I have just finished reading the book " Evita- the real life of Eva Peron" written by Nicholas Fraser and Marysa Navarro. As i anticipated , the story of Evita helps one to understand the puzzle of Argentina, which fascinates me. More than what she said or did, what is significant is what did the Argentinians do in her name or against her name. They did not confine it to her life. Their pursuit would follow even after her death. They had created as much drama, myth and contoversy over her dead body as much they had done during her short public life. For tweleve years after her death there was secrecy and mystery about the wherabouts of the body. .. thriller like the Da Vince code. Let me start with the cadaver first. Here are some highlights
- Her body was kept for public homage for fifteen days after her death on 26 july 1952.
- The timing of evening news broadcast was changed from 8.30 pm to 8.25 pm, the exact time when she passed into " immortality"
-Primary school children recited prayer songs from their text books" Evita, I promise to be as good as you wish me to be "
-for three years, the body was kept, waiting for the construction of a monument which did not materialise.
-The miltary regime, which overthrew Peron in sept 1955 was afraid of the subversive influence of the body andthey sent it secretly to be buried in a cemetry in Italy. The whereabouts of the body were written and put in sealed envelope by president Aramburu who gave it to his lawyer with instructions that it should be opened only after his death. To confuse investigators, many dummy coffins were sent to Argentine embassies in other European countries to be buried.
-The military regime which replaced Peron made " possession of fotos of Evita or Peron or use of the expressions Peronism or Peronist" a punishable offence with imprisonment. Sure... many went to jail.
-Monteneros, the left wing guerillas kidnapped Aramburu in 1970, tried to get the information on Evita's body unsuccessfully and executed him. In 1974 the same group kidnapped the cadaver of Aramburu from his family's vault and demanded the return of Evita's body as ransom. Eventually, in November 1974 the body was brought back to Argentina.
-The body found its final resting place in the Recoleta cemetry in Buenos Aires. The coffin was put behind two trap doors with the only key given to Evita's sister.
Evita's short life of 31 years was eventful. It is the story of a girl born outside marriage from a poor village family ,running away to the city and making it big. Thereafter her story became the story of Argentina. The legacy of Peronism continues to be a vital political force even today.
Her critics called her as a whore, failed actress and worse. Her admirers cannonised her as a saint. She empowered the Descamisados (shirtless- meaning lumpen workers ) and helped thousands of poor people genuinely. She mobilised the women power too. Critics say that she did for a political purpose. What is significant is, like Chavez in Venezuela, she was the first one to reach out to the poor, recognise them, respect them and help them. She received lepers and diseased, showed affection and kissed them without batting an eyelid.This is the fundamental reason why Peronism has outlived its label of dictatorship and other excesses commited by Peron. The empowerment of the Descamisados has made the workers as a formidable force against the oligarchs of Argentina who gave a different impression of the country to outsiders. In those heydays they used to say " rich like an Argentinian" and the term" jet-set" started with the Argentinians visiting Europe and North America. I think i am now starting to understand Argentina. There are two of them; one the jet-set type and the other one of Descamisados. There is one Argentina which extended a loan of a billion dollars to Britain after the world war and there is another one which went bankrupt in 2001.
The other key to understand Argentina is Tango. While the rest of Latin America celebrates life joyously and euphorically with Samba and Salsa, the Argentinian tango is sad. It is about loss of the loved one, betrayal and cynicism. Here is a sample from the first and last line of this tango
"Que el mundo fue y sera una porqueria
Qualqiera es un senor! qualquiera es un ladron!"
the world was and will be a pigsty
anyone is a gentleman! anyone is a thief
The authors of this book have succeeded in projecting an objective picture of Evita, conscious of the versions of the propaganda of her admirers and detractors.
There are many similiarities between Peronism and the Bolivarian Revolution of Chavez except for Evita.....