"Sentimental and extraordinary." (Elle)
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.47(w) x 9.55(h) x 1.15(d)|
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The espadrilles were black and the pinafore white, but the children's uniform would turn completely gray in one week's time. By Friday, the stark contrast between black and white would be erased by the dust from the road. President Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, the nineteenth-century idealist who had made the white pinafore mandatory for public school students, had not foreseen its impracticality. He believed that the uniform, which he described as "the color of a dove," would abolish all differences among rich and poor students. It would be as if pure snow--the great equalizer, very European but rarely seen in Argentina--had fallen over them like a miracle. A noted author, President Sarmiento had published a book called Facundo, Civilization, and Barbarity, which had placed an indelible idea in the national consciousness: Europe was civilized; Argentina barbaric. This accepted truth was to be embodied in the image of the young schoolchildren rendered free, equal, and fraternal by their "civilized" pinafores. But the worn-out espadrilles of the poorer children could never deny the reality of their barbarity. For in his lyrical flight of fancy, Sarmiento had forgotten that rich children wear leather shoes while poor children wear espadrilles.
Eva Duarte belonged to the latter group, although not all the time. In the fragile life of little Evita, seemingly anything could happen. Sometimes, she would gaze at her reflection in the patent leather shoes handed down from her sisters. Other times, she would make circles in the mud on the road to school with the roped soles of her espadrilles. Only her cleanliness never changed. Dona Juana, her mother, a fleshy but beautiful woman who smelled of soap, washed, starched, and ironed her daughters' pinafores twice a week. On Thursdays, Eva and her older sister, Erminda, went to school dressed as immaculately as they did on Mondays. It was a rare luxury, for even the schoolchildren who wore leather sandals were ink-stained by Thursday. However, it was also a suspicious luxury and many who knew dona Juana wondered what mistakes this very clean woman was trying to wash away.
"You are not a Duarte, you are an Ibarguren." When Erminda walked into her classroom, she found these words scrawled on the blackboard and she started to cry. The other girls either sympathized or laughed, depending on the quality of their hearts. Now, sitting on the rock in the village square, Erminda confided in her little sister. As she shamefully explained, Evita was silent.
Los Toldos Square, like the squares of all Argentinean villages, was framed by the school, the church, the town hall, the bank, and the general store. Right smack in the middle of the square rose a statue of General Jose de San Martin: the soldier who crossed the Andes in 1817 to liberate Argentina and Chile from Spanish rule, the man who had founded the Argentinean tradition of exile. San Martin had retired to Boulogne-sur-Mer, where he died, leaving behind both admiration, borne of his prowess, and a troubling question: What did his "voluntary ostracism" mean? Many generations of Argentinean children asked themselves if civilization meant Europe. And had San Martin, the Libertador, gone there to cut himself off and die? It all seemed very strange, but in these villages of the pampas that stretch out like a long yawn, most people are not very curious. The hero must have had a good reason for being here, in the center of the square, with his sword and his horse. Nor were Evita and Erminda worried about the legend of San Martin as they sat on their rock, confused and wondering why in the world people were saying that their name was not Duarte.
San Martin was not the only hero to have a statue erected in his honor in the town square. There were other, less-imposing ones, as well as two emblems: one from Argentina of a Phrygian cap and a laurel wreath, and one from the small town of General Viamonte, named for another nineteenth-century military hero, Juan Jose Viamonte. The latter's crest contained a cow, an ear of corn, an Indian spear, and a white hand shaking a copper hand that was now tarnished and green. The town's entire history was reflected in that crest. Los Toldos was named after the Indians of yesteryear who lived in tents (tolderias), Indians who were now symbolized by that green hand. Los Toldos was a little village in the province of Buenos Aires, founded on the dreary but fertile land that is called the "wet pampas." Evita no longer lived at La Union, the ranch just outside of Los Toldos that belonged to her father, don Juan Duarte. But during the happy times when she still visited there, she would ride into Los Toldos with Juan Duarte. He would hoist her onto the light and graceful sulky, and she would sit by his side. Shaken by the trotting that her father controlled by quickly pulling on the reins, the little girl would crouch down to look at the Indians. The Indians lived somewhere on the plains, halfway between her father's estancia and the village. They were called the Coliqueos and worked for Juan Duarte as porters transporting wheat to the train station.
