Don’t cry for me Argentina, the truth is I never left you …
We are in Buenos Aires and soon to return home. I don’t normally use the blog for travelogue purposes, but this seems appropriate. While here we visited the La Recoleta Cemetery, a place where wealthy people are entombed. It is perhaps a thousand crypts, all elaborate beyond the pale. One of them is for the Duarte family and is said to house the body of Eva Perón, or Evita. The words from the song above are oddly a statement of fact, truth hidden in plain sight. Eva Perón did not die in 1952.
On plaques at the tomb I was able to calculate her age of death as 30, July 26, 1952. 7/26 is a spook number, adding up to both 8 and 33, but I thought perhaps a death at age 30 might be real. Later I learned that her real age at death was also 33, that she or someone had forged her birth certificate to give her credentials as a Duarte, also making her three years younger in the process.
Eva was a child of wealth, but has been given a background of abject poverty. Her father, Juan Duarte, had two families, his official one, and Eva’s by Juana Ibargure. We are told that when he abandoned the Ibargure’s the only thing he left them was the legal right to use the name Duarte. The photo above is Eva at age 20. By that time she had made her way to Buenos Aires, starred in theater play, several B movies, and had done some modeling. She then turned to politics. She became one of the founders of the Argentine Radio Circuit, which advocated progressive change.
In 1944 after an earthquake devastated San Juan, Argentina, killing some 10,000, Eva attended one of those frightfully stiff and boring gala events to benefit earthquake victims. There she met Juan Perón, and immediately took up with him, becoming his mistress. He was 48, she 24.
He was Labor Minister, but was considered the most powerful man in the government. He was said to be the voice of the underclasses, and because others in government feared his power, they had him arrested. Thereafter came a large gathering outside Casa Rosada, which appears to be the seat of government, and at 11 P.M. on 17 October 1945, he was freed and addressed his followers from the balcony. It is said by some that Eva organized the protests even as she was at that time just an actress. In a startling move, the two married on October 18 and in a formal church setting on December 9, 1945.
Juan decided to run for President in 1946 and won handily, Eva his First Lady. It was in that capacity that she embarked on her Rainbow Tour, visiting heads of state in Europe without her husband. Her first stop was Spain, where she visited Francisco Franco, then on to the Vatican and Pope Pius XII. She was rebuffed by George VI and so did not visit England. While in Switzerland her car was hit by rocks and she was pelted by tomatoes … devoid of context in Wikipedia, it is hard to grasp why a South American First Lady would engender such an outburst in a small European country. There is speculation she was there to either open or deposit finds in a secret Swiss account, but her biographers imagine this unlikely. Indeed it seems there are less public ways to do this, so the Swiss affair is a mystery.
On return to Argentina, Eva took up popular causes such as women’s suffrage and medical reform. She formed a foundation that would gather up over $200 million and employ 14,000 people for purposes such as distribution if sewing machines, shoes and cooking pots. This is most likely the source of her idealization in the public mind. So powerful had she become that her supporters wanted her to run for Vice President. She deferred.
Later, we learn, that she deferred because she suffered from cervical cancer. She was said to be emaciated and weak, hardly able to stand, weighing 79 pounds at death. A miracle worker of sorts, a man able to bring the dead to life, Dr. Pedro Ara, injected her corpse with glycerine, which gave it lifelike qualities. This explains the photo above.
Eva’s body was on display for two years in her former office while public-style crypt was being built in the manner of Vladimir Lenin. But Juan Peron was removed from power in 1955 and had to flee the country. Peronism was outlawed in Argentina, and photos , even mention of the name, were forbidden. Eva’s body disappeared. It was rediscovered in 1971 in a tomb labeled María Maggi in Milan, Italy. Because it sat upright, the corpse had deformed, and face compressed and a foot deformed. Juan Perón had the body moved to his home in Spain where he and his wife Isabel kept it on a platform in their dining room.
In 1973 Juan Perón returned to Argentina and became president, Isabel Vice President. He died in 1974 and Isabel became the first female head of state in the Western Hemisphere. After a mafia-like body kidnapping and swap, Eva was returned to Argentina, put on display briefly, and then laid to final rest at La Recoleta cemetery, where we encountered her two days ago.
Internet speed here will not allow upload of a photo of the crypt or anything in color (just enter “Eva Peron crypt” for a host of very interesting photos). As we stood there among a group of people, a man devoutly approached it and kissed the door, as Eva Perón is regarded as a saint in this country. She represents hope for a better country, a better government, a better life. Both she and Juan stood as controlled opposition, preventing any of that from happening.
Gee whiz, what a fairy tale! Did I forget to mention that her life is a major motion picture and Broadway play? Yes, almost forgot. Almost forgot too, that there is this sentence in Wiki:
“Also included are allegations that many wax copies had been made, that the corpse had been damaged with a hammer, and that one of the wax copies was the object of an officer’s sexual attentions.”
Wax copies of her body? Hmmm.