Eva Peron Essay, Research Paper
To Lead A Nation
Eva Duarte began her life in Los Toldos, Province in Buenos Aires. She was born on May 7, 1919 to Juana Ibaguren and Juan Duarte. Her father had spent some time high on the political ladder and acquired some wealth. He met Eva’s mother while working in Los Toldos and Eva was a result of their ongoing affair. Unfortunately, Juan Duarte passed away in a car accident in 1926, when Eva was only seven years old. After her father’s death, Eva’s family was very poor. Her older siblings had to take jobs, but Eva was only still in primary school.
As Eva got older, she saw her two older sisters married and was trying to decide what she wanted to do with her life. She was active in the local theatricals and enjoyed acting. She also would write poetry and perform recitals of her work. She knew her calling was in the public eye and she refused to stay a small town girl. Eva decided to become an actress. She coupled up with a tango singer named Augustin Magaldi and went off with him to the city of Buenos Aires to start her life as an actress.
She arrived in Buenos Aires in the 1930’s, by 1945 she was considered a “star”. She had been heard on countless radio shows as well as appeared in numerous plays. Eva joined acting companies such as the Argentine Comedy Company in 19351. Within this company she debuted in small parts and eventually worked her way up to larger roles. After touring for some time she arrives back in Buenos Aires and joined a company of Armando Discepolo, who was considered to be one of the best directors of those times.1
She finally joined the Radio Belgrano in 1943, where she began a series that she would continue to do until 1945.
At this time in Argentine history the political climate began to grow hot as elections grew nearer. On June 4, 1943 a military coup threw ousted President Ramon Castillo. General Pedro P. Ramirez assumed the Presidency and Colonel Jaun Peron was appointed to chair the National Department of Labor, which became the Secretariat of Labor and Social Welfare one month later.1
After a large Earthquake in the areas that destroyed 90% of San Juan, Peron put together a relief effort and invited all the popular stars of the time. It was at this function that Eva Duarte and Colonel Juan Peron first met. It was said that they left together and the following day she returned to work at Radio Belgrano in a War Ministry limousine.2
Although Peron was 48, exactly double Eva’s age at the time, they continued their relationship successfully. It was said at the time that Peron was living with his mistress and did not know how to handle the situation with the two women. Eva took care of that. While Peron was gone on business she kicked out the former mistress and moved in all of her belongings. She stayed there from that day on.2
In the beginning of their relationship, Eva and Juan Peron encountered some rough times. On October 9, 1945, Peron was asked to resign from his office. This is a perfect example of Eva’s need for power3. When Eva realized that because Peron was out of power, she also was out of power, and a job, she was very quickly motivated to pull off this idea. She successfully influenced others by making personal appeals to the workers and military4. She asked favors of all of these people based on their personal loyalty to Juan Peron. This is a very effective tactic when asking a person to do something that is not necessary for them to do. Eva used this tactic for the rest of her political career. Every time Peron was beginning fall, Eva looked back to the laborers and made personal appeals for their support.
Peron went on to announce from the balcony of the Casa Rosada that elections were soon. At this, the crowd in the Plaza de Mayo cheered, because he was not only their leader, but also their candidate. Eva Duarte and Juan Peron were married that year and Eva Duarte became Eva Peron, wife of a presidential candidate.
Peron got immediately on the campaign trail and for the first time in history a candidate’s wife accompanied him. At each campaign stop she greeted people and handed out buttons. Peron won the elections of 1946 by a landslide and became the 29th President of Argentina.
Eva’s determination to get what she wanted is evident throughout her entire life. She wanted her husband to have political power and she did everything she could to help him achieve it. She set goals and accomplished them. This quality can be traced throughout her entire political career, which began when Peron asked her to work with him at the Labor Secretariat. Eva was to develop a labor policy for women and Peron was hoping she would be the female leader of this movement.
Each day Eva interviewed hundreds of people who were poor and jobless. These people had requests and favors and contracts. Because women had a low profile in Argentine government, many men in power had a problem with Eva holding the office that she did. It was considered unacceptable for Eva to be doing the type of work that she did. But this did not stop her in the least.
Eva, or Evita as she was later called, was a charismatic leader5. Evita had an evident strong need for power. She worked long hours everyday and into the night to get her work done. She also tried to impress her followers with furs and expensive clothes and jewelry. In one New York Times article it was said that,
“Senora Peron’s wardrobe continues to be a rich source of conversation. In her many public appearances she has not worn the same outfit twice and often she changes three and four times a day. According to a reliable source she brought 62 complete outfits with her as well as several fur coats and a collection of jewelry that has excited the admiration and envy of many women here”6.
After years of fighting for women’s suffrage in Argentina, in 1947 a law was passed giving Argentine women the right to equal suffrage. When Peron first came to office in 1946, women’s suffrage was on his political agenda. He brought the idea to light in his First Message to Congress. This put Eva on the campaign for women’s rights. She worked with legislators, with women who congregated in the civic centers, with delegates who came to see her, and also used the radio and press to advertise her cause. Her persistence was clear. Beginning January 27, she would broadcast a personal message to all women to join the fight for women’s rights. Her practical intelligence helped her find ways to network her ideas and lead to her success.
