Biography of Eva Perón, political leader, first lady of the Argentine Republic. President of the Female Peronist Party.
In 1952, the government officially declared their “Spiritual Chief of the Nation“.
Childhood and family of Eva Duarte de Perón
Eva María Duarte was born in Junín, Argentina, on May 7, 1919.
It is known as Eva Perón or simply and affectionately as Evita.
Her parents, Juan Duarte and Juana Ibarguren, lived in the rural area of ”Los Toldos“, in the Argentine pampa, near Junín.
Los Toldos was a Mapuche toldería.
From 1905, through legal tricks, the indigenous people were stripped of their lands and replaced by non-indigenous ranchers.
The social structure was controlled by the rancher, owner of large tracts of land, who established servile relationships with farm workers and tenants.
The basic type of worker in that area was the gaucho.
At the time of Evita’s birth, it was common for women with problem pregnancies to move to Junín in search of better medical care.
Juan Duarte, known as “the Basque“, was a rancher and an important conservative politician from Chivilcoy, a city near Los Toldos.
He and Juana Ibarguren had five children: Blanca (1908), Elisa (1910), Juan Ramón (1914), Erminda (1916) and Eva María (1919).
Eva Duarte’s childhood in Los Toldos
Eva lived in the country until her father died in a car accident in 1926.
The family was completely unprotected and had to leave the room in which they lived.
Her parents had not contracted a legal marriage and, at that time, Argentine law cruelly punished this circumstance.
Juana Ibarguren began working as a seamstress.
She settled with her children in a small two-room house located on the outskirts of the town, on Calle Francia 1021 (currently a museum).
In 1927 Eva entered elementary school.
Back then she liked to show her taste for dramatic declamation and her skills as a juggler.
Many times she would spend the afternoons with the Indians, dance with them and organize quermeses and raffles.
The adolescence of Eva Duarte de Perón in Junín
In 1930, the family moved to the city of Junín.
There, Juana found better jobs, like her three older children: Elisa, Blanca and Juan.
Erminda entered the National College and Evita enrolled in School No. 1, where she completed her primary education.
In Junín Eva’s artistic vocation emerged. At school, she clearly excelled in declamation and acting.
She participated as soon as a show was organized at school, at the National College, at the town cinema or at venues that organized something joyful.
Eva, likewise sang, danced or recited poems.
She had artistic intuition and dreamed of being an actress.
In 1934, before finishing the school year, she traveled to Buenos Aires.
There she did not get a job as expected, and decided to go home and finish primary school.
On January 2, 1935, Evita, when she was just fifteen, left for Buenos Aires definitively.
She traveled with her mother, who stayed with her until she got a job.
Buenos Aires: Eva’s career as an actress
Eva Duarte arrived in Buenos Aires on January 3, 1935.
She was one of the thousands of people who migrated from the countryside to the city in the 1930s and 1940s.
Shortly after arriving, she landed a supporting role in a theatrical company.
On March 28, 1935, she made her professional debut in the play “La Señora de los Pérez“, which was performed at the Comedy Theater.
During the following years, Eva Duarte traveled the hard path of the artists who go from theater to theater, living with hardships and staying in cheap pensions.
Her brother Juan Duarte, five years older than Eva, had also migrated to the capital and was her most faithful support.
In 1936, she got a contract with the “Compañía Argentina de Comedias Cómico”.
And she made a four-month tour of Rosario, Mendoza and Córdoba.
On Sunday, July 26, 1936, in the city of Rosario, the newspaper “La Capital” published the first known artistic photo of Eva Duarte.
The photo had the following caption: “Eva Duarte, young actress who has managed to stand out in the course of the season that ends today at the Odeon“.
Slowly Eva Duarte was gaining a certain recognition as an actress.
She acted in movies, as a second-line actress; She also posed as a model, and appeared on the cover of some entertainment magazines.
In August 1937 she got her first role in a radio drama.
The work, which was broadcast on Radio Belgrano, was called “White Gold“. And it was set in the daily life of cotton workers in the Chaco.
In April 1938, at the age of 19, Eva headed the cast of the newly created “Teatro del Aire” Company.
The first radio theater was “Los jasmines del ochenta“, broadcast by Radio Mitre, from Monday to Friday.
On those same dates, Eva Duarte began to act more assiduously as an actress in movies.
In 1941, when she was 22 years old, she made the definitive leap to economic stability when she was hired by the “Compañía Candilejas“, which broadcast every morning on “Radio El Mundo“, a radio drama cycle.
Between radio theater and movies, Eva managed to have a stable and comfortable financial situation.
Eva Duarte achieves economic stability
In 1942 she was able to abandon pensions and buy her own apartment.
