Under the Crypts with Antonio

by Mai Vu, sophomore

Statues adorn the family crypts at Recoleta Cemetery.


Public access to mausoleums underneath the crypts is denied in El Recoleta Cemetario. However, Brock Powell, senior, achieved access and walked among the dead two weeks ago in Buenos Aires.

The crypt keeper emerged unexpectedly from the depths with a feather duster. Turning around, he took a small lock and key out of his pocket and secured the gate. With shoulders hunched he walked away around the corner and out of sight.
After a few minutes of quiet murmurs and light breezes, Powell’s voice broke through the silence: “Bajando en el muerte? Yo Bajando en la casa de muerte?!”

Powell turned the corner and stood towering over the crypt keeper, who looked up and seemed exasperated. Somehow between the little Spanish knowledge that he knew and repeated hand gestures, Powell was able to ask the man to go inside the crypt. Shuffling away, the crypt keeper went to his closet, grabbed his keys, and motioned for Powell to follow.

Moving through the rows of mausoleums, the crypt keeper finally reached his destination. What loomed was an enormous cream-colored mausoleum with black iron gates and bronze plaques. Above the door, the letters “PAX” were carved into the stone and a cross adorned the entire structure. The plaques stated the names and information about the people in the crypt as well: “Homenaje de El Personal Administrativo de la Sdad Anonima Piccardo y Cnia Lda A Juan Leon Piccardo, el 20 Deciembre de 1926, 1929.”

The crypt keeper opened the black iron door and motioned with his hands to enter. Goose bumps appeared on Powell’s arms and the hair stood up on the back of his neck. Not a speck of dust was visible, and the gold trim on the first coffin shown brightly.

The man again motioned to go down the small set of stairs to the right. The stairs were made of marble and they spiraled down to a basement level. Three more coffins occupied the space on white shelves. Looking down, Powell realized that he and the little man stood on a metal grate. The crypt dropped an entire level lower and below where Powell counted six more coffins.

“Es tu familia?” Powell asked.
“No, no,” the man answered. “Yo trabajando en el cemetario. Limpio los mausoleos.”
“Oh, Gracias por… this,” Powell said. “Como te llama?”
“Antonio,” the crypt keeper responded.
“Well, gracias mucho Antonio, gracias.”

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