Evita- Saint Or Sinner Essay, Research Paper
Evita: Saint or Sinner?
The story of Eva Peron is a fascinating one . Evita, as she is known, enjoyed a rise
to power like no other. The details of this ascension are often disputed, making Santa
Evita’s tale all the more intriguing. . .
Maria Eva Duarte was born on May 7, 1919,1 the fifth and youngest illegitimate
child of Juan Duarte and his mistress, Juan Ibarguen. The week of her birth was known as
Tragic Week, when the army massacred striking workers, perhaps a foreshadow of what
was to come in her life.2
Eva spent her childhood in an adobe farmhouse, with farm animals and earthen
floors. In the farming trade, Juan Duarte incurred many debts, eventually leaving him with
nothing. Thus, early in her life, Eva learnt the humiliation of poverty.
The Duartes were further put down by the stiff Argentine caste system, which
divided the poor from the wealthy. Being a bastard child, Eva and her four sisters were
seen as ‘brats,’ and were stopped from associating with the other village children.
Rejection, thrown upon young Eva through no fault of her own, would not be forgotten
At age fifteen, Eva Duarte set out to become a radio actress. She knew she could
be like the women in the movie magazines she either stole or borrowed from her friends.
Eva met singer Agustin Magaldi, and, packed her bags and sneaked out of her mother’s
boarding house to the city of Buenos Aires.
Once Eva learned the rules of the ‘casting couch,’ she dropped Magaldi and began
her ascent to stardom. For years she wandered the streets, auditioned, and did whatever
she had to do, no matter how distasteful. Eva gained modeling work and small parts in
radio plays, frequenting nightclubs, and began to find better work.
After several jobs in theatres, she was interviewed by the magazine Sintonia. After
Eva started an affair with the magazine’s owner, he began to give her good exposure. This
led to jobs in the film industry. Though she made several, she had no talent to be seen in
any of her films.4
Eva’s body was what sold her to the masses. She could have any man that she
wanted, and soon set her sights on Colonel Juan Peron, who had political ruthlessness, a
passion for younger women (especially good-looking actresses), and was a 48-year-old
On January 15, 1944, San Juan Argentina was hit by a terrible earthquake. A gala
benefit show was held to support the relief effort, where Eva and Colonel Peron first met.
They were seen leaving the gala together.6
Their attraction was not kept secret. Evita- what she liked to be called, now that
she was a celebrity- and Peron became inseparable. Their attraction became a personal
bond as well as a political alliance. She was active in formation of policy and penned plays
about the Peronist ‘Revolution.’ By her account, Juan himself was responsible for the coup
of 1943. This and other similar events disturbed military officers greatly.
The U.S. Ambassador to Argentina, Spruille Braden, openly criticized the
Argentine government, and schemed to overthrow it. Peron labeled his opposition as
foreign intervention, and made his own cause a national one.7
This helped Peron become the most important man in the government, and thus a
target of much criticism. Military officers hated him, and the President ordered him to
resign his position. They decided to arrest Peron and place him under ‘protective custody.’
It was October 12, 1945.
Peron, while in prison, won the support of the labor unions. Strikes took place,
and the workers took to the streets. The government had underestimated Peron’s
popularity. On October 16, Peron’s release was successfully bargained for. On October
17, he was back in Buenos Aires. However, he would not make and appearance to the
public. The ‘descamisados,’ or ’shirtless ones,’ still filled the streets.
The President needed Peron to speak to the people. Having little choice, he met
Peron’s extreme demands. This included a new cabinet, and everyone in it would be a
Peron supporter. After terms were settled, Peron made his appearance, and was cheered
like no Argentine before him.8
When Peron ran for President in 1946, he won by the largest electoral vote in
Juan Peron and Eva were married on October 21, 1945. Evita was an active first
lady. She campaigned for women’s suffrage, yet her view of feminism was different than
that of today. Evita believed in a traditional woman’s responsibilities, a woman who
directed her activism toward the cause of man. “For women, to be a Peronist means,
above all, loyalty to Peron, subordination to Peron, and blind trust in Peron.”10
Speaking on Juan’s behalf to the ‘descamisados,’ Eva is quoted as saying “He is
God for us. . .we cannot conceive of heaven without Peron. He is our sun, our air, our
water, our life. . .”11
Evita was a hero to ‘los descamidos,’ as she herself had been poor and knew what
poverty meant. She had her own court for them. The poor would disclose their troubles
to Evita. If money was their problem, they were handed at least a 100 peso note. Any
problem would be dealt with. Jobs would be found for the unemployed. Evita’s strong
men would seek a husband who had left his wife (he would rarely refuse to return). She
truly was a saint to them, Santa Evita.12
Evita developed a strong following with women. She gave them the right to vote,
set up homes for single working girls, and introduced the idea of a career woman.
Santa Evita was now more popular than Peron himself. Evita attempted to use this
popularity to run for Vice President. However, major army officers feared she would
succeed the President, and stopped her nomination. The military still hated her, and could
not stand for her to be thought of as commander-in-chief.13
In January of 1951, surgeons noticed the beginnings of uterine cancer. Eva
rejected medical advice and refused to undergo a hysterectomy. Her health worsened
rapidly, and finally had surgery. It was too late. Eva Duarte de Peron died on July 26,
1952 and Argentina wept. Hundreds of thousands lined the streets. Peron himself was
shocked. “I did not know they loved her so much.”14
Newspapers could use all the paper they desired in reporting the life and death of
Evita, despite a paper shortage. The news of her passing was rebroadcast at 15-minute
intervals. The country came to a halt.15
Evita’s tomb was planned. It would be lined with 16 statues of her. A 140-foot tall
statue of a ‘descamido’ would tower along the Buenos Aires skyline.
While the tomb was being erected, Evita’s temporary resting place was the Labor
Confederation Headquarters. In 1955, agents of the new President, Pedro Arambulu, stole
the corpse, placed it into the army lorry, and drove away.
The remains of Eva Peron could be used as a powerful symbol against any
government, and the location of them became a primary concern of Argentines. Rumors
stated that she had been incinerated, that her body was in Chile with her mother and sisters,
that she was not in fact dead, but living in exile with Peron. For years rumors circulated,
until, in time, Evita became a memory, a lost symbol of hope to the poor of Argentina.
* * *
On September 2, 1971, Juan Peron was reunited with the body of his second wife,
Evita. He openly wept. “She is not dead. She is sleeping. . .Only sleeping!”
Evita’s blonde hair had been cut off at the neck. Further examination showed that
cuts were present all over her body, her nose was broker, both knees broken, and the chest
was marked with six holes.
Later repaired, the body was placed in a new coffin, upstairs in Peron’s cottage.
Evita had been missing seventeen years.
The embalmed body was put on display in December of 1974, beside General
Peron’s sealed coffin. Twenty-four years after Eva’s death, In October 1976, the body of
Maria Eva Duarte de Peron was returned to the family, and now lies in an armored private
vault fifteen feet underground, in Buenos Aires.
Evita’s body should not be stolen again. It is not in the actual vault, but one
underneath the family tomb. Beneath three steel plates, each locked with a different
combination, in total silence and darkness, in another chamber lies the corpse of Eva
“I will return. And I will be millions.”16