The Coliqueos' presence in the middle of the province of Buenos Aires was unusual. In 1879, Julio Argentino Roca had "cleansed" the pampas of the last few Indians. Furthermore, the Coliqueos were mapuches, that is, of Chilean origin, so the fact that they were there in the first place was indeed strange. They had settled in the region in 1862, with their leader, Ignacio Coliqueo, who served in the ranks of General Urquiza, governor of the Entre Rios province and victor over Rosas, the tyrant. (In the future, Evita would reproach the Coliqueos, but not severely, given her affection for them. Peronism vindicated Rosas, a federal caudillo who became a dictator in 1829 and was adored by the gauchos and the blacks. Rosas was also an enemy to England, where, however, he too went into exile, although--to further confuse students--historians reserve the word "ostracism" for San Martin.) After having helped to overthrow Rosas, the Coliqueos founded a village in the exact spot where Los Toldos now stood. Their village was twice destroyed by other tribes, partisans of Rosas.
Crouched in the bottom of the sulky, Evita could not know any of this. She had not learned it in school. Textbooks, quick to dismiss the Indians in two sentences, described nothing more than their traditional pottery. She had not learned it in the village, either, for who in Los Toldos could remember it all? Argentina has a short view of history and cultivates forgetting. But Evita knew that she had a debt to pay to the Indians. Her mother had told her that the midwife who had come on May 7, 1919--that rainy dawn when Eva was born--was a Coliqueo. (Just like her mother, the midwife's name was Juana, Juana Guaquil. She could not have gone by any other name. Throughout Evita's life, everyone who meant something to her had the same name. Her father, her brother, and her husband all were named Juan, and even her mother-in-law's name was Juana.) To honor the debt incurred the day of her birth,Eva needed a long memory, and indeed she was a woman who never forgot a thing. She stored the good and the bad in her soul forever. An Indian woman had risen at the crack of dawn to bring her into the world. The Indians were therefore good.
Don Juan Duarte was originally from the small neighboring village of Chivilcoy. It was said that he had rented La Union from Mayor Malcolm, a conservative who elected don Juan to the position of magistrate. But according to Father Meinrado Hux, a Swiss Benedictine who had become the region's historian, things were not as clear-cut as they appeared. First of all, it seemed that Duarte had bought, not rented the estancia. (This fiction was necessary in order to avoid paying taxes on the land.) He was also fired from his post in 1915 by Malcolm himself, accused of having misappropriated funds. Duarte was a smalltime conservative caudillo with personal ambitions, a "duartist" conservative. At La Union he ran the show. Playing the role of a feudal lord, Duarte skimped on nothing. For one of his parties, he even hired the village's entire orchestra. Don Juan promised the pack of gauchos who voted for him--those who wore black hats, silver belt buckles, and pantaloons--that they would never go hungry; Duarte the magnificent would offer them mountains of fresh-baked empanadas. In fact, behind Don Juan's curtain of magical extravagance was Juana, who dutifully played the dual role of cook and mistress without batting an eyelash as her blistered hands kneaded the dough and stuffed it with beef.
The main course, the piece de resistance, was always an entire cow roasted in its skin. Such lavishness was not limited to holidays. Anyone who arrived at La Union any day of the week was guaranteed to eat and drink to the health of don Juan, an ingenuous man, jovial and patently crooked, for all these opulent celebrations were funded by the oblivious community.
"Your mother was traded for a horse and buggy." Eva could not remember if the drunk who had said that awful thing to her had been one of her father's guests or if he had come stumbling out of the bar in Los Toldos, but she would never forget the words he had whispered in her ear: "Your mother was traded for a horse and buggy. That is the price your father paid dona Petrona, your grandmother."
The square in Los Toldos was not reserved exclusively for mustached heroes. You could easily find nooks and hiding places there to call your own: the rock-formed "caverns," the orchestra's rotunda with a railing with thick columns and romantic garlands, and finally the ombu, the giant tree of the pampas whose thick and overflowing roots seemed to have streamed rather than grown down. The ombu pours out its guts into the earth. Argentines complain about not having roots, but they forget about the ombu roots where they used to play, as if in their own mother's womb.
