Candlelight evaporated in the window of the Casa Rosada on July 26, 1952 marking the end of a lifetime but not of a legacy. Thousands of Argentines stood in silence outside the presidential house in the Plaza de Mayo that night. All signs of life in the country had ceased except for the tears of Eva Peron’s people as they mourned together.A lone voice echoed through the airwaves confirming what many had already known. “It is my sad duty to inform you that today at 20:25 Eva Perón, Spiritual Leader of the Nation, entered immortality”. She was adored and misunderstood for the path her life took and is still revered in the trying times Argentina faces.A cultural and historical tour of the path that led Maria Eva Duarte to become Argentina’s first lady will make your visit to this country unforgettable.Sus Principios: Her Beginnings
One of the reasons why people praised or had the wrong impression of Eva “Evita” Peron was because of the background from which she came. Visiting the towns of Los Toldos, which is located about 195 miles from Buenos Aires, and Junin will give you an insight into the poor childhood she was brought into.
“I think it’s important to know where she came from because then you understand what she accomplished,” says Rocio Villanueva, who lives in Rosario, Argentina.
Thousands of Argentine and foreign travelers visit the Casa Natal de Maria Eva Duarte de Peron in Los Toldos, which was turned into a museum, on a daily basis to see the birthplace of the woman who would make a significant impact on the country. On May 7, there is a particular celebration to commemorate her birth. Children may enter free and adults are asked to make a contribution. Guided tours are available and the museum is open from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The existing hypothesis as to the legitimate birthplace of Eva Peron, whether it is Los Toldos or Junin, is what makes a look at both these towns a discussion topic among fellow travelers.
Estrella Ascendente: Rising Star
After Eva had her initial taste of fame in Junin as a teenager, where she first used a microphone and heard her voice ring through the speakers, she escaped to Buenos Aires to pursue her acting career. She toured extensively with theater groups, such as the Compañía Argentina de Comedias and Armando Discépolo.
Even in death, she still graces center stage on Broadway in Evita, but also on occasion in Argentina at Teatro Lola Membrives, on Corrientes Ave. 1280, in Eva: the musical. If it is on the playbill, it is recommended to spend an evening watching her life depicted and honored right before your eyes in poignant acts accompanied by touching music from her own country’s perspective.
As she was making her mark on stage, she was also landing small roles in films, including “La Carga de los Valientes,” “El más infeliz del pueblo” and “Una novia en apuros.” A larger part was played in “La Cabalgata del Circo” but by this time, she was also claiming a voice on the radio waves.
Primero Reunión: First Meeting
As her star began to shine, a disaster would lead her life to even bigger fame. An earthquake struck on January 15, 1944 and devastated the city of San Juan. Eva Duarte attended an event at Luna Park that helped to raise funds for those affected. It was at this occasion that she met her future husband, Colonel Juan Peron.
This site would later be a campaign stop she attended to rally supporters for Peron. Today, the park is a stadium of culture, arts, music, and other entertainment and competitive acts that is located on the corner of Ave. Madero 420. It offers a great picture-taking opportunity for the classic style and lettering of its name on the building.
The budding relationship between Juan and Eva had later become officially visible to the nation’s people during a Gala at the The Opera House “Colon Theater” that is now known world-wide as a host to a number of operas and ballets. As of this time, it is undergoing a refurbishment process with plans of reopening in 2010 but still provides a great site to visit at Cerrito 618 for its sheer architectural beauty and ability to conjure up memories of the earlier Peronism time.
Nuevo Mundo: New World
From the moment of their first meeting Juan Peron had been infatuated with Eva and the two stayed particularly close. Eva seemed to fuel Juan as she stood by his side, not behind, during his campaign for presidency, a first on many accounts.
The strong following of Juan Peron would lead him into exile from growing governmental fears; however, Eva showed her unwavering faith and rallied protesters to help aid in the release of the man many had grown to believe in. Juan would soon step onto the balcony of the Casa Rosada, located at 50 Balcarce around the Plaza de Mayo, to address those who freed him, and later go on to marry the woman who never left him and become President of Argentina.
