22 April 2015

Evita: A Fallen Populist Queen

As John McManners, British clergyman and religious historian, once wrote, "In all of Latin America, only one other woman has aroused an emotion, devotion and faith comparable to those awakened by the Virgin of Guadalupe. In many homes, the image of Evita is on the wall next to the Virgin" (McManners 441). Eva Perón—commonly under the appellation of Evita, its diminutive—a champion of the Argentine women's suffrage movement, a voice for the nearly disenfranchised descamisados population of her nation, and a frequent base of comparison to Bernadette Soubirous, entered the world on May 7, 1919, only to fail in her battle against cervical cancer 33 years later.
Given her personal attempts at augmenting her own sociopolitical status from the daughter of a peasant farmer in the rural landscapes of Argentina to eventually become a model and a radio host in her early years, by the time she married her husband, Juan Perón, she had already earned her place amongst Argentine populist leaders, molding herself early on as strong figure within Argentina’s feminist history (The New York Times). After her extensive campaigning alongside her husband in nearly all corners of the Argentine sphere—both geographic, on tours throughout the nation, unlike any wife of a presidential candidate in all of Argentina’s previous history, and on radio waves, often preaching populist rhetoric to her wide base of impoverished descamisados, as well—Juan Perón clinched the presidential election of 1946, earning Evita her spot as Argentine First Lady (Wikimedia Foundation). After a year as First Lady, Perón journeyed throughout Europe on a two-month “Rainbow Tour,” in which she met with numerous powerful political and religious leaders across Europe, including Francisco Franco and Pope Pius XII, experiencing several protests throughout her travels, but earning overwhelming nationwide praise, upon her return home, as a woman ambassador to Argentina in spheres of global politics unbeknownst to many Argentine women of her time (Robinson; Scarpa). Later on in her political career, Perón spearheaded a vice presidential campaign for the 1951 election, representing the very manifestation of her own political dreams, the first legitimate woman-focused political party in Argentine history; however, after facing harsh criticism from the fiscally and politically powerful bourgeoisie and military classes—members of both despising her for both her mere existence as a powerful woman within Argentine society and her starkly liberalist and populist campaign platform—along with her long-declining health, she soon retreated back to her position as an Eleanor Roosevelt-esque leader within her ever-developing nation, maintaining her status, until death, as an icon for disenfranchised women, descamisados, trade-unionists, and numerous others, to whom few other political figures ever genuinely appealed (Ghosh). Even posthumously, her massive popularity within the Argentine populace manifested itself in Perón’s state funeral, a custom traditionally exclusively reserved for heads of state, yet, with little question, offered to Perón, as well (Mosca). The ultimate repercussions of Eva Perón’s short-lived life transcend far beyond her cruelly shorted political career; as a woman who rose to power from her descamisada self to one day serve as not only the national defendant of her still impoverished brethren, but an icon for both Argentina’s impoverished farmers and its women, who previously retained much more restricted political status, Perón will forever be a role model for the disenfranchised, regardless of national bounds. Though imperfect, Perón forever altered the sociopolitical possibilities for the women and impoverished people of her era and beyond, casting a lot for a better future for all facing discrimination and encouraging all to follow her path.

Works Cited

The New York Times. "Saga Of Eva Peron: 12 Years To Power." NYTimes.com. The New York Times, 27 July 1952. Web. 16 Apr. 2015.

Ghosh, Palash. "Eva Peron: Argentina's Joan of Arc Or Marie Antoinette?" IBTimes.com. International Business Times, 23 July 2012. Web. 16 Apr. 2015.
McManners, John. The Oxford Illustrated History of Christianity. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1990. Electronic.


Mosca, Alexandra K. "The Enduring Legacy of Evita Peron." SUNYSuffolk.edu. Suffolk County Community College, 2001. Web. 16 Apr. 2015.


Robinson, Eugene. "Eva: A Figure Who Refuses to Die." WashingtonPost.com. The Washington Post, 1 Jan. 1997. Web. 16 Apr. 2015.


Scarpa, Anna. "Uncovering The Megalomania Behind Evita Perón." NYU.edu. New York University, Dec. 2010. Web. 16 Apr. 2015.


Wikimedia Foundation. "Eva Perón." Wikipedia.org. Wikimedia Foundation, 13 Apr. 2015. Web. 16 Apr. 2015.

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