Evita hid in the caverns, the rotunda, and the inviting ombu, thinking about all the spoken and unspoken words and about the absent father who had abandoned them to return to his wife and his legitimate children in Chivilcoy. Yet no one could accuse her three sisters--Elisa, Blanca, and Erminda--and her brother Juan of not being Duartes. She thought about her feminine family with only one boy, a boy who was teased relentlessly due to his jet black hair and his long, velvety eyelashes. He would grow up to be an irresistible don Juan, Eva's sole weakness. It did not take much for a family to become a tribe when it was tightly huddled around a chief as strong and crafty as dona Juana, a methodical woman with hard-and-fast rules that included forbidding the children from playing with girls of "dubious morality" and following them down the muddy and dusty roads and whispering their grandmother's words to them. This is how you form a permanent bond between children and their families. But even within her tribe of women, Evita isolated herself. Like all humiliated souls, she was torn between the solidarity of her clan and the shame of belonging to it. Her temperament was also torn: joyful and whimsical at home, withdrawn as soon as she crossed its threshold. Such a mercurial disposition was also prone to tantrums, and often her own rage would shake her, electrify her. It was a wonder such a sickly body could contain such storms of emotion. She resembled nothing, not the grottoes or the ombu with its rolls of flesh, for these were her mother's characteristics. Eva could be compared only to that strange tree, the one whose branches and leaves appear to shrink. In Argentina it is called the "electric willow."
The Nunezes, Evita's mother's family, lived on the outskirts of the village. They were in society's margins, so much so that "honest" folk would point at them with a gesture that seemed to shoo them far away, keeping them out of the center of village life.
The Nunezes represented the other face of Los Toldos, the parallel village. They had always been different, even in the days when don Electo Urquizo founded the town in 1892. Actually, the founder of Los Toldos was named Urquiza, like the general who had vanquished Rosas, the tyrant. But don Electo believed that such a man as he should not have a woman's name, so he changed Urquiza to Urquizo.
Urquizo opened a general store in the exact same place where the Coliqueo tribe had previously attempted to establish a village. When Urquizo discovered that the railroad tracks were to pass right through this same place, he bought the land. He hired a surveyor and had him outline the square where San Martin would rest in the center, which Urquizo considered the center of the universe. Urquizo also ordered the first church built on the square.
A town, however, needs townspeople. The Coliqueos were too discouraged to try again to inhabit a town, so they stayed in their huts. So Urquizo had the criollos come to town. These were the mulatto Argentines, half-Indian, half-Spanish or black or simply natives of the country. The criollos were immediately followed by a crowd of Italians, Spaniards, Basques, and French. In 1895, the Franco-Spanish Toldos Association was formed, and by 1903 it became the French Association. Suddenly, Europeans were flocking to Argentina. They came daily, by the hundreds. No matter what their country of origin, they all wore the same look of wonder. They all cried for the loss of a land, a home, a fiancee, a dog, and in the midst of this loss, of this absence that weighed heavily on all, the tango was born.
Juana's father, Ibarguren, was among the Basques. He was the charioteer for his state and, out of respect for history's symmetry, also should have been named Juan, but his name was Joaquin. Instead of speaking to don Urquizo, the charioteer took a detour and stumbled upon the other founding father of the village, Espiritu Nunez, an even more prestigious name and one that fortunately was neutral and bore no need to be changed.
Espiritu Nunez was the patriarch of those "Nunezes from the outskirts." Petrona Nunez, Evita's grandmother, might have been one of his illegitimate daughters. According to Otelo Borroni and Roberto Vacca in their biography of Eva Peron, Petrona was a descendant of those "ambulatory, semi-human saleswomen who satisfied the passions of the soldiers of the Desert." Was this a quirk of Petrona's, or did she carry this defect in her blood--an ancestral defect, an aptitude to survive by "satisfying passions"--that Evita would later inherit?
Ibarguren, the Basque with a preference for eccentric villages, loved Petrona. Together they had two girls: Juana Ibarguren, who, according to a drunkard's story, was traded for a horse and buggy, and Liberta Nunez, the wife of Valenti.
In keeping with family tradition, in her official history Eva would erase the village of Los Toldos from the map. Her sister Erminda recalls in her memoirs that when Petrona Nunez died in 1927, Evita, who was still a child, had cried desperately. The description of this image of Evita overwhelmed by grief is grippingly real. And yet, the drunkard's theory that this tribe of women hid the old Petrona in her ranch of misery, and that they even faked her death twenty years before it happened, is believable. Father Hux insists that Petrona enjoyed a happy longevity and did not leave the world we know until May 29, 1953, not long after her famous granddaughter. In that case, who is the Petrona Nunez who died in 1927 and whose tomb lies in Los Toldos cemetery? A mystery of a foggy collective memory, one that will surprise us often throughout this story, as if, by selecting one version over another, each of Evita's biographers and each witness to her life retells his or her own biography. Indeed, Eva's entire life was one of secrets, of forbidden words. The families shushed names and dates, hid illnesses and lovers. But despite life's necessary betrayals, those required for survival, there was always a blind faith that joined the three generations: Petrona, Juana, and Eva.