She chose it in front of the Radio Belgrano studios, located in the exclusive Recoleta neighborhood, on Posadas street, 1567.
Shortly thereafter, in September 1943, she signed a five-year contract to perform a daily radio-theater called “Great Women of All Time” at night.
In it the lives of famous women were dramatized. The program was broadcast on Radio Belgrano and became extremely popular.
The unions and Juan Domingo Perón
Politically, the country was experiencing a deep crisis. On June 4, 1943 there was a coup d’état known as the “Revolution of ’43”.
A group of unionists, led by Ángel Borlenghi established contacts with young officers who were sympathetic to the workers’ claims.
Colonels Juan Domingo Perón and Domingo Mercante decided to form an alliance with the unions to promote the historic program that Argentine unionism had been proposing since 1890.
Juan Domingo Perón and Angel Borlenghi gained popular support and began to occupy important positions in the new government.
Perón was appointed Head of the Labor Department.
Shortly thereafter, the Department became the important Secretary of State for Labor and Welfare.
Meeting of Eva Duarte with Juan Domingo Perón
On January 15, 1944, at 8:52 p.m. local time, a tragic earthquake shook the province of San Juan, in the mountains, and almost completely destroyed the city.
In the face of this national tragedy, Minister Perón asked for help from all the Argentine people, to help the population.
A great mobilization of solidarity with the San Juan people was generated.
Eva Duarte went to the Ministry to offer her help as an announcer and actress.
A week after the earthquake, on January 22, 1944, at the Luna Park stadium in the City of Buenos Aires, Perón organized a massive event in solidarity with the victims of the earthquake.
At one point in the night, Evita approached the announcer and presenter of the act, Roberto Galán, and said: “Galancito, please, announce me, I want to declaim a poem.“
Eva Duarte had been “the most active” within the group of artists who had come to the aid of the victims. And Minister Perón had already noticed her.
In February 1944, just one month later, Juan Domingo Perón (44-year-old widower) and Eva Duarte (24-year-old beautiful actress) were already living together.
Perón moved to an apartment next to hers, on Posadas Street.
Eva Duarte continued developing her artistic career.
That year she worked on three daily radio programs and acted in the movie “La cabalgata del circo”, starring Hugo del Carril and Libertad Lamarque.
The year 1945, key to Argentine history
In April 1945, Eva Duarte began filming “La pródiga”.
It was a film directed by Mario Soficci, in which she had landed the role of the main protagonist.
Filming ended in September 1945.
The political unrest of those days prevented the premiere of the film and it was shown publicly many years later, on August 16, 1984.
Eva saw it several times at her home. She described her own artistic performance saying: “In the cinema, bad; mediocre in the theater; on the radio, passable”.
On the night of October 8, 1945, there was a coup d’état led by General Ávalos. The general immediately demanded the resignation of Minister Perón.
On October 12, he was detained in the Posadas Street department.
Juan Domingo Perón was confined in the “Independencia” gunboat, which set sail for Martín García Island, on the La Plata River.
That same day, Perón wrote a letter to his friend Colonel Domingo Mercante, in which he strongly charged him to take care of Eva Duarte, calling her Evita.
In a letter to Evita, Perón said to her: “… Today I have written to Farrell asking him to speed up my retirement; as soon as it comes out, we get married and go anywhere to live in peace … “,” … I will try to go to Buenos Aires by any means; so you can wait quietly and take good care of your health. If the retreat comes out, we get married the next day…. ”
Everything indicated that Perón had been removed from political activity; and that he would retire, to live with Eva in Patagonia.
However, the unions assembled the great demonstration of October 17, 1945.
This ended with the release of Perón. Furthermore, it opened the way for his victory in the following presidential elections.
Eva Duarte had gone to Junín, probably to her mother’s house. But, she arrived in Buenos Aires that same afternoon on October 17.
A few days later, on October 22, 1945, Perón married Eva in Junín.
The desk used to sign the civil marriage certificate is currently in the Junín Historical Museum.
A month and a half later, on December 10, 1945, they celebrated Catholic marriage in the church of San Francisco.
The godparents were Domingo Mercante and Juana Ibarguren, Eva’s mother.
Eva’s participation in the electoral campaign
Eva’s participation in Perón’s campaign was a novelty in Argentine political history.
At that time, women lacked political rights; and the candidates’ wives had a very restricted public presence.
Eva Perón was the first wife of an Argentine presidential candidate to be present during her electoral campaign and accompany him on his tours.
On February 8, 1946, a few days before the end of the campaign, Perón’s supporters organized an event at the Luna Park stadium to express women’s support for Perón’s candidacy.
