Last night, Brian and I left two screaming boys with Mercedes and we went on a tour of the Recoleta Cemetery in Asunción. It was a free tour, in Spanish, arranged through the Asociación de Diplomáticos en Paraguay (Association of Diplomats in Paraguay). The cemetery isn’t far from the Embassy, so I’d been past it many times and was curious to check it out.
Recoleta Church, begun in 1853, stands at the entrance to cemetery.
There are vendors selling flowers at the church entrance. When I took a picture of the flowers, the florist insisted that I take her picture too.
The cemetery is organized into various zones, accessed through “avenidas” (avenues or wide walkways) and “calles” (streets or narrow paths between the mausoleums).
The cemetery is huge and contains hundreds of mausoleums of the elite families of Asunción, each decorated to their personal tastes, some in better shape than others.
The mausoleums had ornate and interesting rooftop decorations which included statues, crosses and spires.
We also saw some odd sites, including one mausoleum that must have contained a family’s dearly departed cat. Littered on the steps of the mausoleum were piles of cat food and rice which were being devoured by many ants.
The most disturbing sites we saw were mausoleums that had been broken open. The doors were ajar, glass was broken and caskets (including a tiny, infant-sized casket) were askew. As our friend said, “This is the stuff nightmares are made of.”
Eliza Lynch – born in County Cork, Ireland (like my paternal ancestors) – is one of the cemetery’s most famous residents. Her urn and the casket of her infant daughter are both in the cemetery. Madam Lynch, as she’s known in Paraguay, was the mistress (and eventually common-law wife) of Paraguayan president, Mariscal Lopez, the country’s greatest hero. (I’ll have to do another blog post about those two another time; there’s lots to tell!)