One needed courage to live as Juana did. When she was abandoned by Juan Duarte, she took her five children and rented a brick house in Los Toldos. It was a single room, divided by a partition, with a kitchen floor made of clay. Juana was poor, but she did own a sewing machine, a Singer, and she made pantaloons for a store that sent her the patterns. She spent so many hours sitting hunched over the sewing machine that the veins in her legs were bursting. Her daughters had to lift her by the armpits to help her get out of bed. Only then would the rhythm of the needle that measured her time in centimeters resume.
Nevertheless, in spite of her weight, her varicose veins, and her children, Juana managed to please. She needed a protector, and she found many. The most important one was don Carlos Rosset, a landowner who financed Dr. Heubert's mayoral campaign in the 1920s. Rosset was the landlord of the brick house on Francia Street, and although there is no evidence that he helped dona Juana financially, he must have forgiven the months of unpaid rent. Through Heubert, he also procured a job at the town post office for Elisa and one for Juancito, the only son, as office boy at the educational council. (Blanca had gone to Bragado to continue her studies and become a teacher.)
However, in Evita's eyes, don Carlos Rosset did much more for the family. For instance, on rainy days he would send his chauffeur to pick up Juana's children to take them to school. What a wonderful adventure it was to climb into the Chevrolet that smelled of leather! Evita would sing for the entire trip, all the while caressing the shiny seat. She would wait impatiently for the rain to come, as this was her chance to feel like a princess.
A few residents of Los Toldos, who wish to remain anonymous, insist that don Carlos died in dona Juana's bed. At that time, the tribe of women lived in Junin. Rosset's son Alfredo came to recover the body. Dona Juana would always protect Alfredo and would appoint him municipal inspector when she gained power through Eva Peron. Eva, on the other hand, was merciless to don Carlos's daughter. Once she became Peron's wife, Eva went so far as to prevent Lina Rosset, a soprano, from singing in the Colon Theater in Buenos Aires.
Whether such action was just one of Evita's whims, or whether darker motives were at work, is unknown. The anonymous storytellers go so far as to suggest an astonishing resemblance between Lina (who established an international singing career and even sang at La Scala in Milan) and Evita. As for Eva's titled half-sisters, the legitimate Duartes, she entertained them and even helped them from time to time, if only perhaps to legitimize herself.
Their first meeting was not one to forget. The legitimate and illegitimate children met at their father's funeral in 1926. Juan Duarte died in a car accident; thus, at least as Evita saw it, abandoning his tribe of women a second time. A little girl never forgives a father who abandons her; it was even worse in this case because he did not wait for her to grow up. In dying, the father shattered Evita's dream of one day, glowing with beauty and dressed like a queen, going to find him. Although the traitor would get down on his knees, crying in repentance, she would be loyal to her mother and haughty, like a marble statue.
The date on which he left them is willfully ignored. Opinions are divided, but the fact that Evita later searched for a man surrounded by masses of supporters, much like Juan Duarte had been, leads us to believe that she felt like the daughter of not just a resourceful "semi-human" but also of a leader.
It is believed that Duarte's legitimate wife died in 1922, three years after Eva's birth. That is why, when she married Colonel Peron, Eva hid her real birth certificate and substituted a false document stating that she was born in 1922 instead of in 1919. One biographer considered this female vanity. Another biographer, Fermin Chavez, explains it differently. While her father's wife was alive, according to Argentinean law Evita was considered not only an illegitimate child, but worse yet, a child born of adultery. Under no circumstance could a man of the military marry the product of adultery. She had to erase this from her past, by changing her birthdate so that it was after Senora Duarte's death. In this way, the false document legitimized her.
Upon the death of this legitimate wife, dona Juana would have gone to Chivilcoy to wear the crown, but it does not seem that she was honorably received. Her attitude is born of a challenge and reveals her pain. Had the dead wife ever been aware of Juana's existence during her life? If so, she must have feigned ignorance, or perhaps she told herself that a husband who works far from his family needs a woman and she had better close her eyes in order to keep her marriage vows sacred. Senora Duarte sometimes went to La Union to see don Juan and to reinforce these ties. At these times the official wife was discreet; she hid her children and appeared only in her role of cook.
