You are probably familiar with the musical ‘Evita,’ by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, which tells the story of Eva Duarte and her relationship with Argentinian President Juan Perón.
In the most famous number, ‘Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina’, Evita addresses the crowds after orchestrating an insurrection to free her husband, prisoner to a military Junta. A young Che Guevara witnesses the events, providing some commentary – in song form, of course.
How much of this famed musical scene is true, and how much is just dramatized rumours? We’ll find out together in todays’ Biographics, which covers the lives of Evita and Juan Perón, two illegitimate children who rose from obscurity to ultimate power.
Evita Discovers Her Talent
Maria Eva Duarte, later known simply as Eva or Evita, was born on May 7, 1919, in the town of Los Toldos, in the Argentine pampas, or fertile lowlands. She was the youngest of five children born to Juana Ibarguren and Juan Duarte.
Juan and Juana were not married; in fact, he had a second, ‘official’ family in the town of Chivilcoy. Juan was a wealthy and successful farm manager, with close ties to rich landowners and the elite members of the Conservative party. After Eva’s birth, this party started losing ground to the Radicals, which caused a decline in Juan’s fortunes. The Duartes, accustomed to relative wealth, had to tighten the belt. A few years later, they had to punch some extra holes in the belt altogether, when Juan died in a car accident on January 8, 1926.
Juan Duarte had never recognized the children he had with Juana, meaning they would receive no inheritance. This humiliation was compounded by the treatment received at Juan’s funeral: his lawful widow and her wealthy family physically prevented Evita and her siblings from attending the service. This was a watershed moment in Evita’s upbringing: the knowledge that she was an explicit part of the lower rungs of Argentinian society, ostracised by the rich elite.
By the time Eva started first grade, her older siblings Juan Jr and Elisa were already working as clerks, while mom Juana spent hours on her sewing machine as a self-employed seamstress.
Eva was not yet burdened with these responsibilities and would spend her school-free hours climbing trees and exploring the countryside. Perhaps most importantly, she enjoyed dressing up and improvising plays for her friends and siblings. Her co-star was second-youngest sister Erminda, and they could count on Juan Jr as a stage designer. The boy even built a miniature circus for them.
In 1930, the Duartes moved to the town of Junín. It was here that Eva’s penchant for dress-up games evolved into a full-blown passion for acting, with a rich diet of films watched at the village cinema and radio dramas. She also joined a school drama group and performed for the first time on stage. By 1934, at age 15, Eva made her choice: she would move to Buenos Aires and become a professional actress.
Her mother Juana was not sold on the idea. How could a girl so young face the dangers of the big capital?
According to some accounts, it was celebrity Tango singer Augustín Magaldi who convinced Juana to let Eva follow her dreams. In the Rice/Webber musical, the much older Magaldi is portrayed as Eva’s lover, and the two elope to Buenos Aires.
A less dramatic but more likely vision of events comes courtesy of Eva’s older sister, Erminda: it was the headmaster of Eva’s school who had noticed the girl’s talent and convinced mom Juana to let the girl press her fortune with acting. And before you start gossiping, no, Eva did not elope with the headmaster. There was no eloping here. It was Juana who took Evita to Buenos Aires and arranged for her to move in with some family friends. The adventure had begun.
Big Break in the Big City
Argentina in the mid-1930s was a nation struggling under the weight of poverty, unemployment and hunger – just as much of the world did, following the financial collapse of 1929. Tens of thousands of Argentines moved from the farms and countryside into Buenos Aires, looking for work and better living conditions. Year after year, the social gap widened between the urban middle and upper classes, and the desperately poor.
This was the backdrop for Eva’s first steps in professional acting, as she, too, struggled to make a living amidst fierce competition. But she clearly had talent, brains and beauty, which is always a powerful combination. Eva was soon hired by the Compania Argentina de Comedias, a professional troupe, and made her debut in March 1935.