In her first radio address, delivered on January 27, 1947, and addressed to the Argentine woman, Eva said: “You yourselves, spontaneously, with that warm tenderness that distinguishes the comrades of the same struggle, you have given me a name Fight: Avoid. I prefer to be called “Evita” and not “the president’s wife.”
In the presidential elections of February 24, 1946, popular support, organized by the Labor Party and the UCR Renovadora Board, gave Perón the presidency with 52.84% of the vote.
At the end of that year, Perón’s allied parties were unified into the Peronist Party.
European tour of Perón and Evita
In 1946, the economic situation of Spain after the war was absolutely desperate and starvation was bearing down on the population.
The Argentine Republic, chaired by Perón, was the only country that came to the aid of the Spanish, with a 3-year loan and with very low interest.
The loan materialized in the shipment of: 400,000 tons of wheat, 120,000 of corn, 8,000 of edible oils, 16,000 of oil cakes, 10,000 of lentils, 20,000 of frozen meat, 5,000 of salted meat and 50,000 boxes of eggs.
The Spanish learned that Argentina had saved Spain from starvation in those terrible years.
The Spanish government invited Eva Duarte
In gratitude, the Spanish government officially invited Evita to visit Spain.
Perón, Evita and the Peronist leaders thought that an international tour, as a goodwill ambassador, would place Eva Duarte and Argentina in the political foreground.
The tour spanned 64 days, beginning June 6 and returning August 23, 1947.
The Spanish government granted Evita Perón a great reception.
At Madrid airport they received her with a salvo of twenty-one cannon shots and the applause of a large crowd of workers.
Throughout the entire journey to the center of Madrid, a large crowd made him the object of enthusiastic cheers.
This reception was repeated the following day, when Eva Perón addressed the Spanish people from the balcony of the Royal Palace of Oriente.
Francisco Franco expressed public recognition of all of Spain. He was awarded the highest decoration in the country: the Great Cross of Isabel la Católica.
After Madrid, Eva Perón visited Toledo, Granada, Seville, Santiago de Compostela, Pontevedra, Zaragoza and Barcelona. An 18-day visit.
Eva Perón extended her visit to Europe
She then spent 12 days in France, 20 days in Italy and the Vatican, 6 days in Switzerland, 3 days in Portugal, 3 days in Brazil, and 2 days in Uruguay.
There were innumerable anecdotes, most of them funny, starring a young Evita, full of grace and energy.
The ambassador had great love for the common people and lacked the subtle diplomatic hypocrisy.
Also, for sure, she was happy to provide tasty headlines to her country’s newspapers.
In France she presided over the signing of a trade agreement for the purchase of wheat from Argentina; and received the Legion of Honor.
The finishing touch of the tour was, already back, her presence at the “Inter-American Conference for the Maintenance of Peace and Continental Security“, which was held in Rio de Janeiro on August 20, 1947.
Defense of Eva Perón for the rights of women
In the history of Argentina there is unanimous recognition of the fact that Evita carried out a decisive task for the recognition of equal political and civil rights between men and women.
On February 27, 1946, three days after the election, twenty-six-year-old Evita made her first political speech.
She did so in an organized act to thank the women for their support of Perón’s triumphant candidacy.
Since then, on multiple occasions, she demanded equal rights for men and women; and in particular, women’s suffrage.
Through rallies with women and radio speeches, she began to campaign intensively for the female vote.
Eva Perón created a party of women leaders.
They proclaimed that women not only have to vote, but they have to vote for women.
That the Argentine woman has passed the period of civil guardianships. That the woman, moral spring of her home, must occupy a worthy place in the complex social gear of the people.
On May 1, 1946, a bill was presented to that effect.
Despite the fact that it was a very short text, of only three articles, which practically could not give rise to discussions, it took more than a year for it to come to fruition.
On September 9, 1947, the Chamber of Deputies passed Law 13,010, which established in Argentina, equal political rights between men and women and universal suffrage.
In July 1949 Eva Perón helped found the Female Peronist Party, which began to channel the direct militancy of women.
On November 11, 1951, for the first time, Argentine women were able to vote and be voted.
64% of women voted in favor of Peronism.
The Female Peronist Party managed to elect 23 deputies and 6 senators.
Eva Perón voted in the hospital where she was hospitalized, due to an advanced state of cancer she suffered from.
Eva Perón also proposed recognizing the economic value of the work of maintaining the homes and raising children.
This work, carried out mainly by women; and there was no remuneration system for them.
Relationship with workers and unions
Eva Perón established a strong and close relationship with workers and unions.
In 1947, after the creation of the Peronist Party and the Female Peronist Party, the Peronist movement was organized in three autonomous branches: the political branch, the union branch and the feminine branch.
