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Biography of María Eva Perón

Updated on December 29, 2012
Evita Peron
Evita Peron | Source

The Broadway musical, Evita, put the life of Maria Eva Peron to music and captured the attention of the world. The musical was first on stage in 1978. A movie later was produced in 1996. Alan Parker, the Producer, spent 15 years researching Evita's life before making the movie.

Childhood

Maria Eva Duarte was born in Los Toldos Argentina on May 7, 1919. Los Toldos was a small poor town outside of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Her family called her Evita. She was one of five children that was born out of wed lock to Juan Duarte and Juana Ibaguren. Eva only attended school until the sixth grade. She dreamed of being a movie star.

Teens

In 1934, a tango singer named Augustin Magaldi came to Los Toldos on a singing tour. Eva ran away to Buenos Aries with the tango singer. She was just 15 years old. She moved from boyfriend to boyfriend in Buenos Aries, each one supporting her. One of her boyfriends helped her get work as a model. She was known for her beautiful skin. This helped her get several modeling jobs.

Career

Evita bleached her dark hair blond and her modeling career took off. Then she was hired to be on a radio soap opera as well as a model for the soap opera's publicity photos. Throughout this period she continued to date several men including military officers. She did not settle down until she met Juan Domingo Peron. He was a Colonel in the military and the Secretary of Labor. It was 1944 and he was 48 years old and widowed. He was considered very handsome and an eligible bachelor. Eva was 24 years old. After news broke that Eva and Juan were dating the radio station where she worked doubled her pay. Eva also acted in six movies between 1937 and 1945.

Relationship

Eva and Juan moved in together almost immediately. In October 1945 Juan was arrested and imprisoned because the current President of Argentina felt that Juan Peron was a threat to his power because of Peron's popularity with the working class. Eva was afraid because she was not told where we was taken. She was worried that he was going to be killed. Angry mobs stormed the capital demanding Peron's return. He thanked those that came to his rescue. When he was released, he married Evita. This was highly unusual because they were of different classes.

Evita and Juan Peron
Evita and Juan Peron | Source

Presidency

In 1946, Juan Peron campaigned for president and won by a landslide. On June 4, 1946 he became the 29th President of Argentina. He first focused on increasing his supporters among the working class by raising wages. He also turned Argentina into a police state. Anyone who did not support Peron would be harassed, fired, or put in jail. Thousands of Argentinians had to flee the country. Anyone who insulted Evita had to leave the country as they were put on a black list. Anyone who had contact with those on the black list would be punished. Evita took a roll in the Labor Ministry. People went to Evita to request favors or jobs. It was highly unusual for a woman to have that sort of power in politics during that time.

Even though her power bothered some she was loved by the common people. She stood up in front of crowds and said, "I am one of you. I know what it is to go hungry." Her relationship with the people helped Juan's cause.

Goodwill Tour

Eva decided to go to Europe on a three month Goodwill Tour. Her first stop was Spain. She started there on June 6, 1947. Her best friend, Lillian Guardo, accompanied her. She was treated like royalty while in Spain to improve trade relations.

She went on to Italy and France. She was disappointed with the reception she received. She was not treated as well as she had been on her first stop. Additionally, the international press was not as kind to Evita as the Argentinian press as the International Press, particularly in the United States, was allowed to print whatever it wanted. Finally, Evita was snubbed in Britain when the Royal Family did not invite her to Buckingham Palace. At that, Evita cut her trip short and went home to Argentina. She received a grand reception at home when hundreds of thousands or Argentinian's greeted her on her return.

Apperance

Being an actress by trade, Evita was very aware of her appearance and image. She purchased dozens of Christian Dior gowns, Ferragamo shoes, furs, and jewels. She felt this was saying to the people, I was once like you but look at me now. You too can be like me.

Evita Quotes

"I demanded more rights for women because I know what women had to put up with."

"Charity separated the rich from the poor; aid raises the needy and sets him on the same level with the rich."

"When the rich think about the poor, they have poor ideas."

"Time in my greatest enemy."

"I am only a simple women who lives to serve Peron and my people."