Duarte's wife's maiden name was close to that of her husband and for good reason. It was originally the same name. That her name was officially D'Huart and not Duarte was the fault of the workers at the port of Buenos Aires who mixed everything up due to the large flow of immigrants. When this Basque family--Duarte, D'Huart, Diuart, or Douarte--docked on Argentina's muddy shores,arriving from Pau, its name was at the mercy of the worker who changed it as he saw fit. The fatigue of the voyage also played a role here. When confronted with incomprehension, it is easy for the immigrant to give up. D'Huart? Duarte? What was the difference? A bed to sleep on was really all that mattered to them.
Juana's father, the Spanish Basque, was lucky. In Buenos Aires, the spelling of his name had not been touched since the days of the Conquest: half of the conquistadores were Basque. To this, add that Juan Duarte's mother was named Maria Echegoyen, also Basque, thus we can conclude that Evita had three Basque ancestors. Even her godfather and godmother belonged to this stubborn people: the names of don Antonio Ochotorena and dona Paz Michotorena, which were believed to have been struck by the love of rhyme, took up an entire line in her baptism record, which was also Eva's only authentic record, the only one she did not falsify.
Don Juan died a widower, and on that day in 1926, Juana pushed herself to the limits of her Basque self. Contrary to public opinion, she considered herself a widow. So she dressed in black and quickly sewed four dresses plus a black suit for her son, and the tribe went to Chivilcoy.
She knew exactly what she was up against, and she met it straight on. It was not for love of humiliation, but, on the contrary, for bravery, to show the world that she was dutiful and that this was her place. She succeeded in her mission by holding her head high as she faced the legitimate clan. At least Juana did; her children were refused entrance into the home by one of their half-sisters.
In Los Toldos, Juana's children were used to being insulted. There were those who refused to greet them, others who wore a conspicuous smile when Elisa or Blanca passed by. "Like mother, like daughter," they would say. In small doses, affronts such as these reinforce one's will. In big doses, they weaken it, and unfortunately this was often the case for little Evita.
Evita was seven when the expedition to Chivilcoy took place. Her mother had dragged her there to reaffirm her dignity, worrying little about the slap she would receive. There is no doubt that Evita must have hated them all: the legitimate children who stared at her as if she were an alien and also her mother who did not belong to this other world.
The five Ibargurens who wanted to call themselves Duarte would finally softly kiss the cheek of the figure in state with the long, slim nose and follow their mother, walking behind the legitimate family. The cemetery seemed far, that January 8, in the heart of the summer, and Eva, the youngest, was last in line. Like any true Basque, this was the moment when Eva swore to herself that, one day, she would be first.
Given the literal and figurative dust that was blowing in the streets of Los Toldos, what could they do but close the shutters? The Ibarguren-Duartes lived in a withdrawn state unto themselves. Dona Juana sacrificed herself for the family. When asked to stop sewing, her reply was always, "I do not have time to stop." These were words that Eva would later repeat, maybe without even realizing their origin. The residents of Los Toldos still say today, "All that she did, she did for her children; she was driven by need." They describe her as a "true lioness defending her young." "All that she did" refers to the lovers she took, presumably for the sake of her children.
Dona Juana wanted her daughters to be beautiful, immaculate, respectable, and to marry well. These were big dreams. Her children were not to be traded for a horse and buggy. On the other hand, Juancito had begun to worry her. He was a hooligan, who had managed to find himself a shiny blue car, a Ruby, in an era when only the rich owned cars. But if Juancito's dreams of easy money and laziness worried her, dona Juana did not harshly oppose them, for the truth is that dona Juana could all too easily imagine herself somewhere else beyond the poor brick house.
Nor were Eva and Erminda deprived. They depended on Juancito, who had helped them make a piano out of a wood crate, a piano that produced real sounds. He made kites for them, which Evita let fly away freely but Erminda held back fearfully, and little houses in the back of the garden, where, on rainy days, Evita settled in and listened to the raindrops on the corrugated iron. They had built a circus where Evita pretended to be a tightrope walker; one would have sworn that the wire that stretched between the weeping willow and the paradise tree was her true land. Elisa, their eldest sister, made clown costumes and carnival robes for them. One memorable year, Erminda dressed up like a gypsy, while Evita, in a fairy costume, was followed by a long sky-blue tulle train scattered with stars.
