Eva Perón

Summary

María Eva Duarte de Perón, better known as Eva Perón or Evita, born on May 7, 1919 in Junín or Los Toldos (province of Buenos Aires) and died on July 26, 1952 in Buenos Aires, is an Argentine actress and politician. She married in 1945 the colonel Juan Domingo Perón, one year before the accession of this one to the presidency of the Argentine republic.

From a modest background, she moved to Buenos Aires at the age of fifteen, where she learned the acting trade and became well known in the theater, radio and cinema. In 1943, she was one of the founders of the Asociación Radial Argentina (ARA), and was elected president the following year. In 1944, during a performance for the victims of the San Juan earthquake of January 1944, she met Juan Perón, then Secretary of State of the de facto government that emerged from the 1943 coup, and married him in October of the following year. She then played an active role in her husband”s electoral campaign in 1946, being the first Argentine woman to play such a role.

She worked for the right to vote for women and obtained its legal adoption in 1947. Once this political equality between men and women was achieved, she fought for the legal equality of spouses and for shared patria potestas (i.e., equality in matrimonial law), which was implemented by Article 39 of the 1949 constitution. Also in 1949, she founded the Women”s Peronist Party, which she presided over until her death. She carried out a wide range of social activities, notably through the Eva Perón Foundation, which aimed to relieve the descamisados (those without clothes), i.e., the most destitute in society. The Foundation built hospitals, asylums and schools, promoted social tourism through the creation of summer camps, spread the practice of sports among all children through the organization of championships for the entire population, granted scholarships and housing aid, and worked to improve the status of women in various ways.

She played an active role in the struggles for social and workers” rights and acted as a direct bridge between President Perón and the trade unions. In 1951, in view of the first presidential election by universal suffrage, the labour movement proposed that Evita, as she was called by the population, should run for the vice-presidency; however, she had to give up her candidacy on August 31, a date that has been known ever since as the Day of Renunciation, because of her declining health, but also because of the pressure of internal opposition in Argentine society, or even within Peronism itself, in view of the possibility that a woman supported by the trade unions could become vice-president.

She died on July 26, 1952, at the age of 33, after suffering from cancer of the uterine cervix. Her body was laid to rest in the Congress building, and a public tribute was paid to her on a scale never before seen in Argentina. His body was embalmed and deposited at the headquarters of the CGT trade union. With the advent of the civil-military dictatorship known as the Liberating Revolution in 1955, his body was kidnapped, sequestered and desecrated, and then hidden for sixteen years.

She wrote two books, La razón de mi vida (The Reason for My Life) in 1951 and Mi mensaje (My Message) published in 1952 and was officially honored several times, including the title of Jefa Espiritual de la Nación, the distinction of Mujer del Bicentenario (Woman of the Argentine Bicentennial), the Gran Cruz de Honor of the Argentine Red Cross, the Distinción del Reconocimiento de Primera Categoría of the CGT, the Gran Medalla a la Lealtad Peronista en Grado Extraordinario and the collar of the Order of the Liberator San Martín, the highest Argentine honor. Her destiny has inspired many cinematographic, musical, theatrical and literary works. Cristina Alvarez Rodriguez, Evita”s grand-niece, says that Eva Perón has never left the collective consciousness of Argentines, and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the first woman to be elected president of the Argentine Republic, said that the women of her generation are still strongly influenced by Evita because of “her example of passion and fighting spirit.

Birth

According to the birth certificate number 728 of the civil registry of Junín (province of Buenos Aires), a girl named María Eva Duarte was born in this city on May 7, 1922. However, researchers are unanimous in considering this birth certificate to be a forgery, which was fabricated at the behest of Eva Perón herself in 1945, when she was in Junín to marry Juan Domingo Perón, who was still a colonel.

In 1970, when researchers Borroni and Vaca established that Evita”s birth certificate had been falsified, it became necessary to determine her true date and place of birth. The most important document in this regard was Eva”s baptismal certificate, recorded in sheet 495 of the baptismal register of the vicariate of Nuestra Señora del Pilar, from 1919, indicating that the baptism was performed on November 21, 1919.

It is nowadays almost unanimously accepted that Evita was actually born on May 7, 1919, three years before the date indicated by the civil registry, with the name Eva María Ibarguren. As for the place of birth, some historians have erroneously written that Evita was born in the small town of Los Toldos. This error is explained by the fact that a few years after Eva”s birth, the family moved to this town, to a house located in Calle Francia (now Calle Eva Perón), which has been converted into a museum, the Museo Municipal Solar Natal de María Eva Duarte de Perón.

Concerning the place of birth, two theories have been retained by historians:

Some historians maintain that Eva Perón was born in the agricultural area of La Unión, in the territory of Los Toldos, exactly in front of the settlement (toldería) of Coliqueo, which was the origin of this settlement, in the area known for this reason as La Tribu. The place is located about 20 km from the village of Los Toldos and 60 km south of the city of Junín. The estate was owned by Juan Duarte and was home to Eva”s family at least since 1908 and until 1926. The historians Borroni and Vacca, who came up with this hypothesis, argued that the Mapuche midwife Juana Rawson de Guayquil assisted Eva”s mother during the birth, as she had done with her other children.

This hypothesis is defended by other historians, based on different testimonies. According to them, Evita was born in Junín, after her mother had to move to the city of Junín to receive better care due to problems related to her pregnancy. At the time of Evita”s birth, it was customary for women who were in the area of influence of Junín and had problems with their pregnancy to move to that city for better medical care, and this is still often the case today. According to this hypothesis, supported mainly by Junín historians Roberto Dimarco and Héctor Daniel Vargas, and by the witnesses they cite, Eva was born in a house located at number 82 of what is now Calle Remedios Escalada de San Martín (for the time being called Calle José C. Paz), and a university obstetrician by the name of Rosa Stuani helped with the delivery. Shortly thereafter, the family moved to a home at 70 Calle Lebensohn (originally called Calle San Martín), until the mother had fully recovered.

The family

Eva was the daughter of Juan Duarte and Juana Ibarguren, and was registered in the civil registry as Eva María Ibarguren (a civil registry that was modified, as mentioned above, before her marriage to Juan Perón, by substituting Duarte for her patronymic and reversing the order of her two first names).

Juan Duarte (1858 – 1926), nicknamed El Vasco (the Basque) in the neighborhood, was a farm owner and an important political figure of the conservative party of Chivilcoy, a town near Los Toldos. Some historians have speculated that Juan Duarte may have had a French ancestor named D”Huarte, Uhart or Douart, although Duarte is a perfectly Spanish surname. In the first decade of the twentieth century, Juan Duarte was one of those who benefited from the fraudulent maneuvers that the government began to carry out in order to deprive the Mapuche community of Coliqueo of its lands in Los Toldos, and through which it appropriated the land where Eva was born.

Juana Ibarguren (1894-1971) was the daughter of the Creole farm worker Petrona Núñez and the truck driver Joaquín Ibarguren. Apparently, she had little contact with the village, 20 km away, which is why little is known about her, except that due to the proximity of her home to the toldería of Coliqueo she had close contacts with the Mapuche community of Los Toldos, so much so that she was assisted in the delivery of each of her children by an Indian midwife named Juana Rawson de Guayquil.

Juan Duarte, Eva”s father, had two families, a legitimate one in Chivilcoy with his legal wife Adela D”Huart (and another illegitimate one, in Los Toldos, with Juana Ibarguren. This was a widespread custom among upper-class men in the countryside before the 1940s, and is still maintained in some rural areas of Argentina. The couple had five children together:

Eva lived in the country until 1926, when, due to the death of her father, the family suddenly found itself without any protection and was forced to leave the estate where they lived. These circumstances of her childhood and the subsequent discrimination that was common in the first decades of the 20th century left a deep mark on Eva”s mind.

At that time, Argentine law provided for a series of stigmatizing qualifications for people, generically called “illegitimate children”, whose parents had not entered into a legal marriage. One of these qualifications was “adulterous child”, which was recorded in the birth certificate of the children concerned. This was also the case for Evita, who in 1945 had her original birth certificate destroyed in order to eliminate this stigma. Once they came to power in Argentina, the Peronist movement in general and Eva Perón in particular wanted to pass advanced anti-discriminatory legislation that would establish equality between men and women and between all children, regardless of the nature of the relationship between their parents, a plan that was strongly opposed by the political opposition, the Catholic Church and the armed forces. Finally, in 1954, two years after the death of Eva Perón, Peronism succeeded in passing a law abolishing the most infamous official designations – adulterous child, sacrilegious child, máncer (child of a public woman), natural child, etc. – while maintaining the distinction between children and adults. -However, the distinction between legitimate and illegitimate children was maintained. Juan Perón himself, whom Evita would later marry, was registered as an “illegitimate child”.

The childhood years in Los Toldos

On January 8, 1926, her father died in a car accident in Chivilcoy. Eva”s entire family went to the town to attend the wake, but the legitimate family refused to allow her to enter amidst a great outcry. Thanks to the mediation of one of the father”s brothers, also a politician, who was then a deputy of the municipality of Chivilcoy, Eva”s family was able to accompany the procession to the cemetery and attend the burial.

For Evita, then six years old, the incident had a deep emotional significance and was experienced as a great injustice, even though Eva had had little contact with her father. This sequence of events plays an important role in Andrew Lloyd Webber”s musical Evita, as well as in the film based on it.

She herself will allude to this in her book La Razón de mi vida :

“To explain my life today, that is to say what I do, in accordance with what my soul feels, I must go back to my early years, to my first feelings… I found in my heart a fundamental feeling, which has dominated my mind and my life ever since: this feeling is my indignation at injustice. As far back as I can remember, every injustice hurts my soul as if a nail was hammered into it. From every age I keep the memory of some injustice that lifted me up by tearing my heart.”

After Juan Duarte”s death, Eva”s family was left completely destitute and Juana Ibarguren had to move with her children to Los Toldos, to a two-room house on the outskirts of the village, Calle Francia 1021, where she worked as a seamstress to support her children. The children, always well dressed and never deprived of food, received a very strict education, in accordance with the proud feelings of Doña Juana, who was also very religious and religiously observant, and did not tolerate any form of laxity and taught her children how to behave and take care of themselves. She used to present their poverty as an iniquity that they did not deserve.

Los Toldos, from toldo, large Indian tent, owes its name to the fact that it was a Mapuche camp, that is, an indigenous village. More precisely, the Mapuche community of Coliqueo settled here after the Battle of Pavón in 1861, by decision of the legendary lonco (Indian chief) and colonel of the Argentine army Ignacio Coliqueo (1786-1871), who had arrived in Argentina from southern Chile. Between 1905 and 1936, a series of legal arguments were used in Los Toldos to exclude the Mapuche people from land ownership. Little by little, the indigenous people were supplanted as owners by non-indigenous farmers. Juan Duarte, Eva”s father, was one of these, which explains why the farm where Eva was born was located precisely across the street from the toldería of Coliqueo.

During Evita”s childhood (1919-1930), Los Toldos was a small rural Pampean community dedicated to agrarian and livestock activity, specifically to the cultivation of grain and corn and the raising of horned cattle. The social structure was dominated by the farmer-owner (estanciero), holder of large tracts of land, who maintained servile relationships with the farm workers and with his sharecroppers. The most common type of worker in this area was the gaucho.

The death of the father had greatly deteriorated the family”s economic situation. The following year, Eva entered elementary school, which she attended with difficulty, having to repeat a year in 1929, when she was ten years old. Her sisters recounted that even then Eva showed a taste for dramatic declamation and was a talented juggler. The shape of her face earned her the nickname of Chola (half-breed of European and Indian), by which everyone in Los Toldos called her, as well as the nickname Negrita (nigger), which she was to keep all her life.

Adolescence in Junín

In 1930, when Eva was 11 years old, her mother Juana decided to move with her family to the city of Junín. The reason for the move was the change of assignment of the eldest daughter Elisa, who was transferred from the post office in Los Toldos to the one in Junín, about 30 km away. There, the Duarte family began to enjoy a certain degree of prosperity thanks to the work of Juana and her children Elisa, Blanca and Juan. Erminda was enrolled in the Colegio Nacional and Evita in the Catalina Larralt de Estrugamou School No. 1, from which she graduated in 1934 at the age of 15 with a complete primary education certificate.

The first house they moved into, at number 86 on Calle Roque Vázquez, still stands. As the family”s economic situation improved thanks to the income of the children who had come of age, especially brother Juan, a salesman for the Guereño toiletries company, and soon sister Blanca, who passed her teacher”s exam, the Duarte”s moved first (in 1932) to a larger house at no. 200 Lavalle Street, where Juana set up a restaurant serving breakfast, and then moved again (in 1933) to No. 90 Calle Winter, and finally (in 1934) to No. 171 Arias Street, where Juana Duarte”s mother and daughters had a great deal of liberty and intimacy for the enjoyment of male customers; However, the guests of the establishment were all respectable bachelors: José Álvarez Rodríguez, director of the National College, his brother Justo, a lawyer and future Supreme Court judge, who was to marry one of Eva”s sisters, and Major Alfredo Arrieta, a future senator, who was then commanding the division stationed in the city, and who would also marry one of Eva”s sisters. In 2006, the municipality of Junín created the Casa Natal María Eva Duarte de Perón museum in the house on Calle Francia (now Calle Eva Perón).

It was in Junín that Eva”s artistic vocation was born. At school, where she had some difficulty in keeping up, she stood out for her passion for declamation and comedy, and she never failed to participate in the shows organized at the school, at the National College or at the local cinema, and in radio auditions.

Her friend and fellow student Délfida Noemí Ruíz de Gentile recalls:

“Eva liked to recite, I liked to sing. At that time, Don Primo Arini had a record store and, since there was no radio in the village, he placed a loudspeaker in front of his store. Once a week, from 7 to 8 p.m., he would invite local celebrities to come to his home to host the program La hora selecta. Eva would then recite poems.”

