La Recoleta – tomb of Evita Perón

evita_tomb

On one of my many visits to Buenos Aires, I visited the famous La Recoleta cemetery, final resting place of so many of that country’s great and good.

When Evita Perón died in 1952, her husband, Argentine President Juan Domingo Perón, ordered her body to be embalmed and exhibited to the nation in a glass case. Three years later, when Perón fell from power, Evita’s corpse became a heavy burden for the subsequent regime that wished to prevent her place of burial in La Recoleta from becoming a cult place of pilgrimage.

Kidnapped by the Army Intelligence Service, for weeks the body was secretly driven around the streets of Buenos Aires, and was later hidden for months in the back room of a cinema. At one stage the body was allegedly subjected to all sorts of passions when it was stored at the home of a captain who had lost his mind. The true location of Evita’s body became the subject of much speculation following the publication in 1995 of a best-selling novel, Santa Evita, by Tomás Eloy Martínez, which propounded many new stories and myths about the posthumous escapades of Evita’s body.


 

La Recoleta

Here lies
           the body of Eva Perón
                      or so they say, in a low key grave
           that lacks the pomp and circumstance
                      of her new neighbours, some of whom

are determined
           to sit our their time until the day
                      of judgment, in ornate mausoleums
           lined with grey granite slabs; some with
                      tiny windows looking out on the streets

below
           at the frenzied sweep of doomed human traffic;
                      some with en suite bathrooms
           from which dull rusty piss seeps, endlessly.
                      Wealth and illustrious military power

are buried
           here, the owners of a past Buenos Aires
                      and a long gone Argentina. In this dusty
           city of death, laid out in monotonously meti-
                      culous streets and avenues, tourists

anxiously
           stroll through a gaping emptiness that awaits
                      us all; and with a shudder they quicken
           their pace as they exit once more through
                      the huge entrance gates, taking large gulps

of life.
           And on the white external wall an unknown wit
                      has scrawled in huge red letters
           DULCE ETERNIDAD (sweet eternity)
                      and whatever we believe, we are

never
           to know, whether in hope or in despair
                      whether in faith or simply fatigue.
           Here lies the body of Eva Perón, though some
                      say not. Here lies the truth, or a lie.

John Lyons

2 August 2005


 

 

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