Eva Perón´s early life.
Maria Eva Duarte, also known as Eva or Evita, was born in Toldos, Argentina, on May 7, 1919, to Juana Ibarguren and Juan Duarte, illegitimate and the youngest of 5. Her father was a wealthy farmer. However, Eva's family was his second family, who he abandoned when she was a baby. Once he left, Eva's family saw none of his wealth, and they lived in poverty.
Juan died in a car accident on January 8, 1926. Since Juan never recognized the children he had with Juana, they did not receive any of his inheritance. Was this why she dedicated her life to helping the poor and less fortunate? Her father, part of the upper class, did not even help his family, who was struggling.
When Eva was in grade school, she began to put on plays for her family and eventually joined the school drama program. Her love for acting started and would be what led her to meet her future husband, Juan Perón. At 15, she decided to move to Buenos Aires to become a professional actress in 1934. She convinced her mother to allow her to move to the city, where she lived with family and friends. She got involved with acting on the radio, and this is where she found success.
Eva and Juan meet, due to a natural disaster.
On January 15, 1944, there was an earthquake in the San Juan Province. It killed 10,000 and injured thousands. It was recorded as the biggest natural disaster in Argentine history. It is also how Perón met Eva.
Perón organized campaigns to raise funds to help the wounded and displaced. During one of these campaigns, they invited celebrities and actors from all over to help raise money. Eva came into his life at this point when she set up an appointment to meet with him and wanted more opportunities to raise funds for the victims. That was the moment he developed an attraction for Eva.
They kept the relationship secret for a few reasons. First, he was 24 years older than her; she was 25 when they met. They made their relationship public on July 9, 1944. They appeared to be the ultimate power couple, as together, they were stronger.
They were married in 1946; however, Eva was his second wife, and his first wife died years prior of cervical cancer. When Eva met Juan Perón, he was already on a career to be a politician.
Juan´s road to the presidency.
He had returned from Europe 3 years prior as part of the European Foreign Studies program in Italy, Spain, Germany, Hungary, and France. It was explicitly to observe their militaries. Most of the time was spent in Italy, where he studied Benito Mussolini, a fascist dictator.
Perón started to appreciate the methods used in Italy and other European countries. However, he was drawn to a strict direct authoritarian rule and thought this was the only way to reform Argentina. He returned to Argentina in 1941 as a Colonel in the military.
However, years later, he stated. "Years later Perón claimed while talking with me that he had learned from what he thought were the mistakes of Mussolini, and said that he had had no intention of repeating those mistakes. He argued, among other things, that Mussolini had erred in trying to impose a corporative state structure on Italian society, an attempt Perón saw as a failure."
Once Perón returned from Europe, he began to get involved in politics. He joined a secret group called GOU, Grupo Oficiales Unidos (Group of United Officers), and they had a nationalist agenda. In July 1943, the GOU seized power in a coup. Arturo Rawson took control; many did not like his ideas and replaced them with Pedro Ramírez, he then appointed Edelmiro Julián Farrel as minister of war, and he brought Juan Perón to be his secretary.
1944 Gen Farrel became president, and Perón was appointed Vice President and Minister of War. His populist reforms alienated the support of the more traditional ruling. Eva was also attacked and accused of being a power-hungry social climber; some say a political prostitute.
Juan and Eva Perón become a power couple, beloved by most of Argentina.
During the two years that Perón was VP and Minister of War, he and Eva used their strengths and gave Argentina reforms such as paid holidays for all workers, limited working hours, and mandated better working conditions. He also put in place unions to defend workers' rights. In addition, he used government funds to pay workers' salaries and pensions when the factory owners threatened to suspend payments. It made Perón popular with the lower class.
In 1945, Perón oversaw the return of political freedoms in the country, but this led to unrest and mass demonstrations by opposition groups. Perón's enemies in the navy seized the opportunity and had him arrested on October 9.
Shortly after his arrest, Eva organized a general labor strike and a demonstration of the workers. She was head of the march, and they occupied Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires. The workers demanded that Perón be released, which they did to calm down the people and avoid civil unrest further.
Presidency and the first lady of Argentina.
At this point, he decided to run for president in the next elections. He aligned himself as a candidate for the Partido Laborista Labor Party. On June 4, 1946, Juan Perón won the presidency, and Eva became the first lady of Argentina; she was 27.
His principles were based on social justice and heavy intervention in the form of welfare programs to support the lower classes. It was a new way to govern, not attempted before, in Argentina, also known as Peronism.
He made social security, education, and healthy free and universal. He introduced maternity leave and the right to vote for women. He developed hydroelectric power plants in the iron and steel industry, expanded shipbuilding, and boosted the economy.
The downside was that he instituted authoritarian measures, censored the press, and incarcerated dissenters. He wanted Argentina to become a neutral country; he did not want to be aligned with capitalism or communism.
Juan was known to be a Nazi sympathizer, and Argentina became a haven for those wanted for crimes against humanity. It is said that Perón actively invited the Nazis into his country, he offered them money, houses, and jobs, and he also met with each of them personally. In addition, it is believed that he was anti-Semitic and did not allow Jews to enter Argentina.
He thought another war would break out, and he thought having the expertise of the ex nazis would come to be helpful, as they were trained officers and skilled at warfare.
In 1947 Eva went abroad for the first time. Also known as the ¨Rainbow Tour¨, it did not go well. She was accused of being a fascist. When she returned from Europe, she dedicated herself to the women's suffrage movement. She launched an appeal to Argentinian women and organized two rallies in sept of 1947.
Eva becoming a leader in women rights.
On September 23, 1947, parliament ratified the bill, and woman suffrage was now in Argentina. In 1947 she had become an unofficial minister of labor. Eva focused on helping women, children, and the elderly. She helped fund the construction of schools and hospitals and gave aid to those in need. Her goal was to help the poor and the working class.
1948 she started the Eva Perón foundation here; she collected funds and donations and redirected the money to where she felt needed most. The foundation continued financing the fields of education and healthcare well into the 1950s.
It also brought a lot of attention, and they began to wonder where the money came from. Some question whether donations from the ex-Nazis or her foundation used threats to get funds. In 1949 the constitution ratified and included reforms such as universal healthcare, women's voting, and a declaration to allow Perón to run for a second term.
1951 the trade unions asked Juan to run for president, but they wanted Eva to be vice president. She declined. Rumors were that the military did not like her, and Eva was also struggling with poor health.
The death of Eva Perón.
She was diagnosed with cervical cancer, it was the same cancer that his first wife died from; some wonder if he infected them both with the HPV virus, which is known to cause cervical cancer.
Eva had procedures such as a hysterectomy, radiation, chemotherapy, and a frontal lobotomy. In the past, lobotomies were performed to numb emotional responses. Some say it was done to manage the pain of her cancer. The second rumor is Juan had a lobotomy performed on Eva to curb her unpredictable behavior.
Since getting cancer, her actions were becoming more extreme, risking a civil war. The lobotomy did silence her and put her into a catatonic state. Until the day she died, her diagnosis was kept secret from her.
On July 26, 1952, she died at 33. she left the legacy of women's empowerment and was a model for Argentinian women. Before she died, she was given the title ¨Spiritual Leader of the Nation¨.