It was also in Junín that she participated for the first time in a theatrical work, staged by the students and entitled Arriba estudiantes (Up with the students). She later acted in another small play, Cortocircuito (Short Circuit), to raise money for a school library. In Junín, for the first time, Eva used a microphone and listened to her voice coming out of the speakers.

At that time, Eva also showed leadership skills, becoming the leader of one of the groups in her school year. On July 3, 1933, the day that former president Hipólito Yrigoyen, who had been overthrown three years earlier in a coup, died, Eva came to school wearing a black rosette on her dust jacket.

Even then, Eva dreamed of becoming an actress and emigrating to Buenos Aires. Her mistress Palmira Repetti remembers:

“A very young girl of 14, restless, determined, intelligent, whom I had as a student there about 1933. She didn”t like math. But there was no one better than her when it came to speaking at school parties. She was considered an excellent classmate. She was a great dreamer. She had artistic intuition. When she finished school, she came to tell me about her plans. She told me that she wanted to become an actress and that she would have to leave Junín. At that time, it was not very common for a provincial girl to decide to go and conquer the capital. Nevertheless, I took her very seriously, thinking that everything would be fine for her. My certainty came, no doubt, by contagion from her enthusiasm. Over the years, I realized that Eva”s confidence was natural. It came from her every action. I remember that she had a penchant for literature and declamation. She would escape from my class whenever the opportunity arose to recite for the other classes. With her affable manner, she would get into the good graces of her teachers and get permission to perform in front of other kids.”

According to the historian Lucía Gálvez, Evita and one of her friends were sexually assaulted in 1934 by two young men from good society who invited them to travel to Mar del Plata in their car. Gálvez affirms that after leaving Junín, they tried to rape them, without succeeding, and then left them unclothed a short distance from the city. A truck driver brought them back to their homes. It is probable that this incident, if it is accepted as true, had a great influence on his life.

That same year, even before completing her primary education, Eva made the trip to Buenos Aires, but when she couldn”t find a job, she had to return. She finished her primary education, spent the holidays with her family, and on January 2, 1935, Evita, only 15 years old, moved to Buenos Aires.

In a passage from the Razón de mi vida, Eva relates what her feelings were at that time:

“In the place where I spent my childhood, the poor were numerous, more numerous than the rich, but I tried to convince myself that there must be other places in my country and in the world where things were different, even the opposite. I imagined, for example, that big cities were wonderful places where only wealth met; and everything I heard people say confirmed my belief. They spoke of the big city as a marvelous paradise where everything was beautiful and extraordinary, and even I seemed to understand, from everything they said, that the people there were “more people” than those in my village.”

The film Evita, as well as some biographies, maintain that Eva Duarte traveled by train to Buenos Aires with the famous tango singer Agustín Magaldi, after the latter had performed a singing tour in Junín. However, Eva”s biographers, Marysa Navarro and Nicholas Fraser, have pointed out that there is no indication that Magaldi sang in Junín in 1934, and her sister tells us that Eva left for Buenos Aires accompanied by her mother, who then stayed with her until she found a radio station that had a role for a young teenager to fill. She then stayed with friends, while her mother returned to Junín in anger.

Arrival in Buenos Aires and acting career

Eva Duarte was 15 years old when she arrived in Buenos Aires on January 3, 1935. Her journey was part of the great wave of internal migration caused by the economic crisis of 1929 and the process of industrialization of Argentina. This powerful migratory movement, a significant event in Argentine history, was led by the so-called cabecitas negras (black heads), a depreciatory and racist term used by the middle and upper classes of Buenos Aires to designate these non-European migrants, who were different from those who had previously determined immigration to Argentina. This great internal migration of the 1930s and 1940s provided the labor force needed for the country”s industrial development and, from 1943 on, formed the social base of Peronism.

Shortly after her arrival, Eva Duarte got a job as an actress in a secondary role in Eva Franco”s theater group, one of the most important of that time. On March 28, 1935, she made her professional debut in the play La señora de los Pérez at the Teatro Comedias. The next day, the first known public commentary on Evita appeared in the newspaper Crítica:

“Eva Duarte, very correct in her brief interventions.”

In the following years, Eva experienced deprivation and humiliation, living in cheap boarding houses and intermittently playing small roles for various theater companies. Her main companion in Buenos Aires was her brother Juan Duarte, Juancito, five years older than her, the man of the family, with whom she always kept close contact and who, like her, had recently migrated to the capital.

In 1936, when she was about to turn seventeen, she signed a contract with the Compañía Argentina de Comedias Cómicas, directed by Pepita Muñoz, José Franco and Eloy Alvárez, to participate in a four-month tour that would take her to Rosario, Mendoza and Córdoba. The plays that were part of the company”s repertoire were purely entertaining and took as their subject the bourgeois life with its misunderstandings and various conflicts and frictions. One of the plays performed, entitled The Deadly Kiss, a free adaptation of a work by the French playwright Loïc Le Gouradiec, dealt with the scourge of venereal diseases and was subsidized by the Prophylactic Society of Argentina. During this tour, Eva was briefly mentioned in a column in the daily newspaper La Capital de Rosario of May 29, 1936, which commented on the premiere of the play Doña María del Buen Aire by Luis Bayón Herrera, a comedy about the first foundation of Buenos Aires:

“Oscar Soldatti, Jacinto Aicardi, Alberto Rella, Fina Bustamante and Eva Duarte gave a successful performance of the show.”

On Sunday, July 26, 1936, the same newspaper La Capital de Rosario published the first known public photo of Eva, with the following title:

“Eva Duarte, young actress who has managed to distinguish herself during the season that ends today at the Odeón.”

In those first years of sacrifice, Eva became close friends with two other actresses, like her still obscure, Anita Jordán and Josefina Bustamente, a friendship that lasted for the rest of her life. People who knew her at that time remember her as a dark-haired girl, very thin and frail, who dreamed of becoming an important actress, but who also possessed great strength of soul, a lot of joy, and a sense of friendship and justice.

Pierina Dealessi, actress and important theater producer, who hired Eva in 1937, recalls:

“I knew Eva Duarte in 1937. She presented herself shyly: she wanted to dedicate herself to the theater. I saw something so delicate that I told José Gómez, the representative of the troupe of which I was the producer, to give her a role in the cast. It was such an ethereal little thing, that I asked him: My little lady, do you really want to? Her affirmative answer was said in a very low voice, shyly. We were performing the play Una boîte rusa; I made her try it out and she seemed good. In her first roles, she had only a few words to say, but she never did any substitutions. On the stage, which was a club (cabaret), Eva was to appear with other girls, well dressed. Her face was very shabby. The girl got along well with all of them. She took mate with her friends. She prepared it in my greenhouse. She lived in boarding houses, was very poor, very humble. She arrived early at the theater, chatted with everyone, laughed, tasted cookies. When I saw her so weak, I would say to her: “You must take care of yourself, eat a lot, drink a lot of mate, it will do you a lot of good! And I would add milk to the mate.

Actors and actresses hired for small roles could earn a maximum of one hundred pesos a month, the usual salary of a factory worker. Gradually, Eva achieved some recognition, first by participating in films as a second line actress, and then by working as a model, appearing on the cover of some entertainment magazines, but it was mainly as a narrator and actress in radio dramas that she finally achieved a real career. She got her first role in a drama in August 1937. The play, broadcast by Radio Belgrano, was called Oro blanco (White Gold) and was set in the daily life of cotton workers in the Chaco. She also participated in an unsuccessful beauty contest and was a presenter in a tango contest, announcing the participants and providing transitions between the dancers” performances. She lived for six months with an actor, who said he wanted to marry her, but suddenly abandoned her.

Prominent actor Marcos Zucker, Eva”s workmate when both were just starting out in the business, remembers those years in the following way:

“I met Eva Duarte in 1938, at the Teatro Liceo, when we were working on the play La gruta de la Fortuna. The company was owned by Pierina Dealessi, and Gregorio Cicarelli, Ernesto Saracino and others were acting in it. She was the same age as me. She was a girl eager to distinguish herself, pleasant, friendly and very good friends with everyone, especially with me, since later, when she had the opportunity to play in a radio play, Los jazmines del ochenta, she called me to work with her. Between the time I met her in the theater and the time she was doing radio, a transformation had taken place in her. Her anxieties had subsided, she was more serene, less tense. On the radio, she was a young lady, a company head. Her programs were very popular and successful. She was already becoming a successful actress. Contrary to what is said around here, we gallants did not have much contact with the girls inside the theater. Nevertheless, I was very good friends with her and I have very good memories of this period of our lives. We were both in the same life, since we were both beginners and we had to be noticed, to make our way.

At the end of 1938, at the age of nineteen, Eva managed to become the first actor in the newly founded Compañía de Teatro del Aire, together with Pascual Pellicciotta, an actor who like her had worked for years in supporting roles. The first radio drama that the troupe put on the air was Los jazmines del ochenta, by Héctor Blomberg, for Radio Mitre, broadcast from Monday to Friday. It was around this time that she began to gain notoriety, not by selling her charms as has been whispered, but by agreeing to play the game of stardom, beating the anterooms of Sintonía, a film magazine that she had read avidly as a teenager, and where she got her name mentioned, or a report or a photo of her appearing in its columns.

At the same time, she began to appear more assiduously in films such as ¡Segundos afuera! (1937), El más infeliz del pueblo, with Luis Sandrini, La Carga de los valientes and Una novia en apuros in 1941.

In 1941, the troupe broadcast the radio play Los amores de Schubert, by Alejandro Casona, for Radio Prieto.

In 1942, she was finally released from her economic precariousness thanks to the contract she signed with the Compañía Candilejas troupe, under the aegis of the Guerreno soap company where her brother Juan worked, which would broadcast a cycle of dramas every morning for Radio El Mundo, the country”s main radio station. That same year, Eva was hired for five years to produce a daily evening radio drama series called Grandes mujeres de todos los tiempos (Great Women of All Times), dramatic evocations of the lives of illustrious women, in which she played, among others, Elizabeth I of England, Sarah Bernhardt and Alexandra Fedorovna, the last tsarina of Russia. This series of programs, broadcast by Radio Belgrano, was a great success. The scriptwriter of these programs, the jurist and historian Francisco José Muñoz Azpiri, was the one who, a few years later, would write Eva Perón”s first political speeches. Radio Belgrano was directed by Jaime Yankelevich, who would play a decisive role in the creation of Argentine television.

Between radio theater and cinema, Eva was finally able to make a stable and comfortable economic situation for herself. In 1943, after two years of work with her own acting company, she was earning five to six thousand pesos a month, making her one of the best paid radio actresses of the time. Thus, in 1942, she was able to leave behind her pensions and buy an apartment at 1567 Posadas Street, across from the Radio Belgrano studios, in the exclusive neighborhood of Recoleta, where three years later she would marry Juan Domingo Perón. According to one account, Eva made it a point of honour, as an actress in a leading position, not to be seen in the same cafes as the rest of the world, and once said: “I suggest that we go to the Confitería on the corner for tea, where ordinary people don”t come.

On August 3, 1943, Eva also became involved in union activity, and was one of the founders of the Argentine Radio Association (ARA, Asociación Radial Argentina), the first union of radio workers.

Peronism

Eva met Juan Perón in the early days of 1944, when Argentina was going through a crucial period of economic, social and political transformation.

From the economic point of view, the country had in previous years completely changed its productive structure as a result of a strong development of its industry. In 1943, industrial production had for the first time exceeded agricultural production.

Socially, Argentina experienced a vast internal migration from the countryside to the cities, driven by industrial development. This movement brought about a vast process of urbanization and a notable change in the composition of the population of the big cities, especially Buenos Aires, due to the irruption of a new type of non-European workers, disdainfully called cabecitas negras (black heads) by the middle and upper classes, for having hair, complexion and eyes that were on average darker than the majority of the immigrants coming directly from Europe. The great internal migration was also characterized by the presence of a large number of women eager to enter the wage labor market that industrialization had created.

Politically, Argentina was in the midst of a deep crisis affecting the traditional political parties, which had validated a corrupt system based on electoral fraud and clientelism. This period of Argentine history, known as the Infamous Decade, which lasted from 1930 to 1943, saw a conservative alliance called the Concordancia govern. The corruption of the conservative power in place led to a military coup on June 4, 1943, which opened a confused period of reorganization and repositioning of political forces. Lieutenant Colonel Juan Domingo Perón, 47 years old, was part of the third configuration of the new government established after the military coup.

In 1943, shortly after the beginning of the military government, a group of mostly socialist and syndicalist-revolutionary trade unionists, led by the socialist trade union leader Ángel Borlenghi, took the initiative to establish contacts with young officers receptive to workers” demands. On the military side, Colonels Juan Perón and Domingo Mercante led the military group that decided to form an alliance with the unions in order to implement the historic program that Argentine unionism had been carrying since 1890.

This military-union alliance led by Perón and Borlenghi was able to achieve great social advances (collective agreements, status of the agricultural worker, retirement pensions, etc.), thus securing strong popular support that allowed it to take up important positions in the government. It was Perón who first held a government position, when he was appointed to head the insignificant Department of Labour. Soon afterwards he had the department elevated to the high rank of Secretary of State.

Parallel to the progress of social and labor rights achieved by the union-military group led by Perón and Borlenghi, and the growing popular support for it, an opposition began to be organized, led by the employers, the military and traditional student groups, with the open support of the U.S. Embassy, and which enjoyed growing support among the middle and upper classes. This confrontation would initially be known as the sneakers versus the books.

