 February 1970, her mother brought her back home and she is buried in her wedding dress, housed in a modern gothic mausoleum with her dog.

Then there is Evita, in her black granite tomb, brass plaques tell who is inside and a constant supply of flowers cover the doors.

As we find ourselves back at the gate our English friend reappears from the side, she tells us Liliana’s story as if she knows her, we ask her name and she replies ‘just call me D, Lady D.

Mark, Recoleta, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 14 January 2017

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3 Responses to The Day of the Dead

  1. Cath says:

    Love a bit of funearel art …. and your encounter with Lady D, well, who knew she liked a chunky Kit Kat?! Very enjoyable write up and lovely pics.

  2. Kaz says:

    I KNEW it. I knew it from the beginning.
    I bet you didn’t notice the male in some of ur pics?.. at first I thought it was just a shadow, dancing in the afternoon sun and tricking me with its clever imagery, but no, definitely a male. The mirrored sunglasses hid the hollow eyes, the glistening black leather jacket disguised the thin frame. I’m surprised you didn’t mention him, didn’t hear his careless whisper as he followed your steps.
    Great read!