Evita had a highly combative vision of the fight for social rights.
Her speech openly claimed the values and interests of workers and women.
From the Ministry of Labor and Welfare, she carried out an intense union task, and processed new initiatives.
Organized new unions and participated in collective bargaining. She liked to attend assemblies in factories.
At the beginning of 1948, the union leaders already recognized Evita as a decisive manager of the labor conquests and of the power achieved by the labor movement within the government.
In this scheme, Eva Perón occupied a role of direct and privileged link between Perón and the unions.
For this reason, in 1951, the trade union movement promoted Eva Perón’s candidacy for vice president.
The Eva Perón Foundation
The activity for which Evita stood out during the Peronist government was social aid aimed at addressing poverty.
It also covered other social situations of helplessness. She strongly encouraged the reorganization of State action in the field of social assistance.
In this context, on July 8, 1948, the Eva Perón Foundation was born.
The Eva Perón Foundation, chaired by Evita, began to carry out a gigantic social task.
Its action reached practically all the poorest strata of the population.
Eva insisted that her priority was to give dignity to vulnerable sectors of the population.
She said: “Many works have been built with the criteria of the rich: and the rich, when they think for the poor, think poor. Others have been done with the criteria of the State: and the State only builds bureaucratically. The great absentee is love ”.
The Foundation employed 14,000 people and carried out a wide spectrum of social activities: construction of hospitals, polyclinics, schools, transit homes and nursing homes, vacation camps, popular warehouses and granting of scholarships for students.
The Foundation’s funds came from various sources: taxes, personal donations, quotas established in collective agreements, surcharge on movie tickets, income from hotels and neighborhoods, budget resources not executed by the ministries, etc.
Eva defended the rights of old age
On August 28, 1948, Eva published her Decalogue on the Rights of Old Age, a pioneering initiative in the fight for the recognition of the elderly.
That same year Argentina presented this decalogue to the United Nations, and proposed to approve a norm that recognized the human rights of the elderly.
The Decalogue defended the rights of the elderly to: assistance, housing, food, clothing, physical health, moral health, recreation, work, expansion and respect.
Eva Perón’s candidacy for the vice presidency
For the 1951 general elections, the General Confederation of Labor proposed Evita’s candidacy for the position of Vice President of the Nation, accompanying Perón.
On August 22, 1951, the Open Council of Justicialism took place.
The meeting brought together hundreds of thousands of workers.
Eva Perón resigned to appear for the position, in order to avoid internal squabbles in the Peronist Party.
Also, She was aware that She had advanced cancer. Although she underwent radiotherapy treatment at their residence on Calle Agüero.
Apparently the result was satisfactory; but, at three months there was a resurgence of the cancerous tumor.
In 1951, Golda Meir visited Buenos Aires hugging Eva Perón, for the work done in favor of the State of Israel.
The Perón government was one of the first to recognize the State of Israel and was one of the few to provide humanitarian aid during the “Israeli independence” war.
Illness and death of Eva Perón
On October 15, 1951, she published her book “The reason for my life“, in which she had been working for three years.
She wrote it with the help of the Spanish journalist Manuel Penella and the Argentine writer Raúl Mendé.
Due to her delicate state of health, Evita had to dictate it.
On November 6, 1951, she was surgically intervened by the famous American oncologist, George Pack, at the “Presidente Perón” Polyclinic Hospital.
The presidential elections were on November 11, 1951. Eva Perón voted for the first time in her life, and she did it from her hospital bed.
On July 18, 1952, she went into a coma. She died at the age of 33, on July 26, 1952.
No one in such a short time did so much for their country.
It is sad to imagine how much she would have achieved if she had had the opportunity to continue a few more years with her tireless enthusiasm.
The remains of Eva Perón
The national duel was indescribable and the highest honors were requested for her.
In less than 24 hours there were 18,000 flower crowns in the burning chapel, installed in the National Congress. The Executive Power decreed two days of National Mourning.
The body of Eva Perón, Evita, was embalmed and taken to a chapel of the Confederation of Workers.
After Perón was overthrown, her body was violently removed from there.
Those responsible for this infamous and macabre act hid it for fourteen years.
In 1971, the then ruler in Argentina, ordered the search for Evita’s body.
It was found in a clandestine grave in Milan and returned to Perón; who was living in Madrid, in the Puerta de Hierro urbanization.
On November 17, 1974, the then President, María Estela Martínez de Perón, returned Eva’s body to Argentina, and placed her in the garden presidency of Olivos.
In 1976, the military dictatorship that took power gave the body to the Duarte family.
They decided to bury Eva Perón in the vault that the family owns in the Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires. Since then, her body has been there.