Eva, aged 24, met Juan Perón, widowed in 1938, on January 22, 1944, at an event organized in the Luna Park stadium in Buenos Aires by the Secretariat of Labor and Welfare, where the actresses who had raised the most funds for the victims of the San Juan earthquake of 1944 would be awarded a decoration. The top actresses were Niní Marshall, future opponent of Peronism, and Libertad Lamarque. When these funds were collected, Juan Perón asked Eva to come and work at the Secretariat of Labor. He wanted to attract someone capable of developing a labor policy for women and wanted a woman to lead this movement. He felt that Eva, with her qualities of dedication and initiative, was ideally suited to this task.

Shortly afterwards, in February 1944, Juan Perón and Eva got married in Eva”s apartment on Posadas Street. Soon, Perón, who was still a colonel at the time, fulfilled his girlfriend”s request and asked the Secretary of Broadcasting, Miguel Federico Villegas, who was a captain at the time, to find her a role in some radio play.

Meanwhile, Eva continued her artistic career. In the new government, Major Alberto Farías, an inflexible patriot of provincial origin, was put in charge of “communication,” his mission being to purge broadcasts and advertisements of undesirable elements. Any radio broadcast had to be submitted to the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications for approval ten days in advance. Nevertheless, thanks to the protection of Colonel Anibal Imbert, who was in charge of allocating airtime, in September 1943 Eva Perón was able to carry out her project for a series of programs entitled Heroines of History (which in reality were about the lives of famous mistresses), the texts of which were written, once again, by Muñoz Azpiri. She signed a new contract with Radio Belgrano for 35,000 pesos, which she said was the largest contract in the history of broadcasting.

That same year, she was elected president of her union, the Asociación Radial Argentina (ARA). Soon after, she added to her programming on Radio Belgrano a set of three new daily radio shows: Hacia un futuro mejor, at 10:30 a.m., where she announced the social and labor achievements obtained by the Secretariat of Labor; the drama Tempestad, at 6:00 p.m.; and Reina de reyes, at 8:30 p.m. Later in the evening, she also participated in more political programs, where Perón”s ideas were explicitly presented, with a view to possible elections, and aimed at those segments of the population that he expected to support him, who had never been targeted by political propaganda and who did not read the press. Eva was not very interested in politics and did not discuss political issues, but simply absorbed what Juan Perón knew and thought, becoming his biggest and most ardent supporter.

She also acted in three films, La cabalgata del circo, with Hugo del Carril and Libertad Lamarque, Amanece sobre las ruinas (Dawn over the Ruins, late 1944), a propaganda film set in the San Juan earthquake, and La pródiga, which was not released at the time of its production. The latter film, set in 19th century Spain, tells of the affair between a mature and still beautiful woman and a young engineer busy building a dam. The woman was called the prodigal because of her great and reckless liberality, which led her to spend her fortune to help the poor villagers. The filming was done when Eva Perón could free herself from other obligations and therefore lasted for many months. She liked this film, which was her last, because of the spirit of self-sacrifice and moral suffering, which was quite stereotypical, although her person did not fit well with the role of an older woman. Moreover, her acting lacked dramatic power, her voice was monotonous, her gestures frozen, and her face remained unexpressive. Moreover, she once confided to her confessor, the Jesuit Hernán Benítez, that her performances were “bad in the cinema, mediocre in the theater, and passable on the radio.

The year 1945 was a turning point in Argentine history. The confrontation between the different social fractions was exacerbated, the opposition between espadrilles (alpargatas) and books (libros) crystallized in an opposition between Peronism and anti-Peronism.

On the night of October 8, the hasty and poorly organized coup d”état of General Eduardo Ávalos took place. The trigger for the putsch was a matter of appointment to a high government position, which had escaped some sectors of the army, against a background of opposition to Juan Perón”s social policy, and the irritation caused by his private life, specifically his unmarried life with Eva Duarte, a woman of obscure background and extraction. For a week, the anti-Peronist groups had control of the country, but they did not decide to take power. Perón and Eva stayed together, visiting various people, including Elisa Duarte, Eva”s second sister. Shortly before the coup d”état, Juan Perón was visited by General Ávalos, who advised him in vain to give in to the military”s wishes; during this lively discussion, Eva said to Juan Perón: “What you have to do is drop everything, retire and rest… Let them take care of themselves. On October 9, Juan Perón signed his letter of resignation from the three governmental positions he held, as well as a request to be placed on leave. The same day, Eva Duarte was informed that her contract with Radio Belgrano had been terminated.

On October 13, Perón was placed under house arrest in the apartment on Calle Posadas, and then taken into custody on the gunboat Independencia, which then set sail for Isla Martín García in the River Plate.

That same day, Perón wrote a letter to his friend Colonel Domingo Mercante, in which he mentioned Eva Duarte, referring to her as Evita:

“I highly recommend Evita to you, because the poor thing is at the end of her rope and I”m worried about her health. As soon as I”m given my leave, I”m getting married and going to hell.”

On October 14, from Martín García, Perón wrote a letter to Eva in which he told her, among other things:

“…Today I wrote to Farrell asking him to expedite my request for leave. As soon as I get out of here, we”ll get married and go live in peace somewhere… What did you tell me about Farrell and Ávalos? Two people who are treacherous to their friend. This is how life goes… I charge you to tell Mercante that he talks to Farrell, so that they leave me alone, and the two of us leave for Chubut… I will try to get to Buenos Aires by any means, so you can wait without worrying and take care of your health. If the leave is granted, we will get married the next day, and if it is not granted, I will arrange things differently, but we will put an end to this situation of insecurity in which you find yourself at the moment… With what I have done, I have a justification before History and I know that time will prove me right. I will start writing a book about this and publish it as soon as possible, and then we will see who is right…”

It seemed at that moment that Perón had definitively withdrawn from all political activity and that, if things went according to his will, he would have retired with Eva to live in Patagonia. However, from October 15 onwards, the unions began to mobilize to demand Perón”s release, culminating in the great demonstration of October 17, which led to Perón”s release and enabled the military-union alliance to regain all the positions it had previously held in the government, thus paving the way for victory in the presidential election.

The traditional narrative has tried to attribute to Eva Perón a decisive role in the mobilization of the workers who occupied May Square on October 17, but historians agree today that her action – if there was any – during those days was in reality very limited. At most, she was able to participate in a few union meetings, without having much impact on the course of events. At that time, Eva Duarte still lacked a political identity, contacts in the unions and a solid support in Juan Perón”s inner circle. Historical accounts abound that indicate that the movement that freed Perón was triggered directly by the unions throughout the country, especially by the CGT. The journalist Héctor Daniel Vargas revealed that on October 17, 1945, Eva Duarte was in Junín, probably at her mother”s home, and he refers to a warrant signed by her in that city on the same day. It seems, however, that she could have gone to Buenos Aires and was there the same night. But hated as much as Perón himself, no longer under the protection of the police, now openly disparaged by the press, driven out of Radio Belgrano despite ten years of service, she was alone and afraid, thinking only of freeing Juan Perón and fearing for his life. On October 15, she found herself in the middle of an anti-Peronist demonstration, was beaten and her face was so badly bruised that she was able to return home without being recognized. It is most likely that, having failed to have Juan Perón released through a judge, she chose to remain silent so as not to jeopardize the chances of his release.

The conventional way to be released from prison was to apply to a federal judge for a writ of habeas corpus: in most cases, as long as no charges had been filed, the judge could order the release, provided that the person concerned had previously stated, by means of a telegram sent to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, his intention to leave the country within 24 hours. The procedure was simple and had been used by many anti-Peronist opponents in the previous two years. Eva Duarte went to the office of the lawyer Juan Atilio Bramuglia, who had her thrown out. Eva will keep a strong grudge against Bramuglia from this incident.

Juan Perón, however, was soon able to leave Isla Martín García, pretending, with the complicity of the military doctor and his friend Captain Miguel Ángel Mazza, that he had pleurisy, which necessitated his hospitalization, that is to say, his transfer (kept secret) to the military hospital in Buenos Aires. In the meantime, spontaneous strikes had begun to break out, both in the suburbs of the capital and in the provinces. The workers feared that the social gains of the past two years, for which they were indebted to Juan Perón, would be wiped out. On October 15, the CGT decided, after long debates, to call a general strike for October 18.

Through Dr. Mazza, Eva was able to visit Juan Perón in the hospital; he told her to remain calm and not to do anything dangerous – another reason to admit that Eva Perón did not play a determining role in the events of October 18.

A few days later, on October 22, 1945, Juan Perón married Eva in Junín, as he had announced in his letters. The event took place in the privacy of the Ordiales notary”s office, which was housed in a villa, which still exists today, on the corner of Arias and Quintana streets, in the center of the city. The secretary used to draw up the civil marriage certificate is currently on display at the Historical Museum of Junín. The witnesses were Eva”s brother, Juan Duarte, and Domingo Mercante, a friend of Juan Perón and an early Peronist. Because of an attempt on Juan Perón”s life, the religious wedding had to be postponed; it was celebrated on December 10, in a private ceremony, followed by a small family reunion, in the Church of St. Francis of Assisi in La Plata, chosen on the recommendation of a Franciscan friar friend of theirs and because of Eva”s predilection for the Order of Friars Minor. At that time, Perón was already a candidate for the presidency of the Argentine Republic, a Catholic country where it was unthinkable for a politician to live with a woman without being religiously married to her.

At the same time, Eva tried to discreetly erase the traces of her acting career, asking radio stations to send her publicity photos and preventing the broadcast of her last film La pródiga.

Political career

Since Eva Perón exercised power in what appeared to be a very personal and emotional way, it was wrongly inferred that her actions were determined only by her own opinions and by the psychological characteristics of her personality; in reality, she always worked within the political and ideological framework defined by Juan Perón.

At a rally on October 17, 1951, Juan Perón himself, referring briefly to Evita”s political role within Peronism, distinguished three aspects: her relationship with the unions, her charitable foundation, and her work with Argentine women.

To this can be added her role as priestess of the great rituals of the Peronist regime and as orchestrator of the cult of personality of Juan Perón. There was hardly an event that could attract the public”s attention (any such occasion was a pretext for holding one of the regime”s customary rituals, which were inevitably accompanied by lots of hugging of children and expressions of love for the descamisados and the fatherland. The two main rituals were May Day and the celebration of October 17, in whose ceremonial Eva Perón had her own place.

Finally, more incidentally, she tried, through her European tour, to correct the bad image of Peronism abroad.

Eva began her political career accompanying Juan Perón as his wife in his electoral campaign for the presidential elections of February 24, 1946. Their electoral tour took them to Junín, Rosario, Mendoza and Córdoba. Juan Perón and his entourage wore ordinary clothes, adorned with badges of the new movement, in order to proletarianize Argentine political life. Eva, without ever making a speech herself, stood next to Juan Perón when he gave his speeches, in an increasingly hoarse voice, about the agrarian reforms he planned as a way to break the power of the oligarchy.

Eva”s participation in Juan Perón”s campaign was a novelty in Argentina”s political history. At that time, women (except in the province of San Juan) were deprived of political rights and public appearances by the wives of presidential candidates were very limited and, in principle, should not be political. Since the beginning of the century, groups of feminists, among whom were prominent figures such as Alicia Moreau de Justo, Julieta Lanteri and Elvira Rawson de Dellepiane, had demanded in vain that political rights be extended to women. In general, the dominant macho culture even considered it unladylike for a woman to express a political opinion.

Perón was the first Argentine head of state to put women”s issues on the agenda, even before Evita entered politics. Argentine feminists and suffragettes had been demanding the right to vote for women for many years, but as long as the conservatives were in power, being granted such a right was unthinkable. However, Perón began to address the issue in 1943, and when Perón and Evita together paved the way for women”s political participation, the advances in this area would be considerable. In the 1950s, no country in the world had more women in parliament than Argentina.

Eva was the first wife of an Argentine presidential candidate to make her presence felt during his campaign and to accompany him on his electoral tours. According to Pablo Vázquez, Perón proposed to grant women the right to vote as early as 1943, but the National Assembly of Women (Asamblea Nacional de Mujeres), presided over by Victoria Ocampo, allying itself with conservative circles, opposed in 1945 that a dictatorship should grant women suffrage – true to the formula: “Female suffrage, but adopted by a Congress elected in an honest ballot” – and the project did not succeed.

On February 8, 1946, shortly before the end of the campaign, the Centro Universitario Argentino, the Cruzada de la Mujer Argentina (Argentine Women”s Crusade) and the Secretaría General Estudiantil organized a public meeting in the Luna Park stadium in Buenos Aires to show the support of women for Perón”s candidacy. Since Perón himself was not able to attend, being exhausted from the campaign, it was announced that María Eva Duarte de Perón would speak in his place – the first time that Evita would have spoken at a political rally. However, the opportunity did not materialize, because the audience demanded the presence of Perón himself and prevented Eva from giving her speech.

Thus, during this first electoral campaign, Eva could hardly step out of her strict role as Perón”s wife. However, it was clear from that moment that she intended to play an autonomous political role, even though political activities were forbidden to women at that time. Her own conception of her role in Peronism was expressed in a speech she gave a few years later, on May 1, 1949:

“I want to end with a sentence that is very much mine, and that I say every time to all the descamisados of my homeland, but I don”t want it to be just another sentence, but for you to see in it the feeling of a woman at the service of the humble and at the service of all those who suffer: ”I prefer to be Evita, rather than to be the wife of the president, if this Evita is said to alleviate some sorrow in some hearth of my homeland.””

At first, Eva”s political work consisted (besides a purely representative function) of visiting companies in the company of her husband, then alone, and soon she had at her disposal a private office, first in the Ministry of Telecommunications, and then in the building of the Ministry of Labor, a building to which her person would remain inseparable thereafter in the eyes of popular opinion. There she received common people who came to ask her for certain favors, such as the admission to the hospital of a sick child, or the granting of housing to a family, or financial aid. She was assisted by people who had previously worked in the ministry with Perón, especially Isabel Ernst, who had excellent contacts with the trade union world and took part in all meetings with trade unionists. She helped the workers to found unions in companies where there were none, or to create new ones, of Peronist obedience, where only unions not approved by the government, communist or otherwise, existed, or, in the case of union elections, to support the Peronists against the anti-Peronists.

