Eva Duarte de Perón "Evita" (1919-1952) was born in Los Toldos, a
town in the Pampas. At 14, she decided to become an actress and moved to
Buenos Aires. She was acting in radio shows when she met Juan Domingo Perón
in 1944. Her role mobilizing the crowds was instrumental for Perón´s
release on October 17th, 1945: five days later they got married.
As leader of the descamisados (shirtless workers),
Evita led the most radical factions of the regimen and directed welfare
and charity programs: loved beyond devotion by the working class, she was
strongly hated by the anti-Peronist.
Her tour of post-war Europe in 1949, (when she met Franco
and Pope Pious XII) was perhaps the climax of her career. She died of cancer
three years later. After her death, she was almost sanctified; a province
(La Pampa) and many towns, were name after her. After 1955 her embalmed
corpse was kept hidden by the military in a cemetery in Milan, until 1973.
Her tomb is now in the Recoleta cemetery of Buenos Aires.
The opinion of a historian from the opposition
It is unjust to speak of Evita in so a small space. Her
figure would require a more detailed analysis -it has already been done;
she is an individual that has aroused the curiosity of many observers in
Argentina and abroad-, but it could be said in any case that the
presence of Evita in the Peronist government fulfilled various functions.
In the first place, to establish a contact between the
government and the worker's movement, the trade unions. In the second place,
to be the head of the Women's Peronis Party; that is, the born of a new
electorate that had joined the national scene and that had enormous numerical
importance. And in the third place, in a certain sense it was Evita who,
through her disheveled oratory and her fanaticism, infused the Peronist
rank with a mystique difficult to maintain over so long a period of time.
Six years, in effect, is a long time to maintain a mystique, and notwithstanding,
Evita managed it until her health betrayed her.
So these three functions, plus that of directing a sort
of informal Ministry of Social Welfare as she did from the Foundation that
bore her name, gave Evita very outstanding and very original characteristics.
Undoubtedly, this woman, who lacked education and culture, had very fine
intuition; she knew how to make her way, she found out how to adjust the
instruments of her prosilytism, and, in the later years of her life, she
began to fine-tune her militant side -even physically.
Personally, I respect Evita greatly; I respect her as
a very authentic woman. But I would not like for that archetype to be repeated
in Argentina, because it signified a regression in every sense of the political
life of the country. It added a tremendous element of fanaticism, a demand
for unconditional adhesion to Perón, which did not do the republican
system any good -although within the Peronist system it might have been
something inevitable. She died, as we all know, few days after Perón
assumed his second presidency.
Source: Félix Luna "A Brief History of Argentina". Planeta, Buenos
The opinion of a peronist historian
"Born in 1919 in Los Toldos (Province of Buenos Aires),
Maria Eva Duarte was the last one of Juan Duarte and Juana Ibarguren´s
five children. In the beginnings of the thirties Ms. Ibarguren and her
children moved to Junín. In 1935 María Eva, a teenager, went
to the City of Buenos Aires, a city that exerted a powerful magnetic attraction
for the rural population of Argentina and a metropolis that was the final
destination of most migrations in those days.
b. The politically very influential Feminine Branch of the Peronist
Party, created and led by Evita.
c. The fact that she was second to none after Perón, particularly
in dealing with the trade unions. Her style of leadership and her tenbdency
towards obtaining immediate results anbd subordination was never as evident
that when she addressed the union leaders or gave them political guidelines,
or direct orders.
The Eva Perón Foundation (EPF), Evita`s creation for helping
the poor through the setting-up of a network of food, clothing and other
essentials ditribution and the creation and building of health services,
school, sports facilities and holidays resorts was negatively judged by
the antiperonist bourgeoisie, their main criticism focused primarily on
her rather hererodox management methods and the Foundation`s close links
with the state. However, Eva Perón Foundation is, even today, an
institution that has a profound evocative force and one that is paramount
in keeping alive in the argentine people Eva`s Perón memories.
Even foreign critics of Eva Peròn, such as Blanksten
(1953), admitted Evita`s EPF`s impact on wide social groups (1953). He
says: "In a very concrete sense, the Foundation meant a revolution in the
Argentinean approach of social assistance". It also has to be remembered
that this very particular and Argentinean version of retributive justice
is reflectid in the "tenthe truth" in the list of Peronism Chart: "Social
Justice and Social Help are the two arms of peronism. With these two arms
we give our people an embrace of justice and love".
Peronism tried to replace, by setting in place an organised
social assistance system, the tradition of private "charity" aminlyadministered
through religious or beneficial institutions run by the wealthy upper class
ladies of every major city in Argentina. Furthermore the new set-up was
seen as a good tool to reduce the gap between social classes, since Peronism
always aimed at reducing the most offensive aspects of such differences.
Eva Perón illustrated this policy in a very open, and personal way,
working at his desk in the Ministry of Work and Social Action.
Although the Foundation did not survive Perón ousting
by the military coup of 1955, it incorporated a permanent list of solved,
half solved, or not solved social problems that became, from then on, permanent
issues to be tackled with by successive Argentinean governments.
Source: Alberto Ciria. "Política y Cultura Popular" Ediciones
de la Flor, Buenos Aires, 1983.