A Brief History of Eva Peron

As the last of five children, Maria Eva Duarte was born in Los Toldos, Argentina on May 17, 1919. Her conception came out of a common practice in the pueblos of her country. Her mother, Dona Juana Ibarguen, became the mistress of a Juan Duarte, a wealthy man from a neighboring village. It was from her mother that Eva learned her most valuable life lesson: “man was her natural enemy or a fool whom a clever girl could exploit” (Flores 23).

Eva was born during the short time of democracy in her country. It was a time that had “given the country the secret ballot and, for the first time in its history, the possibility of honest elections” (Flores 29). When HipÃ?³lito Irigoyen was elected President in 1916, plans for strengthening the country’s workforce began to take root. These plans soon backfired though and, by the end of his term, Irigoyen began the cycle of corruption again by naming his own successor from the Radical party, and returning to the office for a later term.

On September 6, 1930, General Uriburu seized the Casa Rosada (the pink Government House) without a fight. Uriburu claimed that the rebellion was for the people, in actuality, “the discontent of the people had been used as an excuse for a military coup planned well in advance” (Flores 32). Uriburu was forced by the Army to hold Presidential elections and General AgustÃ?­n Justo was elected. It was during Justo’s presidency that Eva arrived in Buenos Aires.

Her love of the stage and the spotlight brought her to the city, but her mother’s teachings are what made her famous. Eva had “no talent, no experience, no unusual beauty, little education, no money” (Flores 33), but she thrived on her ability to manipulate the opposite sex. Soon after her fifteenth birthday Eva met Agustin Magaldi, a talented tango dancer, and they left her childhood pueblo toward Buenos Aires together. After Magaldi, she began to take on a series of romantic affairs to enhance her lifestyle and move herself further away from the slums of her childhood.

Her last, and most prosperous, affair was with Juan PerÃ?³n. Upon their first meeting at a fundraiser for the victims of the earthquake of 1944, Eva captured PerÃ?³n through her power of manipulation and sexuality. From the start of their romance Eva knew that the legitimacy of their relationship depended upon PerÃ?³n being wealthy and powerful. “She decided to keep his love by seeing to it that he stayed in power” (Barnes 33). Eva began to insist that he become involved in the lives of the workers outside the city. The couple began to travel through the rural areas of the country, worked in the barrios of Buenos Aires, and walked with the meat packers during their bloody strike to gain support. When PerÃ?³n became Vice President he worked to increase workers’ salaries and supply them with numerous benefits.

“The end of WWII triggered such a powerful tide of sentiment for democracyâÂ?¦on the street that it threatened to swamp PerÃ?³n” (Barnes 38). His soldiers soon became angry about his dependence on Eva for support and forced him to resign from the Vice Presidency. Eva quickly began to use her power of persuasion and rallied support for her lover by calling on his allies in the military, workers’ unions, and police department, causing a riot at the Casa Rosada, and giving the couple a chance to flee the city. When the Navy arrived at their hidden cottage to arrest them, Eva went out of control with anger and rage, forcing them to take away her lover but leave her behind. After they had left Eva rallied supporters once again, helping to free PerÃ?³n from prison.

When he was released, “a new government was quickly formed with men totally devoted to PerÃ?³n” (Barnes 48). As soon as PerÃ?³n took office as President, Eva began working for her cause. “[I]t was impossible to turn on a radio anywhere in Argentina without being bombarded by the thoughts of Evita on just about everything” (Barnes 67). Although she never held an elected position, Eva moved her office to the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare where she worked to improve conditions for the working class by implementing the General Confederation of Labor. With this organization she began to raise the wages of the groups within it substantially.

Eva dove deeper and deeper into her cause throughout her time as Argentina’s First Lady. She worked with the children of workers to provide them a better future. She provided subsidies for poor communities, gathered food and clothing for needy families, and succeeded in the construction of numerous hospitals dedicated solely to workers and their families. After a visit to the slum of Villa Soldati, Eva organized a housing project that provided every member of the village with a new home.
Eva later moved to the topic of women’s suffrage. By gaining her husband’s support of the movement, Eva helped bring the subject into the political sphere. Through extensive use of the media, she broadcast her message to the women of Argentina. Women of the country rallied together; they placed posters throughout the cities, held long meetings, and protested within the capital. When the law allowing women to vote was finally passed on September 23, 1947, the women of the country decided they did not want the opportunity. Eva remained dedicated to her new cause and attempted to gather support once again. She organized a new political party exclusively for women voters (the Pertido Peronista Feminino). Through this party she returned to her initial cause: the workers. She and her followers began to organize and initiate numerous new plans for social work throughout the country, beginning a new wave of social improvement.

Despite her success as the First Lady, Eva began to accumulate numerous enemies. Women have always been looked down upon in Argentine society and the disapproval of Eva occurred mainly “because she [was] a woman in a position of great power” (Flores 36). After her death in 1952, every trace of Eva in the capital was destroyed. Her monuments were ruined, her books and pictures were burned, and even her body disappeared for sixteen years. While hatred toward her obviously lives on today, so does love from her supporters. Whatever sentiment is felt by the Argentine citizens, Eva PerÃ?³n is a name that will forever be in their minds.

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