From the delights of the Delta Business Lounge in Atlanta, we board a plane to fly almost directly south for ten hours and find ourselves in the beautiful city of Buenos Aires where we will be spending the next two weeks. We have rented an apartment on line, persuaded by the photos and the friendly emails from the owner. We are not disappointed by the apartment or the owner who turns out to be a delightfully charming gay man with receding hair, tight jeans, twinkling eyes and a disarming smile. Three out of four works for me.
We arrive at nine in the morning, with a long day ahead of us. The possibility of spending our first day in a cemetery seems an odd choice but an obvious one. Not only is there a famous one conveniently nearby but it will provide a final resting place if the jet lag and loss of sleep gets the better of us.
We are just two blocks from the Recoleta Cemetery, a tourist destination mentioned in every guide book. Argentinians appear to be obsessed with death and it is hard to argue the point when standing outside the neo classical gates to this cemetery. Most westerners are happy if their final resting place has a nice bit of grass and a small engraved headstone. They are ecstatic if there are some nicely cut flowers in a vase, although that usually only lasts for a few weeks until their nearest and dearest forget about them.
Argentinians on the other hand require to be put to rest in a mausoleum the size of a small building, adorned with statuary, plaques and a lot of marble. Their cemeteries are like small cities, with narrow streets lined with these ornate tombs, each one trying to outdo the next.
Overcrowding is not an issue for the dead and each mausoleum butts directly up to the neighbour, often touching on three sides. No nicely cared for lawns here, in fact no green what so ever, just obscene amounts of money.
The entrance fee is prohibitive if you are dead, but is waived if you are alive. Once dead, it is all about money. Your social and financial status in life is reflected by the scale and design of your tomb. The Mausoleums vary incredibly in scale and in design
There are tombs designed for the stylishly wealthy
even for threesomes
and yes that is the skull!
And finally there is even a place for those who in death, just as in life, never did pay their bills on time
Now dear reader, as fascinating as I am sure you have found all this, I suspect you are wondering, “what the hell is he doing in this place?”
But there is a reason, for here lies the body of Eva Peron.
There are over 4700 tombs in the Recoleta Cemetery, but the remains of this one person has made this the top tourist attraction of the city, thus proving once more the power of Broadway, and of course Madge.
Madonna did for Eva Peron what Bette Midler did for wheelchairs and fish tails. They have all become gay icons. It is for this reason that we are following in the footsteps of millions of tourists before us and thousands of gay men. We are looking for Evita’s final resting place.