Tag Archives: recoleta cemetary

Rufina Cambaceres dies twice in Buenos Aires- a tragic, yet beautiful tale

I’m told most tourists come to visit Eva Peron’s tomb but I was more interested in Rufina Cambaceros; “ the girl who died twice.” Eva Duarte de Peron’s tomb is the most famous in Recoleta Cemetary but Rufina Cambaceres’s story is the most disturbing. Rufina came from a wealthy family, heirs to a large cattle fortune. She had discovered her fiancé was having an affair. Three doctors pronounced her dead and she was buried alive on her 19th birthday. The explanation doctors gave later is that Rufina suffered from catalepsy which is characterized by rigidity and low vital signs.  Catalepsy is the classic buried-alive diagnosis, and the one used in Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Premature Burial.” BTW, Rufina is buried three blocks south of Eva Peron.

I’m thinking it was her worst birthday ever. A few days after the funeral, a cemetery worker was concerned about grave robbery when he found that her coffin had moved within the crypt and the lid was broken in place. Rufina, woke up days later after her burial to find herself trapped, tried desperately to escape, then died of a heart attack. Scratches were on her face and covered the inside of her coffin which was opened after her screams were heard. Her father rebuilt the grave site so she is seen opening her own doors.  I was in front of her tomb for so long that people started to ask me questions and I found myself explaining Rufina’s story in Spanish, as if I was a tour guide. Rufina’s story should cheer up anyone having a bad break up and yes, a broken heart and sadness can kill or transform.

Rufina Cambaceros

Rufina Camberos

Rufina Camberos

The profundity of sadness is not easy for me to articulate. When I saw paintings by Suzan Woodruff, I saw sadness. Art work by Cecilia Mandrile moved me to write to her (hence a large part of why I am in Argentina) to help me to understand her sadness. The death of Lucrecia Urbano’s father began her creative process with glass. Hope Edelman’s experience of losing her mother created a sadness that planted the seeds for her Motherless Daughter’s book.  I believe my grandmother’s experience of sadness at watching my mother being abused is why she became sick with leukemia. I truly believe Michael Jackson dealt with his sadness with his expressions of music & dance. Feelings of something being incomplete or something lacking stirred a need to create & to help people cope with and understand their sadness.





Eva Peron’s tomb is the most visited grave in Recoleta Cemetary. You can always find it as there are hoardes of tourists and flowers. It  was not so interesting to me after the story of Ruffina Camberos. It is a little ironic that Evita was supposed to be buried under a monument which would represent the ‘Descamisados’, the poor working class, but she ended up in a cemetery which represents the wealthiest of Buenos Aires.  Recoleta Cemetery is the most expensive real estate in the city.

Eva Peron

Eva Peron

St. Augustine, after a personal crisis, went through a profound change in his life. He quit his teaching job, gave up any idea of marriage, devoted himself totally to G-d. He said he heard a childlike voice telling him in a sing-song voice, “tolle, lege” -“take up and read.” He gave all his money to the poor, just like St. Francis of Assisi and converted his home into a place where all his friends could live. He was one of the most prolific Latin authors.

San Augustine

oh vosotros que nos llorais

no os dejeis abatir por el dolor

mirad la vida que comienza

y no la que ha concluido

Here’s my translation:

Oh, we should not cry

Do not let yourselves be discouraged by the pain

Look at the life that begins

And not at what has ended

Here is Cecilia’s translation:
Oh, you, who are crying to us,
Don’t let pain defeat you,
Look at the life that is beginning
And not to the one that just have ended.

En frente del cementario es una esquina donde hay un café llamado La Biela donde Borges, el escritor solia pasar la tardes. Borges nacio en Buenos Aires. In front of the cemetery is a street where there’s a café called La Biela where the writer, essayist, poet and translator Borges would hang out in the afternoons.  Borges was born in Buenos Aires.

hot chocolate at La Biela

In describing himself, he said, “I am not sure that I exist, actually. I am all the writers that I have read, all the people that I have met, all the women that I have loved; all the cities that I have visited, all my ancestors.”

La Biela was born as Viridita, a sidewalk Café with 18 tables on a narrow sidewalk. Viridita is a mispronunciation of Veredita, a diminutive of sidewalk in Argentine Spanish. It stands in the shade of the mythical 18th C tree, in front of the church of Nuestra Señora del Ria. It’s a landmark and a connecting rod in the social life of La Recoleta’s neighborhood. From there, I walked to Museo Nacional Bella Artes; one of the most important fine arts museums in Buenos Aires.

Upon exiting I was excited to get to my next stop.  I made some mistakes. I was tired and should have listened to my gut that said “go back to your apartment.” The next one was getting into a cab to make my way to a different part of the city. I broke too many of my own traveling guides to myself: never get in a cab outside a museum, don’t carry cash after changing money and don’t walk around tired. All lessons.  When I went to Puerto Madera and paid to go into the museum, I was told my money was “falso”. A cab driver outside Bella Artes had taken my real money and traded it for fake, a recent con in the city that taxi drivers are playing.  I was going to go to Coleccion de arte Amalia Lacroze de Fortabat. I paid to go in and started to look at the Argentinian art. I was too upset to enjoy the museum. I headed back to my apartment to ponder why. If this is a world where we are all infinitely connected, then why would someone do this? I was left with gratitude that he didn’t have a gun or knife. The truth is there is tremendous crime in Buenos Aires but that doesn’t color the city for me at all. How about the fact that I’ve traveled in places with tremendous poverty like Peru, Bolivia… and I’m robbed in the chic neighborhood of Recoleta? What I came to understand is that instead of listening to the voice inside of me that told me to go back to my apartment, I pushed myself to see more.


