the life of evita perón -- 6/19/18

Today's selection -- from A Brief History of Argentina by Jonathan C. Brown. Juan Domingo Perón was an army officer who served as president of Argentina from 1946 to 1955, when he was ousted in a coup d'etat, then again from 1973 to his death in 1974. He promoted a path between capitalism and communism, espousing a "corporatism" charged with mediating disagreements and contention between management and workers. During his first term, he was supported by his second wife, the immensely popular Eva Duarte, who was known as Evita:

"Evita Duarte's meteoric rise in the Peronist movement has resulted in much controversy and myth about her role in Argentine his­tory. She was born in a small Pampean town in the 1920s, the product of a relationship between her single mother and a married man of 'the respectable classes.' She got ahead in the only way available for a beautiful young woman of her social circumstances. Arriving with a male consort in Buenos Aires in 1935, she launched a career in acting. Apparently she found advancement in the radio industry by exploiting her relationships with powerful men. By 1944, Evita had her own radio talk show and became courtesan to officers in the new military govern­ment. Several film appearances yielded little critical acclaim. Then Evita met Colonel Juan Domingo Perón at a fund-raising benefit, and they married shortly before his presidential inauguration.

Official portrait by Numa Ayrinhac, 1948.

"Due to her 'common origins,' the respectable middle class shunned the new first lady.The elite loathed and ridiculed her, even as she began to dress like them in expensive designer gowns and fur coats. But the ener­getic Evita embraced the mission to which her husband had assigned her: to serve as a bridge between President Perón and his working-class follow­ers. Evita immediately became a patroness of the descamisados and cabecitas negras, creating a charity foundation to provide orphanages, medical clinics, and nursing homes for the poor. In her speeches, she extolled the virtues of Juan Perón and subordinated herself to his guidance. Evita championed the new Peronist law providing women's suffrage in 1947 and formed the feminist wing of the Justicialista Party. More women served in Congress during the second presidential term of Perón than at any time since then.

Eva Perón addresses the Peronists on 17 October 1951. By this point she was too weak to stand without Juan Perón's aid.

"However, some longtime feminists and advocates of women's suf­frage objected to elements of control and subordination in the Peronist reforms. As Evita said, 'For a woman to be a Peronist is, before all else, to be loyal to Perón, and to have blind faith in Perón!'

"Evita's health deteriorated in the early 1950s, and she died from cancer shortly after Perón's second presidential inauguration.The pub­lic mourning and funeral cortège surpassed even those of [former] President Hipólito Yrigoyen and [the singer and movie star] Carlos Gardel. In death, as in life, Evita remained controversial. The pope rebuffed an effort to have her declared a saint in recognition of her work for the poor."



Jonathan C. Brown


A Brief History of Argentina


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