It was around this time that the women of Argentina began to see Evita as their spokesperson. She not only led them, she motivated them and pushed them to go as far as they could. On September 23 the law was finally passed.
The women’s movement was a good stepping stone for Evita. She became the President of the Peronista Women’s Party. Because of her leadership throughout the suffrage movement, women put their loyalty in her. They trusted her to make the right decisions politically. So in 1951, when elections were on the horizon, naturally the women of Argentina showed their allegiance to Evita by voting for Peron.
The women alone could not win Juan Peron the presidency again though. It was because of Evita’s constant workings with the descamisados, or the shirtless ones, that gave Peron so much political power. Eva once said, “A man of action is one who triumphs over the rest. A woman of action is one who triumphs for the rest” The Maria Eve Duarte de Peron Foundation came into being on June 19, 1948. Also known as the Eva Peron Foundation, this lasted until 1955 when the military dismantled it.
Evita was also good at articulating goals that were deeply rooted in her follower’s minds and hearts. This is very characteristic of a charismatic leader. She led the poor, the jobless, and the laborers. She told them what they wanted to hear and supplied them with what they needed to live. She made references to her own upbringing and established a connection with the people. She used herself as an example of what they could be because she had come from the same poverty and rose above it. She gave the people of Argentina self-confidence and hope. This is what kept them loyal to her.
Evita had a social exchange7 with the people of Argentina. She would give them houses, schools, and hospitals, and in return they gave her their everlasting loyalty. One of Eva’s largest achievements was the construction of a huge housing project called Eva City. This was built in 1948 and consisted of 4,000 homes. One of the residents of the new homes was later interviewed and described her feelings when she met Eva; “We stood next to her. A First Lady! We felt small beside her. She was everything to us”8.
Juan Peron’s Presidency gave her the access to the resources and information she needed to be powerful9. This comes from her formal authority as the First Lady. But, in these times being the First Lady did not give you access too many resources at all. Evita used her husband’s power and her determination to get tasks successfully completed. She took one days salary from every citizen’s paycheck per year. This funded her charitable contributions to Argentina’s poor.
Evita made self-sacrifices everyday by working long hours and being totally dedicated to her work. She would begin her day very early in the morning and the first part of her day would not end until about 4:00p.m. By 5:00 p.m. she was back at work. She works straight through until 11:00 p.m. only taking breaks to go to benefits and other functions established by the workers10. This undoubtedly proved her loyalty and dedication to her work and made the people love her even more.
In one instance, Evita sent personal funds to Italy of 1,000,000 lire to “alleviate sufferings of poor people in Italy”. She then also sent 1,000,000 lire to the poor people of France.11 It is leaders like this that people love, because they see the more personal side of the leader and know that they are devoted to their cause when they sacrifice their own resources.
Evita had a great amount of surgency12. She was a dynamic leader that exuded self-confidence and never staggered. She wanted the people to look only to her for help and see her as their savior. Her dominance of political matters and her extrovert character are evident in 1947 when she gave a speech in Italy to 600 women. She insisted that her name become a “battlecry” for women the world over. At a time when women’s suffrage was a hot topic in Argentina, Evita proclaimed, “I want to say that women have the same duties as men and therefore should have the same rights.”13
Evita became an expert on social welfare. She was even praised by other countries for her services. The French government gave presented her with the medal and ribbon of the Legion of Honor to which she was elected as a knight to French government. In Spain, she received the country’s highest decoration: the Great Cross of Isabel the Catholic. In Italy she was greeted by Pope Pius XII, who gave her the same gold rosary she would later hold in her hands the hour of her death.
Evita’s transformational leadership was leading the country to a new Argentina. The people were no longer impoverished or hungry or jobless. She made her vision of a new society a reality for her and for the people of Argentina. Appealing to the values of her followers, she targeted what mattered most to the masses. Taking an active role in every project, she spread her name throughout Argentina.
Eva Peron, being one of the most powerful women of her time, and certainly the most powerful in Argentina, suffered of course from much criticism. It was not so much what was being done, how it was being done, or for what reasons it was being done, but more so because it was being done by a woman. In 1950, Eva was at the height of her power. Peron was asked to run again for the Presidency and he accepted with the hopes that Eva would become his Vice President. Although Eva’s popularity was unquestionable and it was obvious the people wanted her to run, she was not so quickly ready to accept the challenge. She addressed over a million people who had gathered in the historic Cabildo Abierto de justicialismo to hear her speak. She asked for time to consider their proposal but the crowd refused to die down. Finally she answered them with, “I will do as the people ask”14. A few days later she was forced to take back her words by the military who would not stand for a woman Vice President.
Another big part of Evita’s renunciation of her candidacy was her illness. She was diagnosed with Cancer and had to undergo major surgery that she never recovered from. Yet, even through her illness, when she did not even have the strength to stand on her own, she continued to work on Juan’s campaign.