In 1937, Eva turned 18 and her career was taking off: she first appeared on the silver screen and then on the radio. While her roles on stage and in cinema were mainly bit parts or supporting characters, it was radio where Eva could get her best parts and progress her career. And it was radio, not cinema, that made her a household name to Argentinians.
A co-star in one of her many radio dramas complimented Eva, labeling her as professional, dependable, and talented. But Eva also picked up a reputation as, well, not exactly the nicest person to be around. It seems that Eva was generally not liked many of her colleagues. It may have been these same colleagues who later spread rumours that Eva’s career was accelerated by a propensity to sleep with the right people.
It is more likely, though, that these rumours were circulated after she had become Mrs. Perón, in order to undermine the President. Neither him nor Evita, would ever lack enemies.
Whatever the truth, Eva Duarte surely did not lack in talent, as she was routinely signed up for one radio drama after the other.
In 1943, Eva reached the peak of her popularity as the star of – I am not joking here – a biography show! Yes! That’s why I do what I do:
Step 1 – host a biography show
Step 2 – get to run a country
Step 3 – have a musical named after me.
[Editing note: a poster in the style of a 1970s musical show appears on screen. The title is
By Tim Shell and Andrew Lloyd Shell.
If this doesn’t take me to hell, I don’t know what else.]
Jokes aside, Eva’s show was a collection of dramatizations in which she played the role of women who had made history, like Elizabeth I, Catherine the Great, Isadora Duncan, and Sarah Bernhardt, among others. I wonder if she could imagine that one day, her own life story could have been dramatized in such a show …
1943 was a year of importance, not just to Eva, but to all Argentinians. On June 4, a military coup led by General Pedro Ramirez seized power from President Ramón Castillo. Within the group of conspirators, there was an ambitious Colonel, who was put in charge of the Ministry of Labour and Welfare. His name was Colonel Juan Perón.
The Boxing Minister
Juan Domingo Perón was born in Los Lobos, province of Buenos Aires, on October 8, 1895. Like Eva, Juan was born out of wedlock, the child of wealthy farmer Mario Tomás Perón and Juana Sosa.
Juan spent most of his childhood and early teenage years in the pampas in the south of the country. He always wished to return to the capital to study medicine, but when he did return to Buenos Aires, it was to enter the military academy in 1911. He graduated in 1913, barely eighteen, with the rank of second lieutenant in the infantry. Juan was amongst the first of his class, and he gained a reputation as a hard-working student. He also excelled in physical training: standing at 6-foot-tall and solidly built, the young, athletic Juan became an Army champion in boxing, skiing, and fencing. He almost made it onto the Argentine Olympic fencing team!
As Argentina never entered a war during his early military career, Perón only knew about peace-time deployment. He progressed through the ranks thanks to his academic endeavors, as well as the publication of several books on military morals and hygiene.
In 1925, Juan first met with 17-year old Aurelia Tizón. After a four-year engagement, the two married on January 5, 1929. Aurelia was a teacher, intelligent and academically minded. A valuable companion for Perón, Aurelia dedicated much of her time to translating military theory textbooks from English for her husband.
In 1930, the now-Captain Perón was a member of the Army Staff, as well as a Professor of Military History at the Higher Institute for War Studies. He continued publishing military textbooks and expanded his field of knowledge into linguistics, with a book on the language of the Araucanos, an indigenous people from in and around Patagonia.
In 1936, Perón had become a Major and was tasked with a delicate assignment. Officially, he was detached as a military attaché to the Argentinian Embassy in Chile; unofficially, Juan was actually spying on the Chilean Army, in search of potential plans for an invasion of Argentina, which was an event feared to be likely at that time. Perón was a skilled agent, reporting on Chile’s military capabilities without ever blowing his cover. This success may have earned him his next promotion, to Lieutenant-Colonel, at the end of the same year.
