Recoleta is one of the most popular neighborhoods in the city, with its stylish century-old buildings, stately family mansions (many of which are now foreign embassies or hotels), high-end shopping, art galleries, fashionable boutiques and restaurants, new luxury hotels, tree-lined streets, and many beautiful parks and plazas. For these reasons, it has also become one of the city’s most popular tourist destinations.
The name of the neighborhood comes from the Monastery of the Recollect Fathers, members of the Franciscan Order which was established in the area at the beginning of the 18th century. In 1722, they founded a monastery and a church dedicated to Nuestra Señora del Pilar, with the cemetery attached. The Church became the center of the neighborhood.
Located next to the church, the Recoleta Cemetery is one of the main tourist attractions in the neighborhood. It is an outstanding display of nineteenth and twentieth-century funerary art and architecture, with private family crypts of the bourgeoisie and mausolea of the landowning classes. The Recoleta pathway is nearly the exact geographic center of the Recoleta neighborhood, and one of its highest points in the city that, at the end of the 19th century attracted wealthy families from the south of the city who sought to escape from the deadly yellow fever outbreak which began in 1871.
The remains of many figures in Argentine history can be found here in the cemetery, including Juan Bautista Alberdi, Manuel Dorrego, Bartolomé Mitre, Juan Manuel de Rosas, Cornelio Saavedra, Guillermo Brown, and Domingo Faustino Sarmiento. We learned that while the mausoleums are relatively small, almost all of them have several levels, and the family remains are stacked along the walls on top of each other. The matriarch and patriarch of the family is displayed on the first level, usually visible through the iron gate or glass window on the front of the structure.
Perhaps the most popular among the tombs is that of Eva Perón, whose grave is visited daily by large numbers of tourists and admirers of Peronism. Surprisingly, she is not entombed with her husband, President Juan Peron, but in the mausoleum of her immediate family.
The park in front of the Recoleta Cemetery has as one of its most notable features a 100-year old Rubber Tree, so large that it needs steel T-Bar supports for its long thick branches.