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“Evita,” María Eva Duarte de Perón (May 7, 1919-July 26, 1952), was one of Argentina's most important—and polemical—women. Born out of wedlock to her father's long-term lover, she aspired to be an actress. At 15, she went to Buenos Aires, rising to become one of the era's most famous (and best paid) radio stars. She also appeared in several films and on stage. By the time she met General Juan Domingo Perón in 1944, she was wealthy and part owner in a radio station. The following year they married.

During Perón's first term in office (1946-1952), she was not only First Lady, but also Minister of Labor and Social Welfare of Argentina and Minister of Health. As head to the Eva Perón Foundation, Eva Perón initiated countless crusades for social justice and equality. She promoted women's right to vote and founded the Female Peronist Party, empowering women to enter politics.

Despite her successes, she was still shunned by the landed aristocracy because of her humble beginnings, lack of schooling and former acting career. The military found her growing influence among labor unions and lower classes to be a political threat.

In 1952, before her death from cancer in her early 30s, she was given the title "Spiritual Leader of the Nation.” Her death provoked intense mourning in the capital, with 10-block-long lines waiting to say farewell to Evita. The military coup that overthrew Perón in 1955 kidnapped Eva's body. After 16 years, she was found buried under a false name in Italy. She returned to Argentina with Perón in 1974.

Eva is present physically throughout the city, from Museo Evita to the Casa Rosada museum and finally to Cemeterio Recoleta, and spiritually in millions of Argentine homes where her picture is displayed alongside loved ones. Her ideals are also present today in political groups that bear her name, such as “Movimiento Evita.” Shortly before she died. Eva published her autobiography, La Razón de mi Vida (in English: Evita: In my Own Words). She has been immortalized in books, like Evita: The Real Life of Eva Perón by Nicholas Fraser and Marysa Navarro, and films, including Evita (Madonna's role as Evita was considered sacrilegious to the memory of the belovéd Eva).

Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Argentina: History, The Dirty War, Argentina Timeline, The History of Buenos Aires, The Patagonia Rebellion, Convento San Bernado, A Brave New World, Gato And Mancha, Estancia Jesús Maria and History.

By Lorraine Caputo

Upon re-declaring her independence at age 29, Lorraine Caputo packed her trusty Rocinante (so her knapsack's called) and began...

18 Oct 2011

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