None of this was expensive. With two pieces of chiffon and some gold paper, their agile hands created miracles--that is, until the day when Evita revealed her true ambition. It was Kings Day, the day when Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthazar brought presents to the children. She had asked for a doll, but not just any doll: she wanted the big one. Dona Juana had gone to the village's general store and after having searched for what seemed like an eternity, unearthed a big doll that, unfortunately, had one broken leg. She paid two cents for it due to the defect. The night of January 5, as Evita lay sleeping, she laid the doll on Evita's shoes (or were they espadrilles?). In the morning, the little girl took the doll in her arms and studied it thoughtfully. Her mother, who had been watching Evita carefully, took this moment to explain that the doll had had an accident, she had fallen from Gaspar's camel! That is why, she added, Evita had to love her very, very much. Indeed, Evita tenderly loved this broken creature that, like her, was missing something vital in her life.
Juana Ibarguren had a vivid imagination. An austere mother would have bought a tiny doll and taken advantage of the occasion to lecture her offspring on life's difficulties. The clan's reaction was to push the game further. They tried to help Evita's lame doll "walk," so that it would not fall and hurt itself. The family entertained the illusion with warmth. Elisa made a long dress that hid the doll's injury because, of course, defects, want, and shame had to be hidden.
Evita had chestnut-colored hair that her mother cut short for practical reasons. But the sisters had always dreamed of long, golden, curly manes, and from the moment she discovered her freedom, Eva turned this feminine dream into reality. Indeed, Evita's entire life history is emulated by her hairstyles, and this fact demands more attention than it has been given by biographers or psychologists in the past. The journey from the timid straight hair to audacious curls to her tight chignon tells much about Eva Peron.
Her skin was matte with an ivory tint that was a bit yellowish. It had not a trace of pink. It was also naturally translucent, perhaps the result of a childhood accident. Her sister Erminda's memoirs tell of a day when Evita was in the kitchen, watching the blue flames dance on the polished bronze stove. The stove had a beautiful name, a prestigious name whose Latin consonants reminded one of Mass: Primus, it was called. When Evita moved in closer to get a good whiff of the sweet smell of gas, which reminded her of winter's pleasures, the frying pan that was sitting on the burner flipped onto her face. After an initial scream, she fell quiet. The stinging of the burn must have brought on a certain stupor. Her wide eyes glistened in the black crust that gradually covered her face like a mask. As the days went on, the mask dried out and became stiff and wrinkled. When it finally fell off, Eva's skin was perfect, too perfect, but it was so smooth and so pretty that it looked like a mermaid's, or a corpse's.
Politics and her relationship with Rosset had allowed dona Juana to get jobs for both Elisa and Juancito, but it was these same politics that would demolish this fragile situation.
Dr. Heubert had been replaced by a radical mayor, Pascual Lettieri. Lettieri's own testimony reveals much about dona Juana. He describes a courageous and wily woman who could anticipate and manipulate events. Shortly after Lettieri's victory, the heavy but always beautiful lady appeared at the town hall. One of the rare villagers who wore perfume, she smelled lovely. Lettieri was waiting for her, but to play it safe, he asked a certain Castagnino and a certain Azcarate to come along. He expected and feared a scene. She got straight to the point: "And now," she said, hands on her hips, "are you planning to fire my Elisa?" "I'm afraid so," said the new mayor. She began to cry. Faced with the abundant rolls of flesh covered by a flowered dress and shaking from the sobs, he did not know what to do. This was flesh that had sinned, troubling flesh that a few of his friends had told him about in detail, for in a small village, conservative and radical men alike frequented the same cafes. "Well, I could transfer her," he proposed in a weak voice. Juana lifted her head. She squinted her sparkling and shrewd eyes, as if she were threading a needle, and said too quickly, in a triumphant and eager tone that betrayed her, "Yes, to Junin." "That little devil planned the whole thing ahead of time," he would later say. He who, in the end, enjoyed his newfound power by displaying severity at first and then magnanimity, he who had armed himself with two human boars to protect himself from dona Juana because she frightened him so--or rather excited him so--he understood it all. But it was too late. By playing the victim, she had manipulated him. It was she who had wanted to leave Los Toldos, and she got her own way.