Juan Perón, in granting these freedoms to his wife, was pursuing specific political goals. The workers” strikes continued, and Eva”s influence on the people and the unions was to help Juan Perón increase his hold on the labor movement. In addition, by showering her husband with spontaneous and sincere praise, she took on a whole part of the Peronist propaganda, which was validated by her popular origins.

In response to opposition criticism of Eva Perón”s exact political role, the government issued a statement in December 1946 indicating that she did not have a secretary, but a collaborator; that although she was not a member of the government per se, she made an active contribution to its social policy by acting as the government”s emissary to the descamisados.

For the oligarchy, however, its action was explained by a desire to imitate those who were above it in the social hierarchy, and by a desire for revenge against those it had tried to equal without succeeding. Her entire motive lay in the causal chain of wounded self-esteem followed by revenge, and of envy followed by resentment.

Argentinian historians are unanimous in recognizing the decisive role played by Evita in the process of acceptance of equality between men and women in terms of political and civil rights in Argentina. During her European tour, she used the following formula to express her point of view on this issue: “This century will not go down in history as the century of atomic disintegration, but with another, much more significant name: century of victorious feminism.”

She gave several speeches in favor of women”s suffrage and in her newspaper, Democracia, appeared a series of articles urging male Peronists to abandon their prejudices against women. However, she was only moderately interested in the theoretical aspects of feminism, and in her speeches she rarely addressed issues exclusively concerning women, and even expressed herself with disdain about militant feminism, portraying feminists as contemptible women incapable of realizing their femininity. Nevertheless, many Argentine women, initially indifferent to these issues, entered politics because of Eva Perón.

During the campaign for the 1946 elections, the Peronist coalition had included recognition of women”s suffrage in its electoral platform. Earlier, Perón, as vice-president, had tried to pass a law establishing women”s suffrage, but resistance within the armed forces in the government, as well as from the opposition, which alleged electoral ulterior motives, had caused the project to fail. In the aftermath of the 1946 election, and as her influence in the Peronist movement grew, Evita began to campaign openly for women”s suffrage through public meetings and radio addresses. Later, Evita would establish the Women”s Peronist Party, a group of women leaders with a network of local branches, something that did not exist anywhere else in the world. She demonstrated that women should not only vote, but also vote for women; in fact, Argentina would soon have women deputies and senators, whose numbers would increase in subsequent elections, so that Argentina appeared to be far ahead.

On February 27, 1946, three days after the elections, the 26-year-old Evita made her first political speech at a public meeting called to thank Argentine women for their support for Perón”s candidacy. On this occasion, Evita demanded equal rights for men and women, especially women”s suffrage:

“Argentine women have overcome the period of civil guardianship. The woman must strengthen her action, the woman must vote. The woman, moral spring of her home, must take her place in the complex social machinery of the people. This is what a new necessity to organize in larger groups and more in accordance with our time demands. This is what the transformation of the very concept of woman demands, now that the number of her duties has increased in a sacrificial way, without at the same time she has claimed the least of her rights.”

The bill providing for women”s right to vote was introduced immediately after the new constitutional government took office on May 1, 1946. Conservative prejudices, however, prevented the law from being passed, not only in the opposition parties but also in the parties supporting Peronism. Evita relentlessly pressured the parliamentarians to approve the law, until she finally provoked their protests by interfering.

Although it was a very short text, with only three articles, which could not be discussed in practice, the Senate only gave partial approval to the project on August 21, 1946, and it took more than a year before the Chamber of Deputies passed Law 13.010 on September 9, 1947, which established equal political rights between men and women and universal suffrage in Argentina. Law 13.010 was finally approved unanimously.

Following the passage of this law, Evita made the following statement on national television:

“Women of my country, I have just received from the hands of the government of the nation the law consecrating our civil rights, and I receive it before you with the certainty that I do so in the name and representation of all Argentine women, feeling with jubilation my hands tremble at the contact of this consecration that proclaims the victory. Here, my sisters, is summarized, in the tight typography of few articles, a long history of struggles, annoyances and hopes, which is why this law is heavy with the tension of indignation, with the shadows of hostile events, but also with the joyful awakening of triumphal dawns, and with this present triumph, which translates the victory of women over the misunderstandings, the refusals, and the established interests of the castes repudiated by our national awakening (…).”

The PPF was organized around basic women”s units created in neighborhoods and villages and within the unions, channeling women”s direct militant activity. Women affiliated with the Women”s Peronist Party participated through two types of base units:

Although there was no distinction or hierarchy among the members of the Peronist Women”s Party, it was required of its members that they be good Peronists, that is, fanatics, totally devoted to the party, for whom the party came before everything else, including their families and careers. Evita proved to be an excellent organizer, never tiring of encouraging “her women” and pushing them to go further and further.

On November 11, 1951, general elections were held. Evita voted in the hospital, where she had been admitted due to the advanced stage of cancer that would end her life the following year. For the first time, women parliamentarians were elected: 23 national deputies, 6 national senators, and if we also count the members of the provincial legislatures, women totaled 109.

Political equality between men and women was complemented by the legal equality of spouses and by the shared patria potestas, now guaranteed by article 37 (II.1) of the Argentine constitution of 1949, which was never later transposed into regulations. Eva Perón herself wrote the text. The military coup of 1955 abrogated the constitution and with it the guarantee of legal equality between men and women within marriage and in relation to the patria potestas, thus restoring the old civil precedence of men over women. The constitutional reform of 1957 did not re-establish this constitutional guarantee either, and Argentine women remained discriminated against in the civil code until the Law of Shared Patria Potestas (Ley de patria potestad compartida) was passed under the government of Raúl Alfonsín in 1985.

Eva Perón had a strong, close and complex relationship with the workers and with the unions in particular, which was very symptomatic of her personality.

In 1947, Perón ordered the dissolution of the three parties that supported him, the Partido Laborista (Labour Party), the Partido Independente (Conservative Party) and the Unión Cívica Radical Junta Renovadora (Unión Cívica Radical Junta Renovadora, founded in 1945 as a split from the UCR), to create the Justicialist Party. In this way, while the unions lost their autonomy within Peronism, the latter was built on the backbone of trade unionism, which in practice led to the subsequent transformation of the Justicialist Party into a quasi-labour party.

In this assemblage of heterogeneous and often conflicting powers and interests that came together in Peronism, conceived as a movement encompassing a multiplicity of classes and sectors, Eva Perón played the role of a direct and privileged link between Juan Perón and the unions, which allowed the latter to consolidate their position of power, albeit shared.

For this reason, in 1951 the trade union movement promoted Eva Perón”s candidacy for the vice-presidency, a candidacy that was strongly opposed, even within the Peronist Party itself, by those sectors that wished to avoid increased influence of the trade unions.

Evita had a resolutely combative vision of social and labor rights, and believed that the oligarchy and imperialism would try, even by using violence, to obtain their cancellation. As a result, together with the union leaders, Eva promoted the formation of workers” militias and, shortly before her death, acquired weapons of war which she put in the hands of the CGT.

The close relationship between Eva Perón and trade unionism found its ultimate and visible expression in the fact that her embalmed body was permanently deposited at the CGT headquarters in Buenos Aires after her death.

During the election campaign, the press had been generally unfavorable to Juan Perón. At the beginning of 1947, Eva Perón acquired Democracia, a small daily newspaper of average quality. Eva had no funds of her own, so the central bank (nationalized) was called in for a loan. For the rest, Eva played only a minor role in the newspaper”s destiny, leaving the editorial team free to pursue their own careers. However, on occasion, she typically left her mark, as N. Fraser and M. Navarro point out:

“The newspaper presented, in tabloid format and with many photographs, a very biased account of the continuous ceremonies of the Peronist regime. Perón”s speeches were always prominently reproduced, and when Eva Perón made a series of radio broadcasts telling housekeepers how to deal with inflation, they were also well received in the columns of Democracia. One of Evita”s whims even became an editorial rule. It concerned the person of Juan Atilio Bramuglia, now Minister of Foreign Affairs, and previously the man who had refused to allow Evita to arrange a writ of habeas corpus for Juan Perón. Bramuglia was never mentioned by name in the newspaper. If there was a need to refer to him, it was limited to mentioning his function. The photos in which he appeared were retouched, either by erasing him when he was standing at the end of a group, or by blurring his face when he was in the middle.”

On the other hand, there was a plethora of photos of Evita, especially of her gowns at gala evenings at the Colón Theater in Buenos Aires, which resulted in special nightly editions with a print run of up to 400,000 copies. The print run of the regular editions increased from 6,000 to 20,000 and then to 40,000.

In 1947, Juan Perón, Evita and other Peronist leaders conceived the idea of an international tour for Evita, which was unprecedented at that time for a woman and would bring her to the forefront politically. The objective was also to bring Argentina out of its post-war isolation by means of a charm offensive, and to correct, if necessary, the suspicion that Peronism was close to fascism. The premise of the trip was an invitation from General Francisco Franco to Juan Perón to visit Spain, which Perón was reluctant to accept because he wanted to break his isolation, resume diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union and be admitted to the UN. It was therefore agreed that Eva would go alone and that her trip would not be limited to Spain, in order to dissociate it from Franco”s invitation. The trip was presented by the Argentine government in very general terms: she would bring a “message of peace” to Europe or cast a “rainbow of beauty” between the old and new continents.

The tour lasted 64 days, between June 6 and August 23, 1947, and allowed Eva Perón to visit Spain (for 18 days), Italy and the Vatican (20 days), Portugal (3 days), France (12 days), Switzerland (6 days), Brazil (3 days) and Uruguay (2 days). Her official purpose was to act as a goodwill ambassador and to learn about the welfare systems in place in Europe, with the intention of being able to initiate a new welfare system upon her return to Argentina. Also traveling with her were her brother Juan Duarte, as a member of Perón”s secretariat; the hairdresser July Alcaraz, who created the most elaborate Pompadour hairstyles for her; two journalists appointed by the government, Muñoz Azpiri and a photographer from Democracia; and the Jesuit Father Hernán Benítez, a friend of the Peróns, who preceded Eva to Rome and by whom she would be advised, and who, once the tour was over, would exert an influence on the creation of the Eva Perón Foundation.

Evita called her tour the Rainbow Tour (in Spanish: Gira Arco Iris), a name that originated from a declaration that Evita made, with candor, shortly after her arrival in Europe:

“I did not come to form an axis, but only as a rainbow between our two countries.”

Spain, then ruled by the dictator Francisco Franco, was the first stop on her journey. She stopped in Villa Cisneros, Madrid (where she was cheered by a crowd of three million Madrilenians), Toledo, Segovia, Galicia, Seville, Granada, Zaragoza and Barcelona. During her 15-day stay in Spain, she was honored with fireworks, banquets, plays and folk dances. In all the cities there were huge crowds and manifestations of intense affection; many Spaniards had close relatives who had emigrated to Argentina and had succeeded there, so the country had a good image in Spain. In Madrid, in response to a speech by Franco, in which he praised the ideals of Peronism, Evita paid a rather emphatic tribute to Isabel of Castile, and then gave an impromptu Peronist propaganda speech, saying that Argentina had been able to choose between a simulacrum of democracy and a true democracy, and that the great ideas had simple names, such as better food, better housing, and a better life.

There are dozens of testimonies attesting to Eva Perón”s disappointment with the way the workers and the humble were treated in Spain. She used her diplomacy and influence to obtain a pardon from Franco for the communist activist Juana Doña. She had a tense relationship with Franco”s wife, Carmen Polo, because of her insistence on showing him only the historical Madrid of the Habsburgs and Bourbons, instead of the public hospitals and working-class neighborhoods. Back in Argentina, she gave the following account:

“Franco”s wife didn”t like the workers, and whenever she could, she called them red, because they had participated in the civil war. I could hold back a couple of times until I couldn”t stand it anymore, and I told her that her husband was not a ruler by the vote of the people, but by the imposition of a victory. This was not at all appreciated by the fat woman.”

Nevertheless, Franco was satisfied with this visit, and the following year he was able to conclude the trade agreement he had in mind with Argentina.

The trip continued in Italy, where she had lunch with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, visited kindergartens, but was also loudly criticized by the communists, who equated Peronism with fascism and wanted to jeopardize the realization of what was also one of the stakes of this trip: to obtain loans and an increase in the quota of Italian immigrants in Argentina; demonstrations by communists under her window resulted in the arrest of 27 people.

In the Vatican, she was received by Pope Pius XII, who had a 30-minute face-to-face meeting with her, after which he gave her the golden rosary and the papal medal that she would hold in her hands at the moment of her death. There is no direct testimony of what the Pope and Eva talked about, except for a brief comment by Juan Perón about what his wife had told him. The Buenos Aires newspaper La Razón covered the event as follows:

“The Pope then invited her to take a seat near his office-secretary and began the audience. Officially, not a single word has been communicated of the conversation between the Supreme Pontiff and Mrs. Perón; however, a member of the Papal Household indicated that Pius XII expressed his personal gratitude to Mrs. Perón for the help given by Argentina to the European countries exhausted by the war and for the collaboration that Argentina wanted to give to the relief work of the Pontifical Commission. After 27 minutes, the Pontiff pressed a small white button on his secretary. A bell rang in the antechamber and the audience came to an end. Pius XII gave Mrs. Perón a rosary with a gold medal commemorating his pontificate.

After visiting Portugal, where multitudes came to cheer her, and where she visited the exiled King of Spain, Don Juan de Borbón, she went to France, where she was affected by the publication in the weekly magazine France Dimanche of an advertising photo for a brand of soap, taken a few years earlier, in which she appeared with a bare leg, a position that did not conform to the moral standards of the time. She was welcomed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Georges Bidault and had a meeting with the President of the National Assembly, the socialist Édouard Herriot, among other political figures. The plan was that her presence in France would coincide with the signing of an exchange treaty between France and Argentina, which did take place at the Quai d”Orsay. Eva was then awarded the medal of the Legion of Honor by Georges Bidault.

