Eighteen Argentinian presidents, a couple of Nobel laureates, numerous poets, a heavyweight boxing champion, and a granddaughter of Napoleon all lie in La Recoleta Cemetery, established in 1822 on the site of a convent garden. But when Porteños visit on Sunday morning to pay their respects, most bypass these luminaries and instead make their way to the final resting place of Eva Perón.
Even 60 years after her death, at 33, the second wife of three-time president Juan Perón maintains a hold on the hearts and minds of her fellow Argentinians — especially women of a certain age — who stand in quiet thought before leaving a few flowers at the rather austere Duarte family tomb. “Evita” long ago became a pop culture icon, so visitors are forgiven if they can’t resist humming a few bars of “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” as they wander the tree-lined paths through the 14-acre cemetery.
With its larger-than-life statuary and elaborate mausoleums that catalog architectural styles through the generations, La Recoleta is a favorite destination for art and architecture buffs — and home to several colonies of cats who keep an eye out for the kindly volunteers who bring them their morning meal.