On September 10, 1938, after a prolonged period of illness, Aurelia died young, at the age of 30. The diagnosis was cervical cancer. This was a devastating blow to the officer. A valued asset to Argentina’s military, Perón’s state of depression worried his superiors, to the point that they offered him another post abroad to get his mind off the tragedy.
From 1939 to the beginning of 1940, Perón was attached to the army’s European Mission of Foreign Studies. This involved him touring Italy, Spain, Germany, Hungary, and France to study and observe those countries’ militaries. He spent most of his time in Italy: here, Perón focused on mountain warfare, but he also had the chance to study closely the policies and authoritarian methods of Benito Mussolini. While never fully adhering to Fascist ideology, Perón came to appreciate the dictatorial methods in use in Italy and other European countries. He started to appreciate the notion of strong, direct, authoritarian rule as the only means to impose effective reforms in his home country.
During this period Perón also had the opportunity to experience the early German victories in Western and Northern Europe. This convinced him that the Axis would eventually emerge victorious from the conflict and shaped his future policies.
Juan Perón returned to Argentina in 1941, having risen to the rank of Colonel. The country at that time was ruled by President Ramón Castillo, whose term had become unpopular due to widespread corruption, fraud, economic stagnation, and an increasing divide between the upper and lower classes. This is when Perón started getting involved in politics. He joined a secret outfit called GOU – Grupo Oficiales Unidos, or Group of United Officers – which had a nationalist agenda.
In July 1943 the GOU seized power in an almost bloodless coup. General Arturo Rawson took power, in roughly the amount of time needed to choose the color scheme for his office curtains. Rawson was favorable to the Allied cause in WWII and was open to civilians in his cabinet, but his fellow conspirators disagreed with both ideas. Rawson was promptly replaced with General Pedro Ramirez, whose agenda and methods were much more closely aligned to the Axis Powers — firmly anti-Leftist and totalitarian. Ramirez appointed General Farrell as Minister of War, who brought along Perón as his personal secretary.
This was not enough for the ambitious Colonel, who volunteered for a post nobody wanted: that of Minister of the National Labour Department. It wasn’t just a move to get a seat in the cabinet, but a calculated first step in a long-term plan.
Minister Perón delivered an astounding amount of reform in the span of two years, all of which gained him the support of the masses of industrial workers. For example, he introduced paid holidays for all workers; he also limited work hours and mandated better working conditions.
Perón also established a system of government-affiliated trade unions to defend workers’ rights and always intervened on their side against industry owners. He did not refrain from using government funds to pay for worker salaries or pensions when factory owners threatened to suspend payments.
These progressive policies certainly benefitted the lower classes, which made Perón increasingly popular. This was his strategy: bolster the status of the workers, the majority of the population, which would grant him support and even devotion in return. Perón referred to his supporters as the ‘descamisados’, or the ‘shirtless.’
No Argentinian was under the illusion that Perón operated within a democracy. This was a military, authoritarian, government. But unlike previous democratic cabinets, Perón delivered.
On the January 15, 1944, a national emergency put Perón to the test: an earthquake completely obliterated the province of San Juan, killing 7000 inhabitants and injuring another 12,000. Perón organised a nationwide campaign to raise funds in aid of the wounded and the displaced. For this effort, he drafted national celebrities to assist him, including popular actors from the stage, cinema, and radio.
Some days later, Eva set up a meeting with Juan in his office, during which she asked for more opportunities to raise funds for the earthquake victims. It was then that Perón felt an immediate attraction for the young actress. He later recalled:
“As I looked at her, I felt that her words were taking over me: I was almost subjugated by the warmth in her voice and in her eyes”
And just like that, an expert of coups de theatre and a veteran of a coup d’état, were brought together by a coup de foudre – if you’ll pardon my French.
The two initially kept their relationship a secret. Why? The age difference may have played a part, as he was 49 and she was 25. It was their own damn business after all.
Besides their romantic lives, also their careers were flourishing. In early 1944, Perón’s patron Gen Farrell became President, and he appointed his protegé as Vice President and Minister of War, on top of his Labour duties. Eva was no less overworked, hosting three daily radio shows: one on biographies, one on geography and one on lists of 10 interesting items.