Clementine Helene Dufau “Chant a la Beaute-1909”

Writing is nothing more than a guided dream.

Jorge Luis Borges

For Hope – “What if Brussat quoted Brussai in Brunei?”- Hope Edelman

Spiritual literacy is the ability to read the text of your own lives for spiritual meaning. That means looking at the things you encounter, the animals you encounter, the people, the places where you are, looking at your relationships, looking at all your activities and seeing that within them there is a significance and meaning. The medieval monks used to say that the world was liber mundi, a book to be read. In Islamic tradition, they will say that everything is a letter from God that you’re supposed to read. If you’re Native American and you walk through the wilderness, they talk about “reading sign.” So if a bird appears, it has meaning. That bird is a sign. So spiritual literacy is recognizing that everything you encounter in your daily life is a sign that can be read.

Mary Ann Brussat


The well connected dead at Recoleta Cemetary in Buenos Aires, Argentina

The Spanish language here in Buenos Aires differs from that of Spain and the rest of the Americas. It is quite different from the Spanish I grew up speaking from my Guatemalan grandmother. Argentines, Uruguayans and Paraguayans commonly use the voseo, a relict 16th century form with slightly different endings. The stresses, intonation and words are different so I’m forced to listen more carefully. I even hear a difference in the pronunciation in the north of Buenos Aires from the South. When Isabelle Allende from Chile speaks, the intonation is different as well. Still, I love being in a country where I hear Spanish being spoken outside my window as the sounds of city traffic wake me up.

There are many reasons I have been attracted to Buenos Aires. I’ve always read it’s the most European-like city in South America. It’s been described as the Paris of the South but I find that limiting now that I’m here. The people are warm and delightful, I’m fascinated with the architecture and the art plus it’s the largest Jewish community in South America. It feels like a unique combination of Italy, France and a bit of Spain all rolled into one but I’m in South America.

I am interested in South American cemetaries. Here’s a link to a cemetery I stumbled onto in La Paz, Bolivia last year.


I am grateful that I have a spirit inside of me that sings when I travel. I get a bit excited when I don’t know where I’m going, it’s a drug I can’t do without. I asked multiple people and listened extra hard because I am a bit directionally dysfunctional and because so many Argentinos speak with an Italian accent as half the country is of Italian descent. I found the cemetery after walking about what seemed like forever minutes from my apartment in Palermo. I’m not used to walking. I’m a California girl and really, no one walks in LA.

Over 4 city blocks with more than 6,400 mausoleums, 70 declared historic monuments. I passed one elaborate, ostentatious tomb after another. It’s an architectural wonder, a neoclassical explosion for the eyes. Architectural styles ranging from neo classic to art deco kept me fascinated for hours. I saw graves resembling chapels, Greek temples, pyramids and mini mansions. American cemeteries seem cookie cutter, orderly and simple by comparison. I have a penchant for the odd and unusual so Recoleta Cemetery was perfectly magical not to mention the cats all around.

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Who’s your mom?

Who’s your mom?

This one made me cry-She couldn’t open her eyes

Who’s your mom?

Quien es su mama?

Feels like a red carpet entrance to lost souls where the dead are not forgotten here as fresh flowers decorate the tombs. I’m thinking all these buried had mothers and fathers and friends and lovers and worked jobs they loved and didn’t like so much and one day, it’s over. So I’m thinking, who did I touch today? Who did I help? I find inspiration from life and death as this is real life.

I could have stayed in the cemetery all day but it started to rain. I started singing Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head in my mind.

But there’s one thing I know,
The blues they send to meet me won’t defeat me.
It won’t be long till happiness steps up to greet me.

Fortunately I was wrapped in my black shawl that Joyce gave me in Guatemala last year so I stayed dry and so did my camera equipment and my juicy 10-22 mm Canon lens.

I was walking down Avenue Santa Fe when I saw a restaurant where I liked the vibe. No sports bar tv and bright lights. When I walked in and heard one of my favorite Gloria Estefan songs playing, I knew it was the right place.


Levántese y gocen, que la vida es corta.

Alégrese por fin, que demás no importa.

Oigan bien sin temor lo que enseña la vida, señores.

No te busques otra herida con el mismo error, oigan bien.


Get up and enjoy yourself because life is short.
Rejoice finally, no matter what happens.
Listen well, without fear of what life teaches you, people.
Do not look for other wounds with the same error, listen well.


Ensalada mixta. Empanadas de mozzarella, tomate y albaltaca, cebolla y queso y vino de casa.

Mixed salad. Empanadas of mozzarella, tomato, tuna, onion and cheese w/yummy house vino.

Ensalada mixta de mozzarella, tomate y albaltaca, cebolla y queso y vino de casa.

Pertutti-desert shop on Santa Fe

Pertutti-desert shop on Santa Fe

Wouldn’t it be good if we could hop a flight to anywhere?
So long to this life.
Sheryl Crow-Can’t Cry Anymore

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