Friday, February 22, 2013

Inspiration Found in a Peaceful yet Eerie Cemetary

Our trip to Argentina would not be complete without getting wrapped up in the legend of Eva Peron (Evita), the first female President of Argentina, a woman known as much for her style and grace as her fierce political passions and dedication to social issues. There is no better place to start than her resting place, which we visited on a beautiful Buenos Aires day (extremely sunny and intensely humid).

Accompanied by a message from her followers, Peron’s dates of birth and death rest on a plaque accompanied by a carving of a little girl. This plaque, however, does not rest on a simple grave. It is on a marble wall and, Peron’s resting place is anything but regular. Her plaque and others surround a grand doorway, the gateway to the final quarters of the Familia Duarte. It is a large grand mausoleum, almost as big as a small house, which befits Peron’s place in Argentinian society. You are not surprised that a woman given the title of “Spiritual Leader of the Nation,” would be buried in such a beautiful and inspiring structure.

There are others, equally and sometimes even more grand. All lined up next to each other, these large pieces of art made us feel like we were in a small city, with its own orderly streets – but we were in a cemetery. Located in the northern part of Buenos Aires, La Recolata feels more like a peaceful park or outdoor museum than a cemetery which has many famous Argentinian politicians, military generals, scientists and poets as its residents. Opened in 1822, the cemetery is the oldest in the city and is named after the now affluent neighborhood which was founded by an order of monks named the “recoletos.”

We spent what seemed like the entire afternoon exploring every part of the cemetery. As lovers of beautiful things, we couldn't help but stop at every tomb, examine and be inspired by every intricate detail both outside and in. The mausoleums are works of art and some have been declared historic sites by Argentina. While the layout of the structures is orderly, the style of each building is anything but. Depending on when they were built, we saw mausoleums that were Neo Gothic, Art Noveau and Art Deco. Most of the structures have glass windows on the front, giving you a glimpse of the inside where along with altars or vases of flowers, we sometimes saw beautiful stained glass windows. 

Most of the mausoleums are well maintained, but once in a while we would encounter some that were decayed or vandalized  Something about these decayed ones gave me the most inspiration- whether it was wondering what fate befell the family that they could no longer take care of the beautiful building or just the simple, elegant beauty of a renegade tree branch or vine creeping its way through the broken stone. Something about witnessing nature trying to creep its way back into this modern man-made concrete jungle gave me a feeling of peace inside, inspired different patterns and colours and made me immediately want to return to my workshop to create. Hopefully we can recreate this inspiration that Recoleta inspires here at home into new creative pieces. One thing this trip has inspired is filling our space with many many more plants!

cats, they are every where!