The tribe left the village at night, leaving behind many unpaid debts. Evita left behind one friend, Emma Vinuesa, her schoolmate, one of the few whose parents had not forbidden her from playing with Evita. She was also leaving behind the sick lady whose life Evita had brightened by singing to her, by dancing for her, and by dressing up like a clown, as well as the lonely woman who had an authentic altar with baby Jesus right in her home. Every Sunday, after church, this woman would call the children over to show them the altar and every time she would tremble with emotion as if it were the first time she'd laid eyes on the baby Jesus. The children trembled too because they liked to relive that emotion.
We are not sure what mode of transportation the family used to leave, but we do know that they went deep into the pampas, from Los Toldos to Junin. The pampas were created for that reason, to leave "just as we lose our blood," according to the final words of Don Segundo Sombra by Ricardo Guiraldes. The past and the future of the people who leave are lost in the earth on the infinite horizon. The pampas are flat, yet the tribe felt as if they were climbing. Leaving Los Toldos for Junin represented an ascension. In Junin, dona Juana was not as well known as she was in the village, at least that's what they hoped. Never again would anyone talk behind their backs about the horse and buggy. The worst had passed.
A CRISIS UNFURLS ITSELF ON THE TANGO
It is said that the true Argentines are the ones who own land. In 1930, in all of Argentina, a stretch of land equal to Belgium, the Netherlands, and Switzerland combined, was owned by 1,804 landowners. These 1,804 happy Argentines had inherited the land; their ancestors had either taken it from the Indians or won it as the spoils of civil wars. The government surely owed them as much, as a reward for the tattooed ear of each and every Indian they killed during their fierce combat.
Before this partitioning, the pampas belonged to no one. It was a land of nomads where the immensity of it all prompted men to continue on their treks without settling. The farther they delved into the pampas, the more it appeared to continue ad infinitum. The Indians strode across it freely. Born of a union between Indians and Spaniards, the gauchos perpetuated this constant movement across the terrain but there was one big difference--their souls were torn apart by the interbreeding from which they were born and, therefore, they never felt an allegiance as members of a group. Thus they would leave women bearing their children every chance they got. The gaucho of long ago was aggressive and proud; he felt entitled to whatever he wished for. If he was hungry, he would lasso a cow from one of the many herds that blackened the interminable plain. He would dismount from his horse, cut the cow's throat with his knife, slice off its tongue, roast this choice slab on the coals, then go, leaving the entire beast to the birds of prey that circled overhead waiting their turn.
The country certainly had changed. Now only the oligarchs--that's what they called those 1,804 happy landowners--lived extravagantly. Six months were spent at the estancia, six in Paris. When they boarded the ships on their way to Europe, these luxurious migrants seriously considered taking along a cow to be sure that they would have an ample supply of fine milk in the City of Lights or in Biarritz.
The two and a half million Argentines who did not vacation in Paris floated in unreality, not knowing what their fortune might be. Since they did not own land, they did not feel like true Argentines. They were still immigrants in their own country, as their ancestors had been. A few of them had rented land and invented Argentinean agriculture. But for the most part they had regrouped on Argentina's surface, the "foam of days" that is Buenos Aires and a few minor cities. European immigrants were still arriving in 1930, but an exodus was forming in the deep country. The landless were packing their bags and heading for Buenos Aires or Junin.
The world financial crisis of 1929 did not spare Argentina. The country depended on its agricultural exports. Its currency, the peso, displayed the two signs of its prosperity: a bovine head and a sheaf of wheat. But the peso was linked to the pound sterling. Argentina had profited from World War I. Its neutrality was only a formality; from an economic standpoint, it belonged to the Commonwealth. It had enriched itself by feeding and clothing the English. The 1920s were its golden years. Buenos Aires was the largest Latin American city and the third largest in the hemisphere after New York and Chicago. Argentina had achieved an economic status equivalent to Canada's. The oligarchy, who professed a lay liberalism, always encouraged European immigration, all the while mocking the new arrivals. Those sentimental Neapolitans who sold their wares while singing, those Spaniards from Galicia with those crazy eyebrows--oh, were they ludicrous!
Meanwhile, headed by their leader Yrigoyen, the radicals were winning the elections in 1916 and again in 1928, and the oligarchy began to worry. These radicals represented the middle classes whose ancestors were those Neapolitans and those Galicians. "Do they think they can run the country?" the traditional Argentinean landowners asked. On top of all this, the world stock market crashed.
