Maria Eva Duarte de Peron

~~~~~ Biography ~~~~~

1919 May 7th Eva Duarte is born in a small dreary pampas town, the illegitimate daughter of a poor farmer and local girl. In her youth Eva experienced great poverty. Her life on the pampas was dull and sordid. She was humiliated by the knowledge that she was a bastard and a daughter of 'the other wife'. She was never to forget the sense of rejection and was to harbour resentment all her life against those who were in a position to cause her so much humiliation.

1926 Eva's father dies. She is deeply hurt when her family is not allowed to attend his funeral by his legitimate family. Eva's Argentina was a country deeply divided socially. From her family's small tenant farm she lookek longingly at the hacienda of the rich landlord and dreamed even greater wealth of the capital Buenos Aires.

1934 Eva, now aged 15, meets Augustin Magaldi, a professional singer and guitar player, while he is performing at the local nightclub and has an affair with him. She elopes with Magaldi to Buenos Aires and leaves behind forever the dullness of small town ife. Not only was Eva disadvantaged because she was poor but also because she was a woman. Argentina was a totally male-dominated society. Women were regarded merely as a man's chattels but an ambitious girl could perhaps put this use to her own advantage. She developed a driving ambition to get out and away. She wanted to achieve wealth and fame, not just for her own satisfaction but so that she could snub those who had humiliated her and who had always been more privileged than her. She dreamed of becoming an actress and of going to the city where men were rich and women wore gorgeous gowns. Whatever else she lacked Eva had an abundance of ambition. Her chance came with Magaldi's visit. In a society of loose morals it was easy for her to elope with him to Buenos Aires.

1935 - 40 Eva drops Magaldi soon after arriving in Buenos Aires and manages to scrape together a living working in nightclubs and the theatre.

1940 - 43 Eva's theatrical career advances on radio and in films and initially through a brother-n-law in the army she meets a number of high ranking army officers. Although Eva tried to erase all record of her shady past, when she came to power, it is almost certain she advanced her career by astutely using her sexual charms, first with theatrical contacts and then as the army became more powerful in government with military men. Eva cam from the bottom and clawed her way up and by those who mattered in society she would never be allowed to forget it. The ruling class of wealthy snobs would never forgive Eva her background nor demean themselves by accepting a woman who was little more than a 'whore'. And in an equally chauvinistic society the army would not tolerate a woman who was eventually to become so powerful.

1943 Eva meets Colonel Juan Peron, already powerful in the government and with a reputed penchant for young actresses. He is a widower and at 48 exactly twice her age. Peron was born on October 8th, 1895.

Although his early life was not as poverty-stricken as Eva's his origins were humble. He entered the Army's Military Academy in 1911, and rose to the rank of Lieutenant by the age of 20. He married a local school teacher who died in 1938. Peron dedicated himself to furthering his military career. He was determined to rise in government. In this respect his ambition was as fanatical as Eva's. Before the war he traveled widely in Europe observing 'social transformations' in progress and watched his idol, Mussolini, haranguing the masses. In June 1943 Peron was aming the army officers who stage a revolution and overthrew the government. While much of the rest of the world had been fighting a world war Argentina remained neutral, superficially at least. Leading officers in the army saw a need for leadership, and their answer was the G.O.U. This organisation founded on nationalistic lines swept away the previous vacillating government. Their slogan was Government, Order, Unity. Peron's first appointment in the new government was a Minister of War - he progresses from here to become Secretary of Labour and in this office made his name nationally famous. A rising political star, Peron was just the man Eva was looking for. He was tall and dark; a man with a ready smile, resplendent in his military uniform. Eva always professed a passionate love for Peron and he must undoubtedly, have been attracted by her youth and beauty. But their mutual fanatical ambition was their strongest bond. They needed eachother. Through him, a man spurred with ruthless energy she could achieve, her own ambition of total power. He was encouraged every step of the way by her and later he was to find her indispensable. Her popularity outstripped his own. Together they made a supremely handsome 'royal' couple to lead Argentina forward to becoming the world power Peron dreamed of.

1944 As Peron's mistress Eva rises to become one of the highest paid actresses on Argentina's Radio Belgrano. At the end of World War II there was a considerable unrest in Argentina. Other army officers could see that Peron, by now Vice-President, was fast approaching the position of becoming a fascist dictator and they were determined to get rid of him. But Peron's appointment at the Ministry of Labour had been all-important. The Labour movement in prewar Argentina was weak and disunited but with proper organisation it could be used as a significant power base. Peron campaigned ceaselessly among the workers, often with Eva at his side. He presented the unions with a plan for a state-controlled labour movement and steam-rollered them into accepting it, removing any intransigent labour leaders and substituting his own nominees.

These workers were the famous 'descamisados'. Eva believed these were her people and she campaigned with Peron to recruit a massive popular froce. She had faith in the broadcast word and used her radio porgramme as a propaganda vehicle.

1945 October 12th Peron is arrested and imprisoned and in a few action-packed days the Argentine political scene is changed radically. By her tireless efforts in organising popular demonstrations Eva manages to secure his release on October 17th: henceforth a day always revered by Peronists. When Peron was forced to flee his opponents Eva pulled out all the stop and using her descamisados to demand Peron's release. Thousands of them, brought to the centre of Buenos Aires in transport organised by Eva, roared for the release of their hero. The government was forced to give in. Eva could not realise her ambitions fully if she was only the mistress of the most powerful man in Argentina. To become First Lady she had to become his wife. And she needed him so he needed her. The descamisados adored their Evita. The power she had over them was indispensable to him. October 21st Eva and Peron are secretly married.