As his wife, the working class would be Eva’s largest support system and gave her the name, Evita or “Little Eva”. Her role had been redefined, but Evita still knew who she was.
“Peron had a double personality and I would need to have one also: I am Eva Peron, the wife of the President, whose work is simple and agreeable … and I am also Evita, the wife of the leader of a people who have deposited in him all their faith, hope and love.”
She put her original pursuits behind to focus on the people of Argentina. The Plaza de Mayo was a central place of many key moments for the country, most well-known for its significance in the May Revolution events that led to the country’s independence. There is a week of celebratory events that end on the May 25 celebration of el Día de la Revolución de Mayo.
The Pirámide de Mayo stands across from the Casa Rosada in the square and is the oldest national monument reminding the country’s citizens of that historical revolution. However, it was also the place where Eva Peron helped pass Argentina’s women’s suffrage law. Since the earlier events, the plaza has gone through bombings, protests and to this day is still filled with crowds putting together demonstrations.
Su Gente: Her People
According to its Web site, the Eva Musuem, located at 2988 Lafinur, was a restored mansion turned into Hogar de Tránsito (Temporary Home) #2, a shelter for women and children with no resources.
The site notes that on July 18, 1948, Evita inaugurated El Hogar with these words, “The Temporary Home shelters those in need and those who have no home… for as long as necessary until work and a home can be found… .” Evita offered the women and children “an open door, a place set for them at the table, a clean bed,” as well as “consolation and motivation, encouragement and hope, faith and self-confidence.”
For a small entrance price, visitors can enter the museum Tuesdays to Sundays (and holidays) from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and see the clothes Evita Peron wore, look at pictures of her past, relive the grand moments she shared with her country’s people and spot relics of the history she left behind in a place that she once walked through herself.
Her voice comes through the videos and recordings and speaks to you, if you are listening. It is an atmosphere of quiet reflection, an honorable experience that will touch you in unpredictable ways. It is suggested to reserve an entire afternoon to appreciate the museum as it is full of wall to wall information and well worth the price. The English version pamphlets are necessary as the information and texts are in the Spanish vernacular.
Su legado: Her Legacy
Her last public appearance was of that during her husband’s second inauguration into the Presidential office. Many had wanted her to take role as vice president, but she did not want the title and many theories, her long-standing illness being among them, surrounded her renunciation.
Evita’s health turned worse after she was diagnosed with cervical cancer that later spread and resulted in her death at the young age of 33 in the Casa Rosada on July 26, 1952, where a crowd of thousands stretched for blocks in every direction.
“I think it´s mainly because of where she came from and what she accomplished,” says Rocio, on the impact Evita had on the lives of the Argentines. “I think it gave people hope to see what they could potentially accomplish and, more importantly, saw her as someone who was like most of the people who followed her, poor, sometime during her life.”
Her body was on display for two years before it was stolen after Juan Peron had run away when he was overthrown. The whereabouts of Argentina’s First Lady remained a mystery for 16 years before it was found in Italy and then reunited with Juan Peron in Spain where he lived before returning to Argentina.
Peron then died and it was his third wife who finally had Evita’s body returned to Argentina to be next to Peron’s before it was placed in the La Recoleta Cemetery, at 1760 Junín, under intense safeguarding. It is said that her body is within a room, accessed by another room, which is then accessed by stairs underneath a trapdoor in the floor of her tomb.
Such protection of her body is a testament of the Argentine people who hold Eva “Evita” Peron in such high esteem for all she stood and fought for, wanting to bring the “hopes and dreams of the people to the president.”
It is at her gravesite where this tour ends, in the belief that you would see the many flowers that are still bestowed upon her, weaving through the iron door of her tomb, and remember the great journey one woman took in her short lifetime. Spend a moment or two reflecting on your own journey that you have just taken and witness the travelers, like yourself, paying tribute and the Argentines who are still mourning the death of their beloved First Lady.