Okay, fine. It was actually two radio dramas and a propaganda broadcast in support of the regime.
On the July 9, 1944, the two lovebirds decided to go public with their relationship by showing up together at a gala event. Perón had become the most popular member of the regime, enjoying great visibility with the press, and so did Evita, appearing by his side in public.
Don’t Cry for Me
In March of 1945, President Farrell opportunistically declared war on the Axis powers, securing a place in the United Nations for Argentina. In August, he decided to soften his regime, even promising free elections by the end of the year.
In the meantime, Perón had fallen out of favor with the political establishment. His populist reforms had alienated the support of the more traditional elements of the ruling classes, the military, and the church. Evita had also come under attack, accused of being only a power-hungry social climber, no more than a prostitute.
The Power Couple’s downward descent was prologue to Perón’s appointment of a friend of Evita’s as head of the Department of Posts and Telegraph. Perón was forced to resign on October 10, 1945; by the 13th, he was arrested on the Island of Martín García.
Years later, Perón recalled how Evita immediately organized a general labor strike, followed by a massive demonstration of the descamisados. She marched at the head of hundreds of thousands of workers, occupying Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, the square in front of the seat of government. Evita then addressed the crowds from a balcony. A young Che Guevara was among them. This was remembered as the Foundation Day of Peronismo.
Juan Perón is the only source to ever circulate this version of the events, which was later incorporated in the musical. In reality, Evita likely did not play a role in the uprising at all. The strike was spontaneous, as were the mass demonstrations. The descamisados rallied in Plaza de Mayo, demanding for Perón to be released. The authorities, hoping to prevent bloodshed, complied with their demands, asking Perón to step onto the balcony to calm down the mob. And how about Guevara? He was 17 at that time, still attending secondary school, and did not move to Buenos Aires until 1947. He never met Evita; their only recorded contact is a letter he wrote to her, asking if she could buy him a jeep.
As soon as Perón was released from prison, he did two things: he resigned from the military, leaving with the rank of General, and he married Evita in a registry office, on the 22nd of October, followed by a religious ceremony on the 10th of December.
With Eva by his side, Perón set off to organize his candidature in the new general elections. He ran as a candidate from the Partido Laborista, or Labour Party. His opposition, the Democratic Union, was a disparate coalition that included both conservatives and communists, with the open backing US Ambassador Spruille Braden. His influence was so extensive that the electoral choice was often presented as ‘Perón vs Braden’.
Juan and Evita organized an intense campaign trail with a chartered train, called “El Descamisado”. This was the first time in the history of Argentina that a presidential candidate was accompanied by his wife. On February 8, 1946, she pioneered another ‘first’: at a party rally, she replaced Juan on the speaker’s podium, as he was too ill to speak. Unfortunately, that was a total disaster. While workers loved Perón thanks to his earlier reforms, they were still mistrustful of his wife. The crowd would not let her speak, drowning her out with cries of “We want Perón!”
But little by little, Evita grew in popularity. Her acting talent, trained voice, and overall good looks helped in no small measure.
On June 4, 1946, the couple found their victory: Juan Perón had been democratically elected the new President of Argentina, and Evita had become first lady at 27 years of age.
Juan Perón’s Presidency is not easily defined, if not as a labyrinth of contradictions.
Let’s begin with his ideology, known as ‘justicialismo’, or ‘justicialism’: it was founded on social justice and heavy state intervention in the form of welfare programs to support the lower classes. But it was also known as ‘Perónismo’, an indication that this movement was a unique way of running a country, centered around the cult of Juan Perón’s personality and strong leadership.
Juan Perón introduced several progressive reforms, mainly to the benefit of his electoral base, the working classes. He made social security, education, and healthcare totally free and universal. He introduced paid maternity leave and the right to vote for women, with Evita’s key contribution. Perón also boosted the Argentine economy by developing hydroelectric power plants, launching a local iron and steel industry, and expanding shipbuilding by 500 percent.