She stayed at the Ritz and was driven around Paris in a car that had belonged to Charles de Gaulle and had been used by Winston Churchill during his visits to Paris. Father Hernán Benítez took her to the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris to speak with the Apostolic Nuncio in Paris, Monsignor Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, the future Pope John XXIII, who made the following recommendation:

“If you really propose to do this, I recommend two things: that you totally forbid yourself any bureaucratic paperwork, and that you devote yourself without restriction to your task.”

Benítez said that Roncalli was impressed by the figure of Evita bowing her head before the altar to the Virgin Mary while the Argentine national anthem was played: “The Empress Eugenie de Montijo has returned!

Interested in French fashion design, Eva organized a private fashion show in her hotel, but on the advice of Hernán Benítez, who feared that it would be considered an unacceptable frivolity, she preferred to cancel it at the last minute, a decision considered by many as indelicate. However, she had her measurements taken at Christian Dior and Marcel Rochas, who would later make many of her dresses. To close her stay in France, a reception was held in her honor at the Latin American Circle, where the entire Latin American diplomatic corps paid their respects and where she attracted attention with an extravagant gown, including a tight-fitting, low-cut evening dress with a fishtail train.

The tour continued through Switzerland, where she met with political leaders and visited a watch factory. There was much speculation about her visit to Switzerland, linking it to corruption (the opposition went so far as to claim that the real purpose of the trip was to allow Evita and her brother Juan to deposit money in a bank account), but historians have found no evidence to support it. In the United Kingdom, where the Labour Party was in government, the debate about the appropriateness of a visit by Eva Perón was the most heated, but in the end, since the British royal family (who had always insisted that the visit was only unofficial) was in Scotland, she gave up visiting Great Britain, probably out of hurt feelings, but made further stops in Brazil and Uruguay before returning to Argentina.

While Perón herself was satisfied with her performance, the opposition was highly critical, especially of the tour”s considerable expense, and two newspapers were banned from publication by the government for irreverent articles about Perón. In terms of the government”s goal of making the Peronist regime acceptable to the world, the tour was a mixed success. Eva Perón”s image did not impress progressive circles in Europe, and the press only supported her to the extent that a distinction was made between the person of Evita and the political regime, with all its lesser sides, that she represented.

Later, Eva Perón became more and more like Evita, a woman dedicated to her political and social work. Among other things, this meant adopting a more sober appearance, abandoning her Pompadour hairstyles and her flashy dresses.

What made Eva Perón stand out during the Peronist government were her charitable activities, aimed at alleviating poverty or any other form of social distress. In Argentina, this activity was traditionally entrusted to the Sociedad de Beneficencia, an old semi-public association created by Bernardino Rivadavia at the beginning of the nineteenth century and directed by a select group of women from the upper classes. The society”s funds no longer came from the women themselves or their husbands” business dealings, but from the state, either indirectly, through taxes levied on the lottery, or directly, through subsidies. By the 1930s, it became clear that the Sociedad de Beneficencia as an organization and charity as an activity had become obsolete and unsuitable for urban industrial society. From 1943 onwards, the Sociedad de Beneficencia began to be reorganized, and on September 6, 1946, the federal government intervened to this end. Since then, the Peronist government has taken charge of the social assistance and welfare service, giving it a strong popular content. Part of this mission was accomplished through the public health plan successfully implemented by the Minister of Health Ramón Carrillo; another part was accomplished through new social security institutions, such as the general pension system; and another part was assumed by Eva Perón through the Eva Perón Foundation.

During her European tour, she had visited many welfare institutions, but they were mainly religious organizations, run by the property classes. This gave her, she later said, a sense of what she should avoid doing, as these institutions were “regulated by standards set by the rich. And when the rich think of the poor, they have miserable ideas. As soon as she returned to Argentina, she organized the María Eva Duarte de Perón Social Assistance Crusade to care for the elderly and poor women through subsidies and temporary homes. On July 8, 1948, the Eva Perón Foundation was created, presided over by Evita and legally approved by Juan Perón and the Minister of Finance. This foundation carried out a considerable social work, benefiting almost all children, the elderly, single mothers, women who were the sole breadwinners, etc., belonging to the most disadvantaged sectors of the population.

The foundation, according to the terms of its statutes, had the following objectives:

According to the same statutes, “the organization was and would remain in the hands of the founder, who would exercise this responsibility for an indefinite period of time and would hold all the powers granted to her by the state and the constitution. The foundation, which had a permanent staff of over 16,000, could plan and carry out its own activities and impose its priorities on the government. Everything that was ever set up by the foundation was done at the instigation of Eva Perón and under her supervision. Part of its funding came from the unions; the donations, at first spontaneous and erratic, were formalized after a year of operation of the foundation, e.g., when a union obtained a salary increase, the amount of the increase was withheld for the first two weeks as a donation to the foundation.

With thousands of applicants coming in, a selection procedure was eventually instituted. Applicants were urged to first inform Evita of their needs in writing, after which they received an invitation for an interview, with a time and place. Evita reserved her afternoons for her direct aid activities, and remained invariably friendly and courteous to the applicants, to whom she appeared, despite her position and the jewels she wore over an otherwise strict and sober outfit, as one of their own. She was seen as a saint, and her role, though secular, was transfigured by the religious atmosphere that surrounded her charitable activities and especially by her gestures: she did not hesitate to embrace her poor and seemed willing to sacrifice her life for them. Nevertheless, the Foundation”s operation remained pragmatic, and molded to individual needs better than a bureaucratic organization could have done.

The Foundation carried out a wide range of social activities, from the construction of hospitals, shelters, schools and summer camps to the granting of scholarships and housing assistance and the emancipation of women in various ways. Every year, the Foundation organized the famous Evita Games (Juegos Infantiles Evita, for children) and Juan Perón Games (Juegos Juveniles Juan Perón, for young people), in which hundreds of thousands of children and young people from poor backgrounds took part, and which, in addition to encouraging the practice of sports, also allowed for massive medical check-ups. At the end of each year, the Foundation also distributed large quantities of cider and gingerbread to the poorest families, an action that was strongly criticized by opponents at the time.

Evita was also concerned with improving health care in Argentina. Public medicine was unsatisfactory: dilapidated hospital infrastructure, poorly trained nurses, etc. Eva Perón arranged for the nursing training programs, which had been partly under the aforementioned Sociedad de Beneficiencia and had just been transferred to state control, to be combined into a new four-year training program. Young girls from all over the country could attend the courses, which were entirely paid for by the Foundation. Discipline was almost military; jewelry was forbidden, and the students left the institution at the end of their studies with a mystical awareness of their function and importance under the influence of Evita. She wanted the graduates to become “her soldiers”, to be able to replace the doctors and drive a jeep. They participated in military parades, wearing sky blue uniforms with Evita”s profile and initials.

It also worked to raise the level of free medicine to the highest international standards, including the construction of twelve well-equipped public hospitals with competent and well-paid medical staff. Materials and medicines were provided free of charge by the Foundation. A medical train was organized, which traveled all over the country and examined the population free of charge, administered vaccinations etc.

Among the achievements of the Foundation that have survived to this day are the Ciudad Evita residential complex (a large number of hospitals, which still bear the name of Eva Perón or Evita; the República de los Niños theme park in Gonnet, near the city of La Plata (Buenos Aires province), etc.

The Foundation also provided solidarity assistance to various countries such as the United States and Israel. In 1951, Golda Meir, then Israeli Minister of Labor and one of the few women in the world to have achieved a high political position in a democracy, traveled to Argentina to meet with Eva Perón and thank her for her donations to Israel in the early days of its existence.

Eva Perón”s special concern for the elderly led her to draft and proclaim on August 28, 1948 the so-called Decalogue of the Elderly (Decálogo de la Ancianidad), a set of rights for the elderly that were enshrined in the Argentine Constitution of 1949. These 10 Rights of the Elderly were: assistance, housing, food, clothing, physical health care, mental health care, entertainment, work, tranquility, and respect. The Foundation set up and financed a pension scheme, before the state took over this service. The 1949 constitution was repealed in 1956 by a military decree, and the rights of the elderly ceased to have constitutional force.

The Eva Perón Foundation was housed in a large, purpose-built building located at 850 Paseo Colón Avenue in Buenos Aires, a block away from the CGT union. When the military coup of 1955 overthrew President Perón, the Foundation was attacked several times, and the large statues created by the Italian sculptor Leone Tommasi and attached to the façade were destroyed. The building was then transferred to the University of Buenos Aires (UBA), and today it houses the Polytechnic Faculty of this institution. A national investigative committee was set up by the new military authorities, and on July 4, 1956, although no abuses could be found, the government issued a decree that all the foundation”s possessions should go to the public treasury, alleging that “the foundation had been used for political corruption and collusion, which constitute the denial of a sound conception of social justice and are typical of totalitarian regimes.

In the general elections of 1951, women were for the first time allowed not only to vote, but also to run as candidates. Because of Evita”s great popularity, the CGT union proposed her candidacy for the vice-presidency of the Nation, alongside Juan Perón, a proposal that, in addition to bringing a woman into the executive branch, also tended to strengthen the position of the trade unions in the Peronist government. This bold move triggered a bitter internal struggle within Peronism and gave rise to important manoeuvres by the various power groups, with the most conservative sectors intending to exert strong pressure to prevent this candidacy. At the same time as these struggles for influence were taking place, Eva Perón developed uterine cancer, which would put an end to her life in less than a year.

In this context, on August 22, 1951, the Open Cabildo of Justicialism was held, convened by the CGT. The meeting, which brought together hundreds of thousands of workers at the corner of Moreno Street and Avenida del Nuevo Julio, was an extraordinary historical event. During the rally, the unions, supported by the crowd, asked Evita to accept the vice-presidential nomination. Juan Perón and Evita – the latter, not without being begged by the crowd, and feigning modesty and reserve before taking the podium – took turns to say that the positions were not so important and that Evita already held a higher place in the population”s consideration. As the words of Juan Perón and Evita showed the strong resistance to Eva Perón”s candidacy within the Peronist party, the crowd began to demand that she accept the candidacy immediately. At one point, a voice from the crowd called out to Juan Perón:

“Let Comrade Evita speak!”

It was then that a real dialogue took place between the crowd and Evita, totally unusual in large gatherings of people:

The crowd interpreted these words as Eva Perón”s commitment to accept the candidacy and dispersed. However, nine days later, Eva spoke on the radio to announce her decision to renounce the candidacy. Peronist supporters called the date of this radio announcement the Day of Renunciation (Día del Renunciamiento).

Although it was undoubtedly Eva Perón”s deteriorating health that was the determining factor in her failure to win the vice-presidency, it appears that the CGT”s proposal exposed the internal struggles within the Peronist movement and in Argentine society as a whole over the possibility that a woman supported by the unions could be elected vice-president, or even, if necessary, become president of the nation. It seems certain, despite her denials, that Eva Perón wanted this position. The position of Juan Perón himself is open to speculation, but it is likely that he decided that she could not be vice-president. In any case, the extent of popular support for Evita and the crowd”s reaction to the open Cabildo surprised both of them.

A few weeks later, on September 28, 1951, some sectors of the armed forces, led by General Benjamín Menéndez, attempted a coup, which failed. The next day, without referring to the government or Juan Perón, Evita summoned three members of the CGT executive committee, together with Attilio Renzi and the general commander of the armed forces that had remained loyal, José Humberto Molina, and placed an order for 5,000 machine guns and 1,500 machine guns, which were to be financed by her foundation, to be stored in a government arsenal and made available to the CGT as soon as a new military rebellion broke out.

In the elections of November 11, 1951, Evita was bedridden, having undergone surgery six days earlier, and had to vote in her hospital bed.

Illness and death

Eva Perón”s cervical cancer first manifested itself on January 9, 1950, when she fainted at the founding meeting of the Taxi Union. She was admitted to the hospital where she underwent an appendectomy. On that occasion, the surgeon Oscar Ivanissevich (at that time also Minister of Education) diagnosed cervical cancer and then proposed to Eva Perón, without openly telling her the diagnosis, to perform a hysterectomy, which she vehemently refused. On September 24, Juan Perón was informed of his wife”s condition and knew what to expect, since his first wife Aurelia had died of the same disease after much suffering.

At the beginning of 1951, she fell ill again in the Eva Perón Foundation building, which prompted her to move her office to the presidential residence, then located on Austria and Libertador streets, where the National Library of Argentina is now located. The media began to talk about his health, and 92 masses were celebrated throughout Argentina to ask for his recovery. The unions, on the other hand, imagined more secular demonstrations, such as the procession of more than a thousand trucks organized by the truck drivers in Palermo on October 18.

On October 15, she published her book La razón de mi vida (The Reason for My Life), written with the help of the Spanish journalist Manuel Penella de Silva, among others, with an initial print run of 300,000 copies, of which 150,000 were sold on the first day of publication. After his death, the work was made compulsory reading in Argentine schools by congressional decree.

The progression of her cancer made her weaker and weaker, forcing her to rest. Nevertheless, she continued to participate in public gatherings. One of the most important of this final phase of her life was held on October 17, 1951. The speech Evita gave on that day has been considered her political testament, and she would refer to it nine times before her own death.

On November 5, 1951, she was operated on by the famous American oncologist George Pack, who came to Buenos Aires in great secrecy, at the Avellaneda Hospital (now the Hospital Interzonal General de Agudos Presidente Perón), built by the Eva Perón Foundation. It was also there that, six days later, from her hospital bed, with the approval of the electoral commission and the consent of the opposition parties, she cast her vote for the general elections, which ensured the re-election of Juan Perón. The hospital room has since been converted into a museum.

