Argentina: Dying becomes a luxury as economic downturn hits home

The cost of buying, renting and maintaining graves and tombs is so high that many in Argentina are opting to cremate their loved ones instead.


Buenos Aires Times 

No one can escape Argentina’s biggest economic crisis in almost two decades – not even the dead.

The cost of buying, renting and maintaining graves and tombs is so high that many people opt to cremate their loved ones instead.

Juan Tapia runs the Cocheria Tacuari undertakers in Buenos Aires, which has been operating for 60 years.

“It’s an economic problem. People don’t have enough money to pay for a service. Family members help each other, ask for loans; some come and pay with US dollars that they’ve saved or kept under the mattress,” he told AFP.

Undertakers are constantly forced to drop their prices “because unfortunately people don’t have the same spending power of a few years ago.”

Paying for a funeral “means, for a family, that they might not eat this month,” said Tapia.

The cheapest service offered by Cocheria Tacuari is a cremation without a wake, which costs 25,000 pesos (roughly US$415) – almost 50 percent more than the minimum wage of 16,875 pesos a month. More expensive options can cost up to 180,000 pesos, but few are interested in those.

His estimations are not far off from official statistics.

In 2018, 78.5 percent of corpses in Buenos Aires were cremated, according to an AFP count of public records. That’s the highest proportion over the last decade.

“To lease a niche in the cemetery, you have to pay a huge amount every year, and many don’t want to and can’t do it, so they opt for a cremation,” said Tapia.

Rents at public cemeteries in Buenos Aires, including maintenance, range from 400-2,000 pesos a month. In the private sector, plots sell for a minimum of 55,000 pesos with monthly maintenance from 500 pesos.

Cremation, on the other hand, does not incur long-term expenses. As a result, dead bodies are often taken straight from the hospital to the crematorium in simple poplar wood coffins.


cemetery chacarita


Niche for sale

Three months ago, Patricia Álvarez, an English translator and make-up artist, advertised on the Internet a niche that her family had bought in the Chacarita public cemetery in Buenos Aires.

“I’m selling it because there’s no sense” in keeping it, she told AFP when contacted about her advert – the only response she’s had.

“It doesn’t cost much, 500 pesos a month, but when it builds up, it’s annoying, and it adds to a mountain of other expenses I already have,” she said.

The Álvarez’s niche looks to be in good condition, but others in the cemetery are in a sorry state, with notes attached to them asking the owners or leasers to “go and see the administration.”

Many tombs have been abandoned and overgrown with vegetation. Some have broken statues, and there are niches that have been completely destroyed. In some, the bones inside are visible.

Standing beside her mother’s tomb, gloves and pruning shears in her hands, Maria has decided to stop paying the cemetery’s maintenance fees.

“I don’t think I’ll pay the 1,500 pesos a month any more to trim the vegetation – it’s a lot!” she told AFP, preferring not to give her surname for fear of reprisals by the site’s maintenance personnel. “For this money, it’s better that I come and do it myself.”

But according to Jorge Bonacorsi, president of the Argentine funerary services federation, cost is not the only thing deterring Argentines from traditional burials.

He says the rise in cremations is a global trend.

“What prevails now is a certain sentimental practicality: people want to get rid of the problem,” he said.

Published by CityFella

Big city fella, Born and Raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. Lived in New York (a part time New Yorker) for three years . I have lived in the Sacramento area since 1993. When I first moved here, I hated it. Initially found the city too conservative for my tastes. A great place to raise children however too few options for adults . The city has grown up, there is much to do here. The city suffers from low self esteem in my opinion, locals have few positive words to say about their hometown. visitors and transplants are amazed at what they find here. From, the grand old homes in Alkali Flats, and the huge trees in midtown, there are many surprises in Sacramento. Theater is alive is this area . And finally ,there is a nightlife... In.downtown midtown, for the young and not so young. My Criticism is with local government. There is a shortage of visionaries in city hall. Sacramento has long relied on the state, feds and real estate for revenue. Like many cities in America,Downtown Sacramento was the hub of activity in the area. as the population moved to the suburbs and retail followed. The city has spent millions to revive downtown. Today less than ten thousand people live downtown. No one at city hall could connect the dots. Population-Retail. Business says Sacramento is challenging and many corporations have chosen to set up operations outside the cities limits. There is vision in the burbs. Sacramento has bones, there are many good pieces here, leaders seem unable or unwilling to put those pieces together into. Rant aside, I love it here. From the trees to the rivers. But its the people here that move me. Sacramento is one of the most integrated cities in America. I find I'm welcome everywhere. The spices work in this city of nearly 500,000 and for the most part these spices blend well together. From Ukrainians to Hispanics and a sizable gay community, all the spices seem to work well here. I frequently travel and occasionally I will venture into a city with huge racial borders, where its unsafe to visit after certain hours. I haven't found it here. I cant imagine living in a community where there is one hue or one spice. I love the big trees, Temple Coffee House, the Alhambra Safeway, Zelda's Pizza, Bicyclist in Midtown, The Mother Lode Saloon, Crest Theater, and the Rivers. I could go on and I might. Sacramento is home.

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