But to achieve all this, he implemented rash authoritarian measures, including censorship of the press and incarceration of dissenters.
In terms of foreign policy, Perón’s strategy for Argentina was to become a neutral country along a ‘third position,’ aligned with neither capitalism nor communism during the Cold War.
In practice, Perón did not hide his hostility towards American and British presence or influence over Argentina. Was he secretly considering a drift towards Moscow? Not exactly.
After becoming President, Juan Perón made Argentina a well-known haven for former Nazis. Adolph Eichmann, Josef Mengele, Erich Priebke, Otto Skorzeny, and many, many other war criminals all found refuge there. Skorzeny even became a bodyguard to the Peróns, and may have had a liaison with Evita – a rumor that was never confirmed.
All of these Nazi officials, except for Skorzeny, had been sentenced in absentia at the Nuremberg trials and were wanted for crimes against humanity. Perón was doing more than just accepting them into his country, here — he actively invited them, offering money, houses, and jobs.
What was his plan then? Perón had estimated that a new World War would break out by 1949, fought by blocs led by the US and the Soviet Union. His end strategy was to bargain for Argentina’s participation on the Western side. And that’s when the expertise of ex-Nazis would have come in handy, as trained officers adept at fighting the Soviets.
No Sleep for Evita
In June 1947 Evita had her first official trip abroad, the ‘Rainbow Tour’ across Europe and South America. Her first leg of the tour was in Spain, where she met Generalisimo Francisco Franco, considered to be one of the last vestiges of Fascism in Europe. This did not help the image of the Peróns. In subsequent visits to Italy and Switzerland, Evita was accused of being the representative of a Fascist country and was booed, or even pelted with eggs and rotten fruit. During her official visit to London, she was snubbed by the King.
Upon returning from Europe, Evita dedicated herself to the cause of women’s suffrage. She had already supported a bill to that effect in 1946, and now she wanted things to change, and fast.
Evita launched an appeal to Argentinian women, who staged two massive rallies in September of 1947 and plastered Buenos Aires with posters. On September 23, Parliament ratified the bill: suffrage was truly universal in Argentina. Evita capped the achievement two years later by founding the first all-female Party in Argentina, to ensure that women would be on the ballot, instead of just at the ballot.
Evita understood her feminist victory would not have been possible without the backing and active participation of her husband. In her writing, she made it clear that in order to bring about progress, both male and female action were necessary. She summarised this as:
“A man of action triumphs over everyone else. A woman of action triumphs for everyone else”
In other words: ‘male action’ was needed to overcome opposition when imposing new ideas, but ‘female action’ was a constructive energy, the one to really bring those new ideas to the benefit of others.
Inspired by these ideals, Evita threw herself into Welfare work: by the end of 1947 she had become a sort of unofficial Minister of Labour, committing to a grueling work schedule of up to 22 hours a day, meeting trade union delegations and addressing welfare issues.
Examples of her work included organizing State-funded holiday camps for workers’ children, building hospitals for textile industry employees, and distributing aid to the poorest families in the country.
And because she had two hours left each day, Evita put that time to good use. To complement her aid efforts, she created the Foundation Eva Perón, focused on helping women, children and the elderly. she collected funds mainly as donations from Trade Unions and channeled them into several initiatives, such as the construction of schools and hospitals.
The Foundation continued to finance and develop major works in the field of education and healthcare during the early 1950s, with Evita supervising most of them. At this stage, even Perón supporters could not help wondering where the required funds came from.
Officially, these came from voluntary donations by Trade Unions, as well private enterprises. But there was strong suspicion that these donations were enforced by threats: either donate or face the consequences.
