Eva Perón: The Woman Behind the Demagogue

Seen as an angelic presence and a ruthless opportunist, Eva “Evita” Perón was many things to many people. Rising from poverty-stricken roots and a bastard child status that haunted her throughout her life, Eva fled to Buenos Aires at age fifteen to begin a career in radio and acting.

Glamour girl
Glamour girl

The stars aligned in January of 1944 when Eva met Juan Perón at a benefit for an earthquake in San Juan. At the time, Juan was a military colonel, which was still high level enough to affect public opinion about his relationship with the actress. However, Perón’s popularity with the lower class known as the descamisados allowed him to gain enough momentum within the government to cause an uproar when his political opponents imprisoned him.

A passionate politician
A passionate politician

This led to the iconic moment on the Casa Rosada, portrayed equally as iconically in Alan Parker’s Evita, in which he addressed his affectionate public after being released from prison. After Juan was freed in mid-October of 1945, he and Eva were married. By 1946, the Peróns were campaigning heavily for the presidency. Eva was, indeed, just as much a factor in his win as his political leanings and persona.

Juan was stronger with Eva by his side
Juan was stronger with Eva by his side

Once Juan had secured his power as head of state, Eva wasted no time in acting as his European spokesperson by embarking on what was known as “The Rainbow Tour.” Her journey began successfully in Spain and ended somewhat catastrophically in Switzerland (stone and tomato throwing was involved). Even so, the Argentine government spun the trip as a positive political endeavor. The suspicions regarding the mysterious financial funds of the Peróns also flared up when Eva was in Switzerland–presumably depositing some money into an account.

Waving from the Casa Rosada
Waving from the Casa Rosada

Sure, Eva may or may not have been funneling money from her charitable foundation into Swiss bank accounts, but that doesn’t negate the swift changes she made not only for Argentina, but for South American women as a whole. With the devoted support of the descamisados, Eva announced her intention to run for the vice presidency in 1951. Unfortunately, her health issues interfered, invoking the lyric from “Waltz for Eva and Che”: “What is the good of the strongest heart in a body that’s falling apart?’ Eva died of cervical cancer in 1952, an ironic fate considering the power of her femininity. Juan was ultimately exiled from the country in 1955, proving that Eva was the true source of his charm.