1946 February 25th Juan Domingo Peron is elected President of Argentina. The President gave his wife and office in the Secretariat of Labour and from there she set about gaining complete control of the unions and their central government body, the C.G.T. She traveled the country making speeches and appearing at unions rallies. She also devoted much of her seemingly boundless energy to a campaign for notes for women. Here Eva's concern was totally sincere. She knew only too well the hardship and degradation her country-women experienced.

One of the major and thoroughly laudable triumphs of Eva's career was achieved in September 1947 when women suffrage became law in Argentina.

1947 Eva embarks on a much heralded European Tour of Spain, Italy, Portugal, France and Switzerland. Eva received a mixed reception in Europe. In Spain she was feted by the fascist regime and decorated by Generalissimo Franco. The masses greeted her rapturously as she handed out money to them at a rate of a $1000 a day. In Italy she had as audience with the Pope but the common people shocked her by calling her a whore. In France her reception was polite. Here Eva could

enjoy showing off her lavish wardrobe and the French were duly appreciative. Eva traveled in style with a massive and costly entourage and enough outfits to provide her with 3 or 4 a day on her 2 month trip. Eva's passion for clothes is well-known. She spent vast sums buying clothes designed by many of France's leading couturiers. She adored her furs so much she even wore her fox cape in Rome's intense heat. Another of her insatiable passions was for jewellery. When people met her they were amazed by the size and variety of jewels in her exquisite collection and even later in her career when her clothes became less flamboyant, the jewel she wore on them were still fabulous. After Paris, Eva's next stop was Switzerland. The Swiss did not make her feel particularly welcome when they throw tomatoes at her. But after a short stay in Lisbon and Rio she returned home to a tumultuous welcome. Eva founds her Social Aid Foundation. She works here unflaggingly distributing gifts and money to the poor and hungry. Eva founds this organisation because the ladies of the Argentine Establishment excluded her from their Society of Philanthropy; a Society which the President's wife traditionally headed. The Foundation built schools and homes for the old, provided hospital equipment and trained nurses. Eva worked 14 or 15 hours a day, herself, handing out money and righting wrongs to the poor.

1951 It is suggested that Eva run as Vice-President in her husband's forthcoming re-election campaign but pressure from the army forces her to withdraw her candidacy. Eva's ambitions of power could now be realised. But the army was an indispensable bulwark to Peron's regime. They were adamant that Eva could not accept the nomination. If Peron died she would become President and their commander-in-chief which was unthinkable. Amid growing industrial unrest her popularity with her descamisados also seems to have been flagging. But Eva was ill. When news of her ill health broke there was a tremendous upsurge of emotion. Her people could not believe it. They said masses for her at altars set up in spacious plazas of the city, and offered their blood for her transfusions.

November 6th Evita is operated on for cancer.

November 11th Peron is re-elected for a second term of office as President.

1952 June 4th Eva makes her last public appearance at her husband's inauguration ceremony.

July 26th 8:25pm Eva Duarte de Peron, at the age of 33, died.

The grief of the nation was unbounded. The crowds were so vast that 3 people were killed in the crush on the first day and 2000 injured. Life in Buenos Aires stopped. The only trade was in flowers for wreaths. Theses filled the streets round the building were her body lay-in-state.

Her funeral was the culmination of days of mourning. Her body was hauled through the on a gun carriage by white-shirted descamisados. She was to be enshrined in a massive tomb.

1955 Peron is deposed as President and forced to flee, first to Uruguay, though South America and finally to Madrid.

1957 Eva's expensively embalmed body is mysteriously removed from Argentina and buried in a Milan cemetery under a false name.

1961 Peron marries his third wife, a dancer, Maria Estela Martinez, known as Isabelita, like Eva many years his junior. He continues to foster the ambitions of his Peronista party from Spain in succeeding years.

1971 Eva's body is exhumed and taken to her husband's villa in Madrid. Peron and his wife visit Argentina for the first time since his exile but return to Madrid after a month's stay.

1973 Peron's nominee, Hector Campora, is elected President of Argentina. In June Peron returns again and Campora resigns. In the ensuing elections, Peron is elected as President as President and his wife as Vice-President.

1974 July 1st Peron dies. Isabelita Peron becomes President. The first woman to be President of any country in the world. In a desperate bid to counter mounting opposition to her regime Isabelita brings Evita's body home to Buenos Aires. Isabelita's government became more right wing and she proved incapable of controlling the upsurge of violence. Near anarchy ensued with widespread strikes, assassinations and kidnappings. The situation worsened when several liberal ministers resigned early in 1976 and Isabelita forced a recess of Congress so that they could not investigate her alleged misuse of public funds. In March 1976, the army, led by Lt. Gen. Jorge Rafael Videla staged a coup, overthrew the President and installed a three-man junta. With Videla as President the junta dissolved Congress and suspended all political and trade union activity. Argentina remains under repressive military rule. Evita's body finally rests in an armour plated vault in an exclusive Buenos Aires cemetery.

Evita was deeply loved by her people. Her charisma was irresistible. Although Eva was loved greatly by some of her subjects in others she provoked great hatred.

Dedicated to the loving memory of

Maria Eva Duarte de Peron


© Divette

This page was created on 18/10/1998

This page was last updated on 18/10/1998

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