In the period of convalescence that followed, it seemed that she was able to resume her activities. According to Father Benítez, “No one had ever told her what was wrong with her, but she realized that she was very sick. She had the same stabbing pains, the same lack of appetite, and the same terrible nightmares and fits of despair. Her public speeches became more aggressive towards the oligarchy, peppered with apocalyptic threats and messianic allusions to an afterlife. In the meantime, Juan Perón had won the presidential election, with a much larger lead than in the previous election, thanks to the contribution of the female votes mobilized by Evita.

At the same time, Eva Perón began to write her last book, known as Mi mensaje, which she dictated to the president of the teachers” union, Juan Jiménez Domínguez, and managed to complete shortly before her death. It is Evita”s most ardent and moving text, an excerpt of which was read out after her death on October 17, 1952, during the rally in Plaza de Mayo, and was later lost, only to be found in 1987. His sisters, claiming that it was an apocryphal text, took the case to court, which ruled in 2006 that the text was authentic. The following fragments of Mi Mensaje give an idea of the nature of his thinking in the last days of his life:

“I rebel indignantly, with all the venom of my hatred, or with all the fire of my love-I don”t know yet-against the privilege that still constitutes the high spheres of the armed forces and the clergy.”

“Perón and our people were struck by the misfortune of capitalist imperialism. I have seen it up close through its miseries and crimes. It claims to be the defender of justice, while extending the claws of its rapacity over the goods of all the peoples subjected to its omnipotence… But even more abominable than the imperialists are the national oligarchies that submit to them by selling or sometimes offering, for a few coins or smiles, the happiness of their peoples.”

She underwent several courses of radiotherapy (a radiation machine was installed in her room), and there is evidence that a prefrontal lobotomy was performed on her in Buenos Aires shortly before her death, in May or June 1952, to combat the pain, anxiety and agitation caused by the metastatic cancer she was suffering from, and that the neurosurgeon James L. Poppen was in charge of this operation, together with the neurosurgeon George Udvarhelyi. In June 1952, she weighed only 38 kilos; on July 18, she fell into a coma for the first time.

She died at the age of 33, on July 26, 1952, at 8:25 p.m., according to the death certificate. Some publications maintain that she died two minutes earlier, at 8:23 pm. At 9:36 p.m., the radio presenter Jorge Furnot read on the broadcasting channel:

“The Secretariat of Information of the Presidency of the Nation fulfills the very painful duty of informing the people of the Republic that at 8:25 p.m. Mrs. Eva Perón, spiritual leader of the Nation, passed away. The remains of Mrs. Eva Perón will be transported tomorrow to the Ministry of Labor and Welfare, where the funeral chapel will be set up…”

After his death, the CGT declared a three-day work stoppage, while the government declared a 30-day national mourning period. His body lay in state at the Secretariat of Labor and Welfare until August 9, when it was transferred to the building of the Congress of the Nation to receive official honors, and then to the headquarters of the CGT. The procession was followed, during a rainy week, by more than two million people and, as it passed through the streets of Buenos Aires, was received by a shower of carnations, orchids, chrysanthemums, wallflowers and roses, thrown from nearby balconies. The funeral ceremonies continued for sixteen days. Twenty-eight people died as a result of the crowds in the streets and more than three hundred were injured.

The government commissioned Edward Cronjager, a 20th Century Fox operator who had already filmed the funeral of Marshal Foch, to produce the images of Evita”s funeral, which were later used to make the documentary Y la Argentina detuvo su corazón. The government also decided that the radio stations should remind people every day of the time of Evita”s death, moving the start time of the newscast from 8:30 p.m. to 8:25 p.m. and repeating the sentence “It is 8:25 p.m., the time when Eva Perón became immortal” each time.

According to her last will and testament, written in an uncertain hand, her foundation was to become an integral part of the CGT, and the CGT would be responsible for managing its possessions for the benefit of the unions” members. However, with Evita”s death, the Foundation was suddenly deprived of its beating heart and its spring, and funds dwindled. Without Evita, Peronism had lost its rhetorical power, and the emotional bond between Perón, Evita and the shirtless had weakened significantly.

His body was embalmed by Dr. Pedro Ara, and then remained exposed in the CGT premises. In the meantime, the government ordered the beginning of the construction of the monument to the Descamisado, which had been planned based on an idea by Eva Perón and which, according to a new project, would become his final tomb. When the so-called Liberating Revolution overthrew Juan Perón on September 23, 1955, the corpse was removed and disappeared for 14 years.

The embalming method used by Pedro Ara, a graduate of the University of Vienna and professor of pathological anatomy, who had already embalmed the body of Manuel de Falla, consisted of replacing the blood with glycerine, thus preserving all the organs – none of which, in the case of Eva Perón, had been removed – and giving the body the appearance of life, with a final result that was surprisingly aesthetic. The body had to be immersed in formalin, thymol and pure alcohol baths, and receive several successive injections. The whole procedure, which would take place at the CGT headquarters, was to last a year, after which the body could be exposed and touched.

During the military dictatorship known as the Liberating Revolution (1955-1958), which overthrew President Juan Perón, a commando group under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Carlos de Moori Koenig seized Evita”s body during the night of November 22, 1955, which was still in the CGT offices. The account of former Major Jorge Dansey Gazcón differs from this version in that he claims that it was he who transported the body. In this case, the military had imposed a double line of conduct: first, the body had to be treated with the utmost respect (General Pedro Eugenio Aramburu, the country”s new strongman, was very Catholic, which also prohibited the option of cremation); second, it was imperative to keep it out of politics, as the military feared its symbolic value above all. Once General Aramburu gave the order to remove the body, it followed a macabre and perverse route. Moori Koenig placed the body in a van and left it there for several months, parking the vehicle in different streets of Buenos Aires, in army warehouses, and even in the home of a soldier. One night, the military accidentally killed a pregnant woman, mistaking her for a Peronist commando trying to recover the body. At one point, Moori Koenig placed the coffin containing the corpse upright in his office. One of the people who had the opportunity to see Evita”s body was the filmmaker María Luisa Bemberg.

Dictator Aramburu dismissed Moori Koenig, supposedly on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and entrusted Colonel Héctor Cabanillas with the mission of burying him clandestinely. The so-called Operation Transfer (Operación Traslado) was planned by the future dictator Alejandro Agustin Lanusse, then a lieutenant colonel, with the help of the priest Francisco Paco Rotger, who was responsible for securing the complicity of the Church through the Superior General of the Order of the Paulines, Father Giovanni Penco, and Pope Pius XII himself.

On April 23, 1957, the corpse was secretly transported to Genoa, Italy, aboard the ship Conte Biancamano, in a coffin believed to contain a woman named María Maggi de Magistris, and then buried under that name in grave 41 of field no. 86 of the Great Cemetery of Milan.

There was a proliferation of different versions of this occultation, amplifying the myth. One version is that the military ordered three wax copies of the mummy to be made, and sent one to another cemetery in Italy, one to Belgium and the third to West Germany.

In 1970, the Montoneros guerrilla organization kidnapped and sequestered Aramburu, who had retired from politics, demanding, among other things, the reappearance of Evita”s body. Cabanillas then set out to bring him back to Argentina, but when Cabanillas did not arrive in time, Aramburu was put to death. The next day, a second communiqué was sent to the press, stating that Aramburu”s body would not be returned to his family until “the mortal remains of our dear comrade Evita have been returned to the people.

An Evita commando appeared; another group stole goods from supermarkets and distributed them in the shantytowns, according to what they assumed to be the policy of the Eva Perón Foundation, and believing that Evita was the link between the people and themselves – “If Evita lived, she would be montonera” (Si Evita viviera, sería Montonera) was a slogan of the time.

In September 1971, General Lanusse, who was governing the country at the time, but was eager to put an end to the state of exception that had begun in 1955, and who saw the issue of Evita”s body as an obstacle to his desire for normalization, ordered Colonel Cabanillas to organize Operation Return (Operativo Retorno). Evita”s body was exhumed from the clandestine grave in Milan and returned to Juan Perón in Puerta de Hierro, Madrid. Brigadier Jorge Rojas Silveyra, Argentine ambassador to Spain, also took part in this action. The body was missing a finger that had been intentionally cut off, but apart from a slight crushing of the nose and a scratch on the forehead, the corpse was otherwise in good general condition.

In 1974, when Juan Perón was already back in Argentina, the Montoneros took Aramburu”s body in order to exchange it for Evita”s. That same year, with Juan Perón already dead, his third wife, María Estela Martínez de Perón, known as Isabel Perón, decided to have Eva Perón”s body repatriated and placed in the presidential estate. At the same time, Isabel Perón”s government began to plan the Altar of the Homeland, a large mausoleum to house the remains of Juan Perón, Eva Duarte de Perón, and all the great figures of Argentine history.

In 1976, the military dictatorship that came to power on March 24 handed over the body to the Duarte family, who arranged for it to be buried in the family”s vault in the Recoleta cemetery in Buenos Aires, where it has been since.

The famous short story of the writer Rodolfo Walsh, entitled Esa mujer, is about the sequestration of the corpse of Evita.

Preferring to express herself not in political terms but in terms of feelings, Eva Perón was gifted with an extraordinary ability to articulate emotions in public. Her speeches were fluid, dramatic and passionate. She often discarded the prepared text and began to improvise. To illustrate and make convincing the notions of love and loyalty to Juan Perón (which for many people were the substance of Peronism), her language used the conventions of radio drama. If his speech was originally based on a genuine admiration for Juan Perón, from 1949 onwards this glorification of the president became an institutionalized cult, with Evita in the role of high priestess.

Her speeches, with a strong emotional charge and a great popular impact, also had the peculiarity of appropriating the pejorative terms by which the upper classes used to refer to the workers, but paradoxically giving them a laudatory meaning; such was the case of the term grasitas, affectionate diminutive of grasa, a depreciatory designation often used to name the working classes. Like her husband, Eva used the term “descamisados” to refer to the workers, a term that originated in the term “sans-culotte”, in vogue during the French Revolution. This term became emblematic of Peronism and, for Evita, tended to emphasize her own humble origins, as a way of showing solidarity with the workers.

The following passage, taken from Mi Mensaje, written shortly before her death, seems representative of the way Evita addressed the people, both in her public speeches and in her writings:

“But God knows that I have never hated anyone for his own sake, nor have I fought anyone with malice, but only to defend my people, my workers, my women, my poor fatitas, whom no one has ever defended with more sincerity than Perón and with more ardor than Evita. But Perón”s love for the people is greater than my love; because he knew how to reach out to the people from his privileged military position, he knew how to reach out to his people, breaking all the chains of his caste. I, on the other hand, was born among the people and suffered among the people. I have the flesh and soul and blood of the people. I could not do anything else but surrender myself to my people. If I die before Perón, I would like this, the last and definitive will of my life, to be read in a public gathering in the Plaza de Mayo, in the Plaza del 17 de Octubre, in front of my beloved shirtless ones.”

Evita”s positions were openly aimed at defending the values and interests of workers and women, using an emotional and socially polarized discourse at a time when political and social polarization was very strong. Thus, Evita emphatically criticized what she referred to as the oligarchy – a term already used by the radicals in Yrigoyen”s time – including the upper classes of her country, to whom she attributed positions that favored social inequality, as well as capitalism and imperialism, a terminology typical of the trade union and leftist circles. A specimen of this discourse is the following passage from Mi mensaje:

“Union leaders and women who are the pure people can never, must never, surrender to the oligarchy. I don”t make it a class issue. I am not advocating class warfare, but our dilemma is most clear: the oligarchy, which has exploited us for thousands of years in the world, will always try to defeat us.”

Evita”s speech was full of unconditional praise for Juan Perón and urged the public to support him without reservation. The following sentence, uttered at the May 1, 1949 rally, is an illustration of this:

“We know that we are in the presence of an exceptional man, we know that we are before the leader of the workers, before the leader of the Fatherland itself, because Perón is the Fatherland and anyone who is not with the Fatherland is a traitor.”

Perón”s thinking appeared to him as a revealed truth, and from then on fanaticism and sectarianism were de rigueur:

“The opposition says that this is fanaticism, that I am a fanatic for Perón and for the people, that I am dangerous because I am too sectarian and too fanatic for Perón. But I answer with Perón: fanaticism is the wisdom of the heart. It doesn”t matter if someone is a fanatic, if he is in the company of martyrs and heroes. In any case, life only really has value if it is not lived in a spirit of selfishness, only for oneself, but when one dedicates oneself, completely and fanatically, to an ideal that has more value than life itself. That is why I say: yes, I am a fanatic for Perón and for the shirtless of the country.”

In relation to these discourses, researcher Lucía Gálvez observes:

“The speeches that Francisco Muñoz Azpiri wrote to him spoke, on the one hand, of the century of victorious feminism, only to fall back into commonplaces such as La razón de mi vida, intended to exalt the greatness of Perón and the smallness of his wife.”

Father Benitez emphasized that Evita should be judged by her actions rather than her words: she was the one who obtained the effective right to vote for women and their participation in politics, goals that socialists and feminists had been pursuing in vain for years.

One of his most quoted speeches, which deals with solidarity and social work, was given in the port of Vigo, Spain, during his international tour:

“Only by involving ourselves in pain, by living and suffering with the people, whatever their color, race or beliefs, can we achieve the enormous task of building the justice that leads us to peace. It is well worth burning one”s life in favor of solidarity if the fruit of it is world peace and happiness, even though perhaps this fruit will only ripen after we are gone.

After her death, different sectors of Argentine politics were keen to incorporate the figure of Evita into their discourse.

It was primarily the trade unions, closely linked to her during her lifetime, that brandished her name and image, along with those of Juan Perón, as strong symbols of the decisive role of workers in Argentine history. Some people born after her death gave her a revolutionary character, even to the point of associating her with Che Guevara in a symbolic conjunction to which the fact that both died young may have contributed.

