Thursday, September 30, 2010

Talking Picture Postcard: Tango Dancing Ghosts

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina:

Wandering the narrow alleyways between the mausoleums, I feel the cold winter breath of grieving stone statues blowing on my neck. I shiver as I look into the faces of those buried here, the bearded military man frozen in brass, the child’s youth photographed and trapped under porcelain.

Click here for an iPad friendly version of the above audio slide show.

Is there anything alive here ? In my imagination I hear the plaintive music of a bandoneon, the accordion-like instrument that’s the soul of Argentine tango, accompanied by a small music hall piano. Are the ghosts dancing, or are the tunes from last night’s bar still playing in my head ?

I’m exploring the famous Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aries, a city of 6,000 graves laid out along orderly streets and avenues. Since 1822  Argentina’s rich and famous have been buried here, including Evita Peron, wildly popular with the poor she championed and the beautiful wife of President Juan Peron. She died of cancer at age 33 nearly 60 years ago.

Her family crypt is often thronged by still worshipful admirers and tourists, yet it was decades before her remains were resting here safely under 27 feet of cement. With the winds of Argentine politics the corpses of  Evita and Juan traveled around the world, with Juan’s hands being stolen by politically motivated grave robbers.

No such drama today. Today the only serene living creature I encounter among the granite and marble monuments to the dead is a sleeping feral cat, curled up under the statue of a stately dog and it’s once young owner. I still hear the tango music in my head, blending with the quiet feline’s purr.

All photographs captured in the Recoleta Cemetery with Nikon P6000 “point-n-shoot” camera, with natural sound recorded in San Telmo neighborhood’s Club Sur, August 2010.

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