Take, for example, the candy factory called ‘Mu-mu’. The company was forcibly shut down by the Government, with all its employees losing their job. Allegedly, it was because of poor hygienic conditions inside the factory, but Evita’s direct involvement in a subsequent meeting between factory management and trade unions led to suspicions that Mu-mu was being punished for failing to donate to the Foundation.
No stops for Juan
In 1949, Juan Perón succeeded in having a new Constitution ratified by parliament. This new text included a new round of reforms, such as universal suffrage, and even a declaration of the rights of the elderly, drafted by Evita’s foundation. But the main aim of the constitution was to allow for Juan to run for a second term in future elections.
As was often the case, Evita would play a key role by his side. This time, it would have been a more explicit, institutionalized one: in August 1951, the trade unions formally asked Juan Perón to run again for President, this time with Evita as his Vice-President.
Despite popular enthusiasm for the idea, Evita eventually declined. This may have been due to pressure from military leadership, who always disliked the First Lady. Another reason may have been Evita’s own poor health. She had been suffering from fatigue, frequent fainting, and vaginal bleeding.
Today, we know that all these symptoms pointed to a diagnosis of cervical cancer – the same illness that had killed Perón’s first wife. But the President had decided to hide the truth from Evita, for reasons that are still unclear. Perhaps it was to shield her from a devastating diagnosis, or perhaps he just wanted to hide the truth from the public. In a cynical electoral move, Perón did not want to reveal that Evita — perhaps the biggest source of his presidential popularity — may not even be alive during his second term in office.
Juan Perón won the elections in November of 1951, with a 62 percent majority. Evita appeared by his side as he was sworn in. It was one of her last public appearances.
The Death of Evita
Evita Perón’s last months on Earth were painful. The official version of her death, on the 26th of July 1952, is that this was caused by late-stage cervical cancer. It may not be a coincidence that Perón’s first wife Aurelia had suffered the same fate. One of the causes of cervical cancer is infection by HPV – the human papillomavirus. It is likely that Juan Perón was a carrier of such virus and had thus infected both of his wives.
In 2015, a new explanation for Evita’s demise was put forward by Dr Daniel Nijensohn, a neurosurgeon at Yale University Medical School.
Nijensohn had obtained scans of Evita’s skull after her death, which showed signs of being drilled into. This was evidence that the First Lady had received a lobotomy — an operation that involves cutting the neural connections between the prefrontal lobes and the rest of the brain in order to numb emotional responses.
One possibility is that the lobotomy had been a radical measure to manage the pain of her cancer; a more sinister one is that Juan had ordered the lobotomy to curb Evita’s increasingly unpredictable behavior. As she succumbed to her cancer, Evita’s actions were becoming more and more extreme.
In her last months of life, Evita called for violent action against her enemies and the enemies of the people, which she identified as the oligarchs in traditional Argentinian society. It appears that she even ordered from her sickbed a consignment of 5,000 automatic pistols and 1,500 machine guns to arm the trade unions. She was seriously risking the onset of a civil war. The news would have been enough to tear apart the factions of Juan Peron’s allies, who already objected to Evita’s power and popularity. The country could have soon descended into conflict.
According to Dr. Nijensohn, the lobotomy was performed by an American surgeon, James Poppen, within the Presidential palace. Poppen’s nurse, Manena Riquelme, reported that Poppen had first practiced the operation on convicts taken from Buenos Aires’ prisons.
Medically, the intervention was at least a partial success, as Evita did not die immediately. It also succeeded in silencing her for good. The lobotomy put her in a catatonic state, and she stopped eating. Her health quickly deteriorated, until her death in July — eight months after Perón had been reelected — at age 33.
The masses mobilized one last time for her funeral, with thousands of citizens following the procession. Evita’s body was placed at the headquarters of the General Labour Confederation, while a publicly funded mausoleum was being built. Juan Perón had ordered that her body be perfectly embalmed. Her body thus became a sort of relic, to be adored by the masses – a fitting end, considering that the Pope immediately started receiving requests for Evita to become a saint.
