Evita Perón

Evita Perón

Eva Duarte de Perón "Evita" (1919-1952) was born in Los Toldos, a town in the Pampas, Buenos Aires Province. At 14, she decided to become an actress and moved to Buenos Aires City. 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:

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 Aires, 1995.

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.

Young Evita started her career as an actress playing minor roles in small theaters and slowly starting to build up a reputation in radio and in some argentine films during the early forties. Her best biographer (Navarro 1981) says that, by the time Evita meets Perón, she has gained a reputation and es well known by the argentine radio fans. Her career was somewhat less successful in the cinema.

However, after the military took power (1943), and after going through the very difficult moments (both for her and for Perón) of October 1945, when everything seemed lost and their respective political and artistic careers short ended, her fate was decided and there will be no back tracking anymore: she married Perón; he became elected president of Argentina in June 1946, and she rapidly became the most relevant woman of Argentinean modern history: she became "la compañera Evita" and, at the same time: "Mrs. Eva Perón".

Both Marisa Navarro (Evita`s well reputed biographer) and myself srpeatedly said that Evita`s considereble influence in the social and political developments in Argentina, That ended in 1952, was particularly strong in threee areas:

a. Efectiv social help for the poors.

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.