Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Don't Cry For Her, Argentina!

     Eva Peron, or Evita as she affectionately became known has become the subject of many books, movies, and even a couple of musicals. Born in the Argentinian village of Los Toldos in 1919 Eva Peron was not bound for greatness. So, at the age of 15 she left for the country's capitol of Buenos Aires. She dreamed of a career as an actress and actually scored a few roles in B-Grade movies.  She signed a five-year contract with Radio Belgrano, which would assure her a role in a popular historical-drama program called Great Women of History, in which she played Elizabeth I of England, Sarah Bernhardt and the last Tsarina of Russia, Alexandria Romanov. On 15 January 1944, an earthquake occurred in the town of San Juan, Argentina, killing six thousand people. In response, Perón, who was then the Secretary of Labour, established a fund to raise money to aid the victims. He devised a plan to have an "artistic festival" as a fundraiser, and invited radio and film actors to participate. After a week of fundraising, all participants met at a gala. It was at this gala, on 22 January 1944, that Eva Duarte first met Juan Perón. Eva referred to the day she met her future husband as her "marvelous day". Shortly after meeting in San Juan, Eva Duarte and Juan Perón began to live together. This move is said to have scandalized some in Juan Perón's inner circle. During this time period in Argentina, entertainers and politicians were seen as two distinct classes of people. Additionally, it was considered improper for an unmarried couple to share quarters. Perón, however, introduced Eva to his inner circle of political associates and advisers. He even allowed Eva to sit in on his meetings with close advisers and members of government. Eva and Juan were married discreetly in a civil ceremony in Junín on October 18, 1945 and in a church wedding on December 9, 1945. Juan Perón decided to campaign for the presidency of the nation. Eva campaigned heavily for her husband during his 1946 presidential bid. Using her weekly radio show she delivered powerful speeches with heavy populist rhetoric urging the poor to align themselves with Perón's movement. Although she had become wealthy from her radio and modeling success, she would highlight her own humble upbringing as a way of showing solidarity with the impoverished classes.Along with her husband, Eva visited every corner of the country, becoming the first woman in Argentina history to appear in public on the campaign trail with her husband. (Incidentally, she was also the first woman in Argentine public life to wear trousers.) She was very popular with the general public who knew her from her radio and motion picture appearances. It was during this phase of her life that she first encouraged the Argentine population to refer to her not as "Eva Perón" but simply as "Evita," which is a Spanish diminutive or affectionate nickname roughly equivalent to "Little Eva" or "Evie."
She developed lung metastasis and was the first Argentine to undergo chemotherapy (a novel treatment at that time). Despite all available treatment, she became emaciated, weighing only 79 lb by June 1952. Evita died at the age of 33, at 8:25 p.m., on July 26, 1952. The news was immediately broadcast throughout the country, and Argentina went into mourning. All activity in Argentina ceased; movies stopped playing; restaurants were closed and patrons were shown to the door. A radio broadcast interrupted the broadcasting schedule, with the announcer reading, "The Press Secretary's Office of the Presidency of the Nation fulfills its very sad duty to inform the people of the Republic that at 20:25 hours deceased Mrs Eva Perón, Spiritual Leader of the Nation." Eva Perón was granted an official state funeral.

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