Marble mausoleums, famous people and haunted graves with excellent architecture. The city of Buenos Aires got more to offer than tango and good food.

Portrait of Rufina Cambacérès that is now buried in the  Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires. 
Photo: Source
Portrait of Rufina Cambacérès that is now buried in the Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires.
Photo: Source

In the wonderful cemetery of Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires, the most prominent of Argentina’s dead is laid to rest. Graves of famous people like Eva Peron, Nobel Prize winners, grandchildren of Naloleón Bonaparte and those who served as presidents have graves you can visit. It’s an architectural wandering among the marble mausoleums with art-deco, neo-classical and neo-gothic architecture in the tombs to enjoy. It is more like a city of graves with narrow streets and cobbled ground. Although the inhabitants of this city is no longer alive. There are also those graves that people got to know of the person resting there, only after the death. 

This is the case of Rufina Cambacérès, a girl that barely reached the age of nineteen. Although a well known socialite in Buenos Aires at the turn of the 1900s when she was alive, it is the death she is remembered for today. Her family rose to the upper class of society from the money they made from cattle farming. Her father, Eugenio Cambacérès was originally from France and a sort of famous writer in the country at the time. He died of tuberculosis however when Rufina was only four, giving a precedent of premature deaths in the family. 

A temporary death

In 1902 Rufina died as well, on her birthday no less. On her 19th birthday, May 31st, her mother threw a party at their house and they were all supposed to go to Teatro Colón to see a show or the opera. But when she was getting ready in her bedroom she suddenly collapsed and was deemed to be dead. The reason of death the doctors gave was by catalepsy, a classical diagnosis that they have given those who were buried alive. the same death that Juliet was given temporarily by the poison, and in Edgar Allen Poe’s writing: ‘A Premature Burial’, also beginning with a false death that ends in a true death in the coffin. Being declared dead before your time was not unheard of during those time at all and there are many examples of it throughout time. Sadly, Rufina became a part of this tragic statistic and before anyone could prove any different, she was buried, and first after her burial, she died. 

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No less than three doctors pronounced her dead before she was put in a coffin and placed in her extravagant final resting place in the mausoleum already the next day. But according to legend, she woke up in the coffin and tried to break free, trying to scratch herself out with her bare hands before eventually suffocating to death. For real this time. 

A cemetery worker noticed the lid of her casket was broken a few days later. This could also be attributed to robbers, since she was very likely to have been buried with her expensive jewelry. But not according to those subscribing to the more macabre version, it was worse, it was the signs of her trying to escape from the coffin. 

The final death

The mausoleum of the young girl, completed with a statue, representing her, with her hand on the door, her eyes looking away from her tomb. 
Photo: Source: Tim Adams
The mausoleum of the young girl, completed with a statue, representing her, with her hand on the door, her eyes looking away from her tomb.
Photo: Source: Tim Adams

Another legend tells that Rufina even managed to get out of the casket and ran through the cemetery at night. She managed to get to the gates, but there she died of a heart attack from the fright. 

More rumors about why she collapsed in the first place have been told. Among other things, her friend told her a secret, so gruesome that it knocked her out. According to her friend, the boyfriend she was seeing was also together with Rufinas mother, or even worse, his own. A true scandal for a Tela Novela. . 

No matter the origin of the story, the statue outside the mausoleum is solemn enough. The only mausoleum made of marble from Milan. The young girl, supposed to be the young girl with one of her hands on the door, almost escaping, never able to see her 20th birthday.

So many legends surround the cemetery to this day. Among some of the ghosts supposed to haunt the place, is a cemetery worker, destined to linger in this place forever, as well as a woman in white, roaming the place. Perhaps trying to get out? 

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References

008. rufina cambacérès ◊ – AfterLife 

The Tomb of Rufina Cambacérès – Buenos Aires, Argentina 

Catalepsy

The girl who died twice and other secrets of Argentina’s La Recoleta cemetery

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