Evita! A Legend for the Seventies by W. A. Harbinson Star Books, £1.95) When Rudolph Valentino died in 1926, some 50,000 mourners turned out to pay tribute to him. Such scenes were unheard of.
Yet when, in 1952, Dona Maria Eva Duarte de Peron, better known to the people of Argentina as Evita, the Lady of Hope, the Lady of Compassion and offically proclaimed the Spiritual Chief of the Nation, was being buried, some 700,000 mourners crowded the street of Buenos Aires.
With the popularity of one of the songs Ihut iunnuortulised her, "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina," surprising ly, ---1 up the Pops," it is timely that this lavishly illustrated hook on her life and early death should
Such were the emotions created by Tee' a. untimely death from ...mcee that thousands of pious Argentinians asked Pope Xil to canonise her.
Maria Eva Duarte was born in Los l oldos on May 7, 1914. She grew up as a very politically aware young woman, veering towards In 1935 Eva was in Buenos Aires and earning her living es in actress. She broke into films and even had her own show on Radio Belgrano.
At the age of 24 she met Juan Domingo Peron. a military officer who had taken part in a military coup_ Peron was corrupt right l-orn the start, and was in love with power. Ile worked ceaselessly I or the overthrow of his own friend President Ramirez. whom the military had brought to power, and Eva, through her ratio programme. hcgan to help issuing propaganda on his behalf. Peron arid Evita were married in October, 1945. If love formed part of this marriage, it did not form the whole. Both Evita and Peron were power mad in different ways, I vita knew the way to power la} in get tine the mass of people behind her. iler socialist veneer was more inclined towards Fascism than Socialism. Through her propaganda she successfully unionised Argentina. but those unions' power was phieed very firmly in the hands of Judo Peron_ Soon Peron was dictetoi of the country and Eva the I irst Lady."
Ne yertheless. Eva's activities, her use of propaganda, have. left a letting impression in the minds of Argentinians. She is still revered as a saint who selflessly aided the poor. She was. in fact, no more than it power-hungry person who was not above selling her body to gain position.
Had she lived on a few more ears. she would have been driven into exile along with her corrupt and greedy husband, whose dietatorship lasted until 1955. Her death before the revelations of his evil and corruption. whitewashed her from her share in that evil.
It was the conviction of the people in her ferrety that eventually led to the reinstatement of Peron as President in 1973, and still makes the mime of Evita such an emotive s 11031111ln In A rgeiii
Peter Berresford Ellis