"I had watched for many years and seen how a few rich families held much of Argentina's wealth and power in their hands. So Peron and the government brought in an eight hour working day, sickness pay and fair wages to give poor workers a fair go."

"Keeping books on social aid is capitalistic nonsense. I just use the money for the poor. I can't stop to count it."




Eva Peron Foundation

Though the commoners lover her, Evita was a social pariah to Argentina's elite women. A charitable organization run by the elite women usually asked the first lady to be their honorary president. The ladies felt that Evita had slept her way to the top and refused to install her as president of the organization. In response, Evita cut off their federal funding. She directed it to a new charity called the Eva Peron Foundation. Each day, people waited outside her office to tell their stories of need. She would decide if they would be given assistance. Depending on the need they may be giving medical assistance, food, clothing, or money. She was very affectionate to those that came to see her for assistance. Her foundation also built homes, schools, orphanages, and hospitals. By 1949 it was estimated that the Eva Peron Foundation was distributing more than 50 million dollars a year to the needy. However, Evita did not keep any records so the numbers are not known for sure. To fund the organization each working citizens of Argentina had to contribute one days pay per year. Businesses were also required to contribute. If they did not, inspectors would come to the business and shut it down.

Through her charitable works Evita became known as the Lady of Hope and the Patron Saint of the poor.

Other Projects

In 1947 she helped get a bill passed to give woman the right to vote.

Economic Problems

In 1950, the Argentine economy began to falter. Workers staged demonstrations and threatened to strike. Peron used the military to stop anyone who opposed him. Anyone who opposed Person was exiled or imprisoned. Peron also took control of the press. He was no longer considered a man of the people. However, the people still loved Evita. Their love for her most likely kept him in power.

Re-Election

Juan Peron ran for re-election in 1952. It was very important at that time that he have his wife's support since she was much more loved by the common people than he was. In return for her assistance with the campaign, she asked to be Vice President. However, the Argentine Military Generals told Juan that if she was Vice President there would be a revolution. She was disappointed but she turned down the nomination. Evita found out that she had uterine cancer. By the time she found out, the cancer was to far a long for the doctor's to do anything. She continued to help her husband on his re-election. She was so sick on election day that she cast her ballot from her bed.

Death

Evita died at 33 years old on July 26, 1952. On that day, she was called the Spiritual Chief of the Nation. By the end of the day there was not one flower left in Buenos Aires. The people had taken them to the site where her body was. 8 people died and 100 were injured while people tried to pay their respects. It was a mob scene. Everyone wanted the chance to say goodbye.The line stretched for miles. The people were broken hearted. Her body was mummified so that her body would last forever. Peron planned on building a monument to Evita but he never got the chance.

Peron's Administration After Evita's Death

Without Evita to charm the public, Peron's administration was criticized and eventually overthrown. Peron had to flee the country to Spain. He had to leave Evita's body behind. To prevent Evita's body from being used as a rallying place for the people that supported her and Juan, the new military government hid her body in Italy. She was buried under a headstone with a false name for 14 years. In 1971, Peron came back into favor with the government and Eva's body was returned to Juan Peron.

In 1972, Juan ran for President and his third wife, Isabel, ran for Vice President. They won the election. However, Juan died of a heart attack just nine months after he took office.

Today

Masses are still held for her, the Lady of Hope.

Comments

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    • Kimberly Vaughn profile imageAUTHOR

      Kimberly Vaughn 

      5 years ago from Midwest

      Thank you shiningirisheyes and hawaiianodysseus! Happy Holidays!

    • hawaiianodysseus profile image

      Hawaiian Odysseus 

      5 years ago from Southeast Washington state

      Wonderfully researched and presented, Kimberly! Thank you for sharing. I learned a little bit more about this enigmatic Argentine leader...indeed, whether the military and civil administration recognized her as such, she was indeed a leader in her own right. Happy Holidays to you and yours!

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 

      5 years ago from Upstate, New York

      Fantastic job on Eva. I always found her life fascinating.

    • Kimberly Vaughn profile imageAUTHOR

      Kimberly Vaughn 

      5 years ago from Midwest

      Thanks Mhatter! I enjoyed researching and writing it!

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 

      5 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for this impressive biography.

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