The Peronist left, and in particular the guerrilla group the Montoneros, liked to invoke the figure of Evita in their political discourse, so much so that they coined the phrase “if Evita were still alive, she would be a montonera. In fact, it was in reaction to the kidnapping of Eva Perón”s corpse that this organization carried out the kidnapping and subsequent killing of General Pedro Eugenio Aramburu, and then, in 1974, it stole Aramburu”s body in order to put pressure on the constitutional Peronist government to return Evita”s corpse, which was then in the property “17 de octubre” owned by Juan Perón in the suburbs of Madrid.

In her poem Eva, María Elena Walsh insists on the necessary decantation to judge Evita”s influence after her death:

At the end of one of her last speeches, Eva Perón said goodbye to the audience:

“As for me, I leave you my heart, and I hug all the descamisados tightly, but very close to my heart, and I wish you to measure well how much I love you.”

In one of the sentences in her book The Reason for My Life, which refers to her death, she says:

“Maybe one day, when I am gone for good, someone will say of me what many children in their mother”s village usually say when they too are gone for good: only now do we realize how much she loved us!”

Eva Perón”s name changed several times over the years. Her baptismal name was Eva María Ibarguren, as it appears from the parish record. However, since she was a little girl, she was known as Eva María Duarte and was enrolled in the school in Junín under this name. Once she arrived in Buenos Aires, Eva adopted the artist”s name Eva Durante, which she used alternately with that of Eva Duarte. When she married Juan Perón in 1945, her name was officially set as María Eva Duarte de Perón. After Juan Perón was elected president, she took the name Eva Perón, and gave the same name to her foundation. Finally, from 1946 onwards, the people began to call her Evita. In La razón de mi vida, she wrote about her name:

“When I chose to be Evita, I know that I chose the path of my people. Now, four years after that choice, it is easy for me to demonstrate that it was indeed so. No one but the people call me Evita. Only the descamisados have learned to call me that. Government officials, political leaders, ambassadors, businessmen, professionals, intellectuals, etc., who visit me are accustomed to calling me Madam (and some even publicly call me Excelentísima or Dignísima Señora, and sometimes even Señora Presidenta. They don”t see me as anything more than Eva Perón. The descamisados, on the other hand, do not know me as anything other than Evita.”

“I confess that I have one ambition, a single great personal ambition: I would like Evita”s name to appear some day in the history of my country. I would like it to be said of her, if only in a small note, at the bottom of the wonderful chapter that history will surely dedicate to Perón, something that would be more or less like this: “There was a woman by Perón”s side who dedicated herself to bringing to the President the hopes of the people, which Perón then transformed into reality. And I would feel duly, amply rewarded if the note ended this way: “Of this woman we only know that the people called her, affectionately, Evita.”

Evita”s portrait is the only one of a president”s wife to hang in the Salón de los Presidos Argentinos of the Casa Rosada.

The figure of Evita spread widely among the working classes of Argentina, especially in the form of images representing her in a way similar to the Virgin Mary, to the point that the Catholic Church became formalized.

In addition, during her lifetime, the government established a personality cult: paintings and busts of Eva Perón were placed in almost all public buildings, and her name and date of birth were used to name public establishments, railroad stations, subway stations, cities, etc., including changing the name of the province of La Pampa and the city of La Plata to Eva Perón. His autobiography, The Reason for My Life, was required reading in primary and secondary schools. After her death, all the radio stations in the country switched to a national channel, and the announcer announced that it was “twenty-five minutes past eight, the time when Eva Perón entered immortality”, before starting to present the official news.

Notwithstanding her personal ascendancy and political power, Evita never failed to justify her actions by claiming that they were inspired by the wisdom and passion of Juan Perón.

In one of his books, the writer Eduardo Galeano mentions the graffiti “¡Viva el cáncer! (Long live cancer!), which is said to have been sprayed on the walls of beautiful neighborhoods in the last days of Evita”s life. However, historian Hugo Gambini points out that there is no evidence of the existence of such an inscription and argues that “if this painted wall had existed, Apold would not have missed the opportunity to publish a photograph of it in the newspapers of the official network, accusing the opposition. However, no one talked about it then. According to Gambini, the origin of the story was a story invented by the novelist Dalmiro Sáenz and told in an interview that appeared in the film Evita, quien quiera oír que oiga by Eduardo Mignogna, a story that José Pablo Feinmann later included in the screenplay of the film Eva Perón directed by Juan Carlos Desanzo.

The obituary written by the leader of the Socialist Party, an opponent of the government, and published in the magazine Nuevas Bases, the official party organ, read as follows:

“The life of the woman who died today is, in our opinion, an unusual example in history. The cases are not rare of politicians or men of government of reputation who could count, for their public action, on the collaboration, open or hidden, of their wives, but in our case all the work of our first mandate is so impregnated with the thought and the action of the most personal of his wife, that it becomes impossible to make a clear departure of what belongs to the one and what belongs to the other. And what confers a notable and singular character to the collaborative effort of the wife, was the abnegation that she made of herself, of her possessions and of her health; her determined vocation for effort and danger; and her almost fanatical fervor for the Peronist cause, which sometimes infused her harangues with dramatic accents of cruel struggle and merciless extermination.”

Pope Pius XII received from individuals some 23,000 requests for the canonization of Eva Perón.

“In the whole of Latin America, only one other woman has provoked emotion, devotion and faith comparable to that of the Virgin of Guadalupe. In many homes, the image of Evita sits next to the image of the Virgin Mary on the wall.”

In his essay, Latin America, published in The Oxford Illustrated History of Christianity, John McManners posits that Eva Perón”s appeal and success were dependent on Latin American mythology and concepts of divinity. McManners argues that Perón consciously incorporated several aspects of the mythology of the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene into her public image. Historian Hubert Herring has described Eva Perón as “arguably the most adept woman ever to appear in public life in Latin America.”

In a 1996 interview, Tomás Eloy Martínez described Eva Perón as “the Cinderella of the tango and the Sleeping Beauty of Latin America”, indicating that the reasons why she has remained an important cultural icon are the same as for her compatriot Che Guevara:

“Latin American myths are more resilient than they appear. Even the mass exodus of Cubans on rafts or the rapid decay and isolation of the Castro regime could not erode the triumphant myth of Che Guevara, which remains alive in the dreams of thousands of young people in Latin America, Africa and Europe. Che, like Evita, symbolizes certain naive but effective beliefs: the hope of a better world; a life sacrificed on the altar of the disinherited, the humiliated, the poor of the earth. These are myths that in some way reproduce the image of Christ.”

Many Argentines make a point of marking the anniversary of Eva Perón”s death every year, even though it is not an official holiday. In addition, Eva Perón”s effigy has been minted on Argentine coins, and a type of Argentine currency has been named Evitas in her honor.

Cristina Kirchner, the first female president in Argentine history, is a Peronist, sometimes referred to as “the new Evita. Kirchner has said she refuses to compare herself to Evita, arguing that Evita was a unique phenomenon in Argentine history. Kirchner also said that the women of her generation, who came of age in the 1970s during the military dictatorships in Argentina, owe a debt of gratitude to Evita, as she was an example of passion and fighting spirit for them. On July 26, 2002, on the 50th anniversary of Eva Perón”s death, a museum created by her grandniece Cristina Alvarez Rodriquez in a building formerly used by the Eva Perón Foundation, called the Evita Museum (Museo Evita), was opened in her honor and houses an extensive collection of clothes worn by her, portraits and artistic representations of her life. This museum has quickly become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Buenos Aires.

In her book Eva Perón: The Myths of a Woman, cultural anthropologist Julie M. Taylor demonstrates that Evita has remained an important figure in Argentina due to a combination of three unique factors:

“In the images studied here, the three systematically interrelated elements-femininity, mystical or spiritual power, and revolutionary leadership stature-have a common underlying theme. Identifying with any one of these elements places a person or group on the margins of established society and the limits of institutional authority. Anyone who is able to identify with all three images at once will then be able to make an irresistible and resounding claim to dominance through forces that recognize no authority in society and none of its rules. Only a woman can embody all three elements of this power at once.”

Taylor argues that the fourth factor in Evita”s enduring importance in Argentina is related to her status as a dead woman and the power of death in the public imagination. Taylor observes that Evita”s embalmed body is analogous to the incorruptibility of several Catholic saints, such as Bernadette Soubirous, and has a powerful symbolic charge in the largely Catholic cultures of Latin America.

“To some extent, her enduring importance and popularity can be attributed not only to her power as a woman but also to the power of death. However, while a society”s view of life in the afterlife may be structured, death remains by its very nature a mystery, and, until society has formally defused the commotion it causes, a source of turmoil and disorder. Women and death – death and female nature – have a similar relationship with structured social forms: outside of public institutions, without the limitation of official rules, and beyond formal categories. As a female corpse reiterating the symbolic themes of both woman and martyr, Eva Perón arguably expresses a dual claim to spiritual supremacy.”

Allegations of fascism

Biographers Nicholas Fraser and Marysa Navarro indicate that Perón”s opponents had accused him of being a fascist from the start. Spruille Braden, an American diplomat strongly supported by Perón”s opponents, campaigned against Perón”s first candidacy with the argument that Perón was a fascist and a nazi. Fraser and Navarro conjectured that (apart from the fabricated documents after Perón”s fall in 1955) the perception of Peróns as fascists may have been helped by the fact that Evita was Francisco Franco”s guest of honor during his 1947 European tour. During those years, Franco had found himself politically isolated as one of the last remaining fascists in power in Europe, and therefore desperately needed a political ally. Yet, given that nearly a third of Argentina”s population had Spanish ancestry, it might have seemed natural for that country to maintain diplomatic relations with its former metropolis. Fraser and Navarro, commenting on Evita”s international perception during her 1947 European tour, note that “it was inevitable that Evita would be reframed in a fascist sphere. Thus, both Evita and Perón were seen as representing an ideology that, if it had had its day in Europe, was now resurfacing in an exotic, theatrical, even buffoonish form in a country half a world away.

Laurence Levine, former president of the American-Argentine Chamber of Commerce, notes that the Perons, unlike the Nazi ideology, were not anti-Semitic. In a book entitled Inside Argentina from Perón to Menem: 1950-2000 from an American Point of View, Levine writes:

“The U.S. government seemed to have no notion of Perón”s deep admiration for Italy (and his distaste for Germany, whose culture he found too rigid), nor did it discern that, while anti-Semitism did exist in Argentina, the views of Perón himself and his political organizations were not anti-Semitic. He paid no attention to the fact that Perón chose as a priority personalities from the Argentine Jewish community to help him implement his policies and that one of his most important auxiliaries in organizing the industrial sector was José Ber Gelbard, a Jewish immigrant from Poland.”

The biographer Robert D. Crassweller, in order to certify that “Peronism was not fascism” and that “Peronism was not Nazism”, relied in particular on the comments made by the U.S. ambassador George S. Messersmith, who, when he visited Argentina in 1947, said: “There is no more social discrimination against Jews here than there is against Jews in the United States. Messersmith, who, when he visited Argentina in 1947, said: “There is no more social discrimination against Jews here than there is in New York City, or in other places here.

In his 1996 review of the film Evita, film critic Roger Ebert criticized Eva Perón, writing, “She abandoned the shirtless poor to their fate, putting up a shimmering facade of a fascist dictatorship, raiding charity funds, and deflecting attention from her husband”s tacit protection of Nazi war criminals. Time magazine later published an article by Argentine writer and journalist Tomás Eloy Martínez, former director of the Latin America Program at Rutgers University, entitled The Woman Behind the Fantasy: Prostitute, Fascist, Profligate-Eva Peron Was Much Maligned, Mostly Unfairly. In this article, Martínez recalls that allegations that Eva Perón was a fascist, a Nazi and a thief have been made against her for decades, and declares that these accusations are false:

“She was not a fascist – ignorant, perhaps, of what that ideology meant. And she was not greedy. Although she loved jewelry, furs and Dior dresses, she could own as much as she wanted without having to steal from others…. In 1964, Jorge Luis Borges claimed that “this woman”s mother” was the “owner of a brothel in Junin”. He repeated this slander so many times that some people still believe it, or, more commonly, think that Evita herself, who all those who knew her said had only a weak erotic charge, would have learned in this imaginary brothel. Around 1955, the pamphleteer Silvano Santander used the same strategy to concoct letters in which Evita appeared as an accomplice of the Nazis. It is true that (Juan) Perón facilitated the entry of Nazi criminals into Argentina in 1947 and 1948, hoping to acquire advanced technology developed by the Germans during the war. But Evita played no part in this. She was far from being a saint, notwithstanding the veneration of millions of Argentines, but she was not a villain either.

In his doctoral dissertation, defended at Ohio State University in 2002, Lawrence D. Bell points out that the governments that preceded Juan Perón”s were indeed anti-Semitic, but his government was not. D. dissertation, defended at Ohio State University in 2002, Lawrence D. Bell points out that the governments that preceded Juan Perón”s were indeed anti-Semitic, but that his government was not. Juan Perón “eagerly and enthusiastically” recruited figures from the Jewish community for his government, and established a branch of the Peronist party for Jewish members, known as the Organización Israelita Argentina (OIA). Perón”s government was the first to appeal to the Argentine Jewish community and the first to appoint Jewish citizens to public service positions. Kevin Passmore notes that the Peronist regime, more than any other in Latin America, was accused of being fascist, but adds that it was not, and that the fascism that Perón was accused of never gained a foothold in Latin America. Moreover, since the Peronist regime allowed rival political parties to exist, it could not be called totalitarian either.

The Reason for My Life

La razón de mi vida is an autobiographical work that Eva Perón dictated and later edited. Its first edition, with a print run of 300,000 copies, was published by Peuser in Buenos Aires on September 15, 1951, and was followed by numerous reprints in later years. After the Argentine edition, attempts were made to publish the work internationally, but few foreign publishing houses agreed to publish it.

