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Definition: Perón, Eva Duarte de from Philip's Encyclopedia

Argentine dancer and politician, second wife of Juan Perón. Known as 'Evita', she administered Argentina's social welfare agencies and was the country's chief labour mediator. Eva's popularity contributed to the longevity of the Perónist regime.

Summary Article: PERÓN, EVA
from Encyclopedia of Nationalism: Leaders, Movements, and Concepts

The wife of Argentine President Juan D. Perón and, according to many, a political leader in her own right. Born the illegitimate daughter of Juan Duarte and Juana Ibarguren in the small town of Los Toldos (a province outside of Buenos Aires), at the age of fifteen, Evita moved to the rapidly expanding capital where she began a career as a radio, theater, and film actress. She married General Juan D. Perón in 1945 (Perón was president of the republic between 1946 and 1955, and 1973 and 1974), becoming his second wife. She was regarded by members of Perón's party as well as his enemies (mostly from the upper middle class and the oligarchy) as the president's right hand, although the extent to which Eva Duarte was responsible for Perón's rise to power is still a much contested issue in Argentine political history.

Before her death from cancer at the age of thirty-three, Eva Perón (popularly known by her diminutive, Evita) had worked in a variety of capacities to forward the cause of Perónism, a populist political movement centered largely around the personality cult of General Perón, which had widespread support among the lower classes and labor unions, with an economic vision rooted in the national appropriation of (largely British-owned) public works and resources. Evita was first given her own office in the Department of Posts shortly after Perón became president. Soon after she began to work for the Perónist Party in an unofficial and quite controversial position in the Ministry of Labor. In 1947, Evita became the owner of a relatively unimportant newspaper, Democracia, whose sales subsequently skyrocketed when photos of Evita and articles on Perónism began to appear regularly.

In June 1947, in her role as the first lady of Argentina, Evita made a lavish three-month goodwill tour of Europe where she met with General Franco and the Pope, among other important figures. The New York Times deemed this widely criticized trip “the most original diplomatic mission in recent times.” Although it was panned by the European left as an unnecessary display of wealth given the impoverished state of postwar Europe, it was looked on favorably by many Argentineans. After her European trip, Evita began to take on a more overt political role in the country.

Despite many failed attempts since 1911, in 1947 the right to vote was won for Argentinean women, an achievement that many attribute to Evita. In July 1947, Evita became the head of the Perónist Women's Party, which by 1952 had 500,000 members and 3600 offices. In 1948, the Maria Eva Duarte de Perón Foundation was created; Evita later renamed it the Eva Perón Foundation. The foundation provided monetary and other types of assistance to persons who lacked resources. Evita exercised sole responsibility over this organization, which employed thousands of permanent employees and construction workers. Shortly before her death, Evita stood before thousands of people in the Plaza de Mayo of Buenos Aires and refused a popular call for her vice presidency.

The story of the life of Eva Perón has been immortalized in a wide variety of genres from theatrical musical (Andrew Lloyd, Webber and Tim Rice's Evita), to popular film (Alan Parker's Evita, 1996), to autobiography (La razón de mi vida) to fictional biography (Tomás Eloy, Martinez' Santa Evita: Novela [Planeta, 1995]). There are a number of biographies about Evita including Nicholas Fraser and Marysa Navarro's Eva Perón (W. W. Norton & Co., 1985), J. M. Taylor's Eva Perón: The Myths of a Woman (University of Chicago Press, 1979), Alicia Dujovne, Ortiz's Eva Perón (St. Martin's Press, 1996), and Otelo Borrani and Roberto Vacca's Eva Perón (Centro Editor de America Latina, 1970).

Copyright © 2001 by ACADEMIC PRESS

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