Life After Evita
By late 1952, Juan Perón realized that he could not continue his policies of public spending forever. The country’s finances were sluggish, and the economy was stagnating. Moreover, the death of Evita had dealt a hard blow to his popularity, exacerbated by rumors that he had started dating a 14-year-old girl. Catholic authorities, and the military, were not happy.
Perón changed his foreign policy in an effort to revive the economy. Traditionally anti-American, he made a U-turn and looked for a rapprochement with Washington, a move that should have revived Argentina’s exports to the US.
But it was only a matter of time before a new conspiracy ended his tenure in office. This happened on the 16th of September 1955: a coup led by the more traditionalist echelons of the Navy and the Air Force took power, after shelling Plaza de Mayo and causing 400 casualties. Perón was forced into exile by the new military Junta.
He first moved to Paraguay and, five years later, landed in Madrid. By the time he was in Spain, he’d taken a third wife, Maria Estela Martinez, who was an Argentinian dancer better known as “Isabel.”
In the meantime, the Junta had forbidden all aspects of Perón’s policies of Justicialismo and Peronismo. Displaying images of Juan Perón and Evita was also forbidden. This ban extended to Evita’s body — in 1955, it was removed from its mausoleum. No one can account for her body in the ensuing 16 years.
Some cynical soul once said that the ex you can’t compete with is a dead one. Isabel Martinez certainly must have felt that way. As she and Juan led a life of luxury in Madrid, former president Perón never stopped looking for Evita’s embalmed remains.
In 1971, out of nowhere, came the revelation that Evita had been secretly buried in a cemetery in Milan, under a headstone bearing a different name. Juan Perón recovered her body, had it restored by a mortician and kept it for some days in his Madrid home. Not just anywhere — laying on a table in his living room. And Isabel would be asked to brush Evita’s hair every day, to make sure it did not tangle.
I will not comment on this, though I’m sure you will.
Back to normality. In 1973, public pressure in Argentina demanded for Perón to return from his exile. The President in charge, General Lanusse, complied and invited Juan to return to the homeland, so Juan and Isabel moved back to Buenos Aires on June 20, 1973. Lanusse had also called for general elections to take place in March – but had made a point that Perón should not be allowed to run. This was not a problem, as he participated and won by proxy! A revived Justicialist Party put forward another candidate, Mr. Cámpora, who won with a thin majority of 49.59 percent. After taking power, Cámpora immediately resigned, initiating new elections in September … which, of course, allowed for Perón to participate. Sly old fox.
Juan and Isabel Perón campaigned together as President and Vice-President, respectively, scoring a 60 percent victory by the end of the year. Juan had become President of Argentina for the third time, with his wife as second-in-command. Isabel had succeeded in gaining the vice presidency, a post that would have perfectly suited Evita if it weren’t for her illness.
Perón’s third term was short-lived, though, as he died of a heart attack on July 1, 1974, at the age of 78. Isabel succeeded him as President, the first female head of government in the Western Hemisphere.
The legacy of Evita and Juan Perón still live on today. Argentina’s power couple have been at turns described as genuine champions of the descamisados, or as cynical, selfish and opportunistic power grabbers. Whatever their intentions, the results are undeniable: according to political scientist Peter H. Smith it was Peronism who gave the Argentine lower classes a feeling of significance and strength, a sense of identity.
Perón may have brought the powerless into politics simply to build a power base, but the working class, women and unions remained important political actors. After the Peróns, various regimes came to power, some of them violently authoritarian. Regardless of their policies, the Peróns’ legacy is what allowed the mobilized masses to remain active and assert their rights, even in the most turbulent of times … but that’s another story, for another day.
Well, I hoped you liked today’s super long video, the story of this couple was so interesting that it deserved some extra time. Feel free to share like etcetera … and a final question from me: is there any other historical character from a musical show that you would like us to cover?
Biographies of Evita and Juan:
Death of Evita
Rumours about Evita
The Mu-mu candy factory