Communion Of Dreams

Jim Downey and the Federation of Silver.
November 5, 2008, 9:26 pm
Filed under: Argentina, N. Am. Welsh Choir, Patagonia, Society, Travel

Part Three: The Kitty Cats of Death.

Friday started out with me feeling the psychic pressure of being in close proximity with so many extroverts for so long. We had an early breakfast in the hotel with the entire crowd, since everyone was going on an excursion together this morning and the buses were to load at 8:00. Meaning a bit of a fight to get service, since even under these circumstances the Argentine default is to leave people to have a leisurely meal, no rushing about to refill coffee cups or any such nonsense. Somehow, we managed.

On the buses a bit after 8:00. Another brilliant and beautiful spring day – just perfect for a nice jaunt through a cemetery.

Say what?

Yeah, Cementerio de la Recoleta – where all the beautiful people of Argentina go to spend the afterlife. No, I’m not kidding. Our guide took great pleasure in explaining all about the place, and how as far as most Argentines are concerned, it doesn’t matter where you came from, or what you did, so long as you are buried in the right place.

Here’s a Spanish language site with a lot more photos of the place. It really is quite amazing, in a very surreal way. Incredible art & architecture to the some six thousand mausoleums – ranging from pseudo Baroque to Art Deco. Elaborately carved doors, stunningly beautiful statues, glorious & glowing stained glass – you’ll find it all there in the cemetery. Most of the dead people there live better than the vast majority of the still walking population in Buenos Aires, and the amount of wealth splashed about the place seems almost obscene when you find yourself driving through/past the shantytowns around the city. And the cemetery has far and away the best sidewalks in the entire city.

One other thing it also has is cats. While stray dogs rule supreme throughout the rest of the country, here in the quiet of the necropolis, it is cats who reign. Domestic housecats. Er, make that domestic mausoleumcats. They’re everywhere. Everywhere. In twos and threes. Solo and in small packs, clustered around bowls of food, milk, and water that locals leave for them. Silent, serene, more than a little eerie.

I was, honestly, glad to get out of the place. No, cemeteries don’t bother me. And I love cats. I even appreciate good art in almost all forms. But this fetishization – this status competition of which family has the best location and grandest burial for their dead – was creepy. Such ostentation strikes me as being more about the glory of the living than the memory of the dead.

Anyway, we left. Back on the buses. Through the city. Through suburbs. Through more suburbs, all on surface streets, stopping at every light, looking around into the houses and businesses. Easily feels like it could be just about any major American city, in the nice part of town. Plenty of car dealers. And boat dealers. And fast-food places. Our guide (not ‘Ferguson’) explains that these are all the rich parts of the city, desireable because of the proximity to the river.

The river? Actually, the estuary Rio de la Plata. But they call it a river, and take pride that it is so wide. No, I am not kidding. Yes, it is wide – some 30 miles where it starts at the juncture of two other major rivers, to almost 140 miles at the boundary of the Atlantic. And a big chunk of this estuary forms a huge delta, interlaced with numerous small navigable passages, creating countless small islands just a few feet above the water level. Most of this delta is, by treaty, a nature preserve, but one large section of it close to Buenos Aires is settled, more or less permanently.

And I can see why. It is a beautiful, peaceful, place. It would be a great place to hide from the world. And relatively inexpensive – a decent sized hunk of an island, big enough for a nice little vacation home and a bit of yard, a garden – will go for $30,000 to $100,000, depending on the quality of the house and how remote the location. We got out onto the river in a couple of decent sized tour boats, and for almost an hour made our way through some of the larger channels, finally arriving at the Restaurante Gato Blanco (“White Cat”). Charming. And good food. We sat out on the deck, watching other patrons arrive by boat (and their boats taken away by valet service – when you have seating for some 250 people, and are only accessible by boat, this is an issue), enjoying the breeze and the food.

Once done eating, while the others sat and chatted, I wandered off behind the restaurant to explore a bit. The whole place was dead-flat level, and lush, the soil somewhat springy and very very rich. Even though it was still early spring, there were already many trees and flowers in bloom, with both butterflies and bees feeding at the flowers. The island was very much like a park, an old park in a quiet part of town, showing signs of love and age and much use.

We got back on the boats that brought us, made our way back to the Tigre Fluvial Station. From there the group split, with the choristers heading off for a workshop rehearsal, the rest of us back to the hotels. Our friend ML and I dropped off stuff, then headed out for some shopping, swimming against the human tide. Got back and spent some time relaxing.

It had been arranged that we would all go off to have dinner with some local families, in small groups of six to eight. It would be a chance to spend time with some of the residents in their homes, getting to know one another and learn a bit about how a typical family lived. Alix was looking forward to it, but I just decided that I couldn’t face more time with people – I was worn ragged by all the contact I had had over the past several days. So when she got back from the workshop, I let her know I was going to beg off the dinner. It was a shame, really, because she had a great time (along with the others), and I probably would have as well. But my ‘extrovert batteries’ were just dead, and I needed to spend some time alone in peace and quiet in order to recharge enough for other things coming up. She went, I popped out to a local street vendor and got a sandwich, and then retired to the room where I relaxed and did some reading. It helped.

Jim Downey

2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Jim I read all your blog posts and tried a lot to understand. But it’s not possible for me.

Comment by powersports360

Sorry to hear it, PS360 – is it just a language problem?

Jim D.

Comment by Communion of Dreams

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