Shortly before her European tour, Eva Perón met Manuel Pinella de Silva, a Spanish journalist and writer who had emigrated to Argentina, who suggested that she write her memoirs. Having received Evita”s agreement as well as a fee, Pinella set to work. If the first chapters enthused Evita, she later had doubts, not wanting to be idealized and portrayed as a saint, because she was too aware of her shortcomings. In any case, Pinella seems to have wanted to highlight the feminist part of her action. However, the manuscript, which was sent to Juan Perón at the end of 1950, did not please him and was entrusted to Raúl Mendé with the task of rewriting it, which was done in a substantial way. The chapter on feminism was deleted and replaced by another one composed of fragments of speeches by Juan Perón. The final result, which had little to do with the original text, was nevertheless accepted and signed by Eva Perón.

In an interview, the Jesuit Father Hernán Benítez, both confessor and close collaborator of Evita, questions the authenticity of the book in the following terms:

“It was written by Manuel Penella de Silva, an amazing guy, very good writer. She met him in Europe during her trip. Then he came to Buenos Aires. I had his daughters in my anthropology class. Penella had written some notes for a biography of the wife of Roosevelt, the American president. Did you know that? Well, it”s very little known. She suggested that he adapt these notes to tell the story of her life. He did it, and it was very successful, a good job. But written in a very Spanish way. So it was (Raúl) Mendé who got down to it with his erasers. A simple writer, without pretense and with a very female style, that said without criticism. This resulted in a very well written book. But it contained a lot of invented things, a lot of lies. Mendé wrote it in order to stay on good terms with Perón. Some ridiculous things came out of it. For example, in relation to the days of October ”45, he says: “Don”t forget the shirtless. The shirtless, what a joke! He didn”t remember that day. He wanted to retire and go away. So the book contains a lot of falsehoods.”

The book was signed by Eva Perón at a time when the cancer that would be fatal to her was already in an advanced stage. The text, which presents Evita”s personal and chronological history only briefly, will be used mainly as a Peronist manifesto. It contains all the recurrent themes of Evita”s speeches, most of them without changing their wording, but often it is not Eva Perón”s own opinions that are presented, but those of Juan Perón, with which Evita claims to be in complete agreement. The biographers Nicholas Fraser and Marysa Navarro note:

“This autobiography barely mentions her life before Perón, gives a distorted account of the events of October 17 (1945), and contained lies about her activity (such as the assertion that she ”did not interfere in government affairs”). The book consolidated the myth of Perón as a generous, good, hard-working, devoted and paternal man, and through this myth it contributed to the myth of Evita, the embodiment of all female virtues, who was nothing but love, humility, and even more, which Perón attributed to self-sacrifice. According to her autobiography, Evita did not have children because her protégés – the poor, the elderly, the helpless of Argentina – were her true children, whom she and Perón adored. As a pure and chaste woman, free of sexual desire, she had turned into the ideal mother.”

The book is presented as a long dialogue, sometimes intimate, sometimes more rhetorical, and is divided into three parts, the first comprising eighteen chapters, the second twenty-seven and the third twelve.

The titles of the chapters are as follows. In the first part: Chap. 1st : A case of chance (Chap. 3e : The cause of the “incomprehensible sacrifice” (Chap. 4e : Some day everything will change (Chap. 5e : I did not resign myself to being a victim (Chap. 7e : Yes, this is the man of my people! (Chap. 9e : A great light (Chap. 11e : On my choice (Chap. 13e : The apprenticeship (Chap. 15e : The way I chose (Chap. 18e : Small details (Petits Détails).

Dans la deuxième partie : Chap. 19e : The Secretariat (Chap. 21e : The workers and I (Chap. 23e : Descend (Chap. 25e : The great days (Chap. 26e : Wherever this book may be read (Chap. 28e : The Sorrow of the Humble (Chap. 30e : Letters (Chap. 32e : Charity or charity (Chap. 34e: The end of the day (Chap. 36e: My Greatest Glory (Chap. 38e: Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (Chap. 40e: The European Lesson (Chap. 42e : A week of bitterness (Chap. 44e : How My People and Perón Pay Me (Chap. 46e : An idealist (Un idéaliste).

Dans la troisième partie : Chap. 47e : Women and my mission (Chap. 48e : The passage from the sublime to the ridiculous (Chap. 49e : I would like to show you a way (Chap. 51e: An Idea (Chap. 53e : The Peronist Women”s Party (Chap. 55e : Women and action (Chap. 57e : The Woman Who Wasn”t Praised (Chap. 58e : Like any other woman (Chap. 59e : I have no regrets (Je ne me repents pas).

In June 1952, the province of Buenos Aires decreed that it should be used as a reading book in elementary school. Other provinces soon followed suit, and the Eva Perón Foundation distributed hundreds of thousands of copies for free.

My message

My Message (Mi mensaje), written between March and June 1952, and completed only a few weeks before her death, is Eva Perón”s last work. Due to the advanced stage of her illness, she was reduced to dictating the contents to a few trusted people, and what she was able to write in her own hand would not fit on more than a sheet of paper. The work is divided into thirty short chapters and sets out ideological theses along three basic lines: fanaticism as a profession of faith, the condemnation of the upper echelons of the armed forces for plotting against Perón, and the indictment of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church for its lack of concern for the suffering of the Argentine people. It is presented as the most virulent text of Eva Perón. A fragment of the text was read at a rally in Plaza de Mayo two and a half months after the author”s death.

In Evita”s handwritten will, entitled Mi voluntad suprema (My Supreme Will), written in a trembling hand, the following sentence can be read: “All my rights as author of La Razón de mi vida and Mi Mensaje, if published, will be considered the absolute property of Perón and the Argentine people. However, Mi Mensaje was not published at first, and in 1955, after Perón”s overthrow, the manuscript was lost by the government”s Chief Clerk Jorge Garrido, who had been ordered to make an inventory of Juan and Eva Perón”s property, but decided to hide the manuscript, convinced that it would be destroyed by the military that came to power. When Garrido died in 1987, his family put the unpublished work up for sale through an auction house. The book was then published, first in 1987 and again in 1994.

However, Evita”s sisters disputed the authenticity of the book and brought the case before the courts, which, after a decade of investigation, and on the basis of graphological expertise and the testimony of Juan Jiménez Domínguez, one of Evita”s close collaborators, to whom she had dictated part of the text, concluded in 2006 that the text should be considered as actually being by Eva Perón.

Evita”s life has been the subject of many works of art, both in Argentina and in the rest of the world. The most famous is undoubtedly the 1975 musical Evita by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, from which a musical film of the same name was made, directed by Alan Parker and starring the singer Madonna in the title role.

“Eva Perón lit the fire. But she didn”t think about reforming. She was too wounded, too unevolved; she remained too much a product of her environment; and she obviously always remained a woman among macho men. Christophe, the emperor of Haiti, had a citadel built at the cost of an enormous amount of human life and money: the English fortifications of Brimstone Hill on the islet of Saint-Christophe, where Christophe had been born as a slave and trained to become a tailor, served as an example to him. In the same way, by erasing everything that referred to her own youth, without ever being able to rise above the ideas of that youth, Eva Perón only tried, when she had power, to compete with the rich in cruelty, style and imported goods. To the people she offered her own person and triumph, to that pueblo in whose name she acted.”

Photography

If the main photographs of Eva Perón were taken by prof. Pinélides Aristóbulo Fusco (1913-1991), it is those created by Annemarie Heinrich in the 1930s and 1940s that appear to be the most striking.

Paint

Eva Perón”s official painter was Numa Ayrinhac (1881-1951), a Frenchman who settled in Pigüé, in the southwestern province of Buenos Aires, as a child. His two most significant works are the 1950 Portrait of Eva Perón, which appeared on the cover of the book The Reason for My Life and whose original was destroyed in 1955, and the 1948 Portrait of Juan Perón and Eva Perón, the only official portrait of the couple, which is currently the property of the national government and is on display at the Casa Rosada Presidential Museum.

The visual artist Daniel Santoro explored, in his works El mundo se convierte, Luto or Evita y las tres ramas del movimiento, the iconography of the first Peronism, especially the figure and influence of Evita.

Awards

Eva Perón is the only personality to whom the National Congress has ever awarded the title of Spiritual Leader of the Nation (Jefa Espiritual de la Nación), on May 7, 1952, during the presidency of her husband Juan Perón, the day she turned 33.

She received the title of Grand Cross of Honor of the Argentine Red Cross, the distinction of First Category Recognition of the General Confederation of Labor, the Great Medal of Peronist Loyalty on October 17, 1951 and, on July 18, 1952, the highest decoration of the Argentine Republic: the collar of the Order of the Liberator General San Martin.

During her 1947 Rainbow Tour, Eva Perón was awarded the title of Grand Cross of the Order of Isabel la Católica (Spain), the Gold Medal of the Principality of Monaco, and the Order of Merit with the rank of Grand Cross of Gold in recognition of her social work and action in favor of international rapprochement, awarded by the Dominican Republic and presented by the Embassy of that country in Uruguay.

In addition, she was awarded the National Order of Cruzeiro do Sul with the rank of Commander (Grand Cross of the Order of the Aztec Eagle (Grand Cross of the Order of Merit, Grand Cross of the Ecuadorian Red Cross and Grand Cross of the International Foundation Eloy Alfaro (Grand Cross of the National Order of Honor and Merit (and Grand Cross of Paraguay).

Posthumous tributes

In 2010, Eva Perón was designated as the emblem of 200 years of Argentine history by Decree 329, announced by President Cristina Kirchner and published in the Official Bulletin, granting her the posthumous title of “Woman of the Bicentennial” (Mujer del Bicentenario).

In 1951, Eva Perón began to think about a monument to commemorate Loyalty Day (October 17, 1945), and when she became aware of the seriousness of her illness, she expressed her desire to be laid to rest in the crypt of the monument. The Italian sculptor Leon Tomassi was commissioned to design the model, with the instruction from Evita: “It must be the largest in the world”. When the plan was ready at the end of 1951, she asked him to make the interior look more like Napoleon”s tomb, which she remembered seeing in Paris during her tour in 1947.

According to the model finally approved, the central figure, sixty meters high, would have risen on a seventy-seven meter pedestal. Around it would have stretched an enormous square, three times the size of the Champ-de-Mars in Paris, lined with sixteen marble statues representing Love, Social Justice, Children as Unique Privileges, and the Rights of the Old Age. In the center of the monument would have been built a sarcophagus similar to that of Napoleon at the Invalides, but in silver, and with a figure of a recumbent in relief. The architectural ensemble was to have a height that would exceed that of St. Peter”s Basilica in Rome, correspond to one and a half times that of the Statue of Liberty (91 meters), triple that of Christ the Redeemer of the Andes (it was to weigh 43,000 tons and contain fourteen elevators. The law for the construction of the monument to Eva Perón was approved twenty days before her death, and it was chosen to be erected in the Palermo neighborhood of Buenos Aires. In September 1955, just as the concrete foundations were being completed and the statue was about to be built, the government that emerged from the military uprising that overthrew Juan Perón stopped the work and demolished the parts that had already been built.

Law 23.376 of 1986 establishes that the monument to Eva Perón should be erected in the plaza located on Avenida del Liberador, between Agüero and Austria streets, on the grounds of the National Library. The monument, inaugurated by President Carlos Menem on December 3, 1999, is a stone structure almost 20 meters high, designed and created by the artist Ricardo Gianetti, in granite for the base and bronze for the sculpture itself, which represents Eva Perón in a walking attitude. The base of the sculpture bears the following inscriptions: “I knew how to give dignity to women, protect children and bring security to the elderly, while renouncing honors” and “I wanted to remain forever simply Evita, eternal in the soul of our people, for having improved the human condition of the humble and the workers, fighting for social justice.

In 2011, two gigantic effigies of Evita on two facades of the building housing the Ministries of Social Development and Health (formerly the Ministry of Public Works) on Avenida del Nuevo Julio, at the corner of Belgrano Street, were inaugurated in Buenos Aires.

The first was unveiled on July 26, the 59th anniversary of her death, on the south side of the building, showing a smiling Evita, inspired by the image that had illustrated her book The Reason for My Life. The second one, fixed to the north façade of the same building, was unveiled on August 24 and shows a combative Evita addressing the people. The two mural effigies, designed by the Argentinean artist Alejandro Marmo, measure 31 × 24 meters and are made of corten steel.

Initially, Marmo”s idea arose from his 2006 project Arte en las Fábricas (Art in the Factories), under the name Sueños de Victoria (Dreams of Victory), tending to claim the figure of Evita as a cultural icon and national identity. Four years later, in the wake of the proclamation of María Eva Duarte de Perón as Woman of the Bicentennial, the two works were incorporated into the facades of the Ministry by Decree 32910.

On July 26, 2012, on the occasion of the celebration of the sixtieth anniversary of the death of Eva Perón, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner publicly announced the issuance of 100 peso banknotes (which at the time bore the portrait of Julio Argentino Roca) in the effigy of Eva Perón, making her the first truly existing woman to enter Argentine numismatics. The image chosen for the banknote is derived from a 1952 design found at the Buenos Aires mint, drawn by the engraver Sergio Pilosio, with alterations by the artist Roger Pfund. Despite the fact that it was a commemorative edition, President Fernández requested that the new banknote be substituted for the old ones with Roca”s image. In 2016, his successor, the center-right president Mauricio Macri, announced that the figure of Eva Peron on the banknotes would be replaced by that of an Andean deer, the taruca, in order, among other things, to turn the page on the Peronist legacy, which his predecessor had claimed.

Museums

The main museums dedicated to Eva Perón are :

External links

Sources

  1. Eva Perón
  2. Eva Perón
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