The landowners decided to take things into their own hands by supporting General Uriburu's coup in 1930. He was Yrigoyen's adversary and conqueror. The select group of 1,804 were not unaware of the changes arising from the change of power in the heart of the army. The era of spoiled soldiers who were satisfied with holding parades during patriotic ceremonies and combing their thick mustaches was over. Now, military men were made in the Germanic model--they even wore the Prussian helmets trimmed with a spear's arrow. Until now, they had never dared disobey the Anglophile and Francophile oligarchy, which in fact had had no problem deploying them. But in 1932, the oligarchy became aware of the military's Germanophilia and its thirst for power, and the oligarchs dismissed the soldiers just as one would dismiss a maid, thus remaining in power for another decade through electoral fraud.
To combat the crash that had exploded elsewhere, the oligarchy in power moved from a pure form of liberalism to protectionist politics. This progression resulted in an accelerated rate of industrialization because the products that were previously bought in Europe now had to be produced at home. The majority of new factories were built in Buenos Aires. The workforce, too quickly rushed in from the provinces, was introduced to the delicacies of progress--unemployment and housing shortages. It is these very frustrations that are revealed through the emotional music of the tango.
All of the tangos from the 1930s speak of a young girl from the outskirts, dressed in percale, and of an evil woman swathed in a mink coat. The tango also tells of conventillos, the dilapidated houses shared by many families who, since the start of the century, met or argued in a common courtyard. Each family spoke Spanish in its own way. In fact, Argentinean theater was born in these courtyards. It was a meeting between Moustafa, Giuseppe, Manolito, Itzjak, Heinrich, Dimitri, Clemencio, and others. The poor souls had nothing, but they did have salt and thus the uproarious theater they inspired was called sainete.
But tango speaks not of famine or of "popular soups" that nourished the victims of the crash in the streets of Buenos Aires. Much like the Argentine of yesteryear, the tango is modest, and it complains as an aristocrat complains. It never cries for its own, for those who are hungry; the wife and children do not exist within the tango's realms, just as they did not exist for the gaucho. Fathers do not exist either. Only mothers (saintly women!) exist. The man of the tango weeps for her as well as for the woman in the mink coat. Whether a descendant of immigrants or of gauchos, he is the solitary spirit who abandoned the cow and left it for the birds of prey. In El hombre que esta solo y espera by Raul Scalibrini Ortiz, the porteno, an inhabitant of Buenos Aires, is the man leaning against the wall on a street in the center of town, a lone man waiting, but waiting for what? This man who is in love with his mother and with death, who hates women and the future, and whose mind is always on a past that will never return, is he really waiting for something, or is he indulging his spite, the spite that comes from not being able to spend one's winters in Paris?
Junin was, of course, bigger than Los Toldos, but it was still a small town. However, it had become a railroad center. Hence, Junin took in workers from all over and was a breeding ground for pure and austere anarchists and for socialists with a pompous and candid rhetoric who shook with the rhythm of the highest ideals. The Argentinean labor movement was alive and well. If Peronism had not come and given hope to the workers, the story told would be quite different.
NORMA SHEARER IN JUNIN
Luck had smiled on dona Juana more often than it had on other unfortunate souls. Elisa had her job at the post office, Blanca was a teacher, and Juancito was employed by a company called Jabon Federal. Thanks to all this, the tribe did not have to suffer living on the other side of the railroad tracks, in the makeshift neighborhoods that were built for the new arrivals. The Ibarguren-Duartes were poor but not desperate. The poor can live in a real house built out of adequate materials and survive since the house sustains them as can an adobe ranch built from mud dried by the sun. But as soon as the poor lose their home and seek shelter under the hastily erected sheet metal, their souls unravel.
Dona Juana's tribe never came unraveled. They found shelter in a small house with a courtyard and potted geraniums. However, their foreign status stuck to them like glue, and they would move three more times, always in the center of Junin. They did not have land and they had no male head of the family. In fact, their description mirrored Gardel's famous tango: "Eran cinco hermanos / y ella era una santa" (they were five children / and the mother was a saint). This image was quite close to reality in terms of her happiness and the contentment of her children, but Dona Juana did not wear a halo. Despite everything, they finally were brushing up against a new social class, and this is when dona Juana, the only one who had not been able to find work, came up with a brilliant idea: she would cook for gentlemen.
The Ibarguren house in Junin was not big enough to host couples. Dona Juana parked her family in the kitchen and saved a little room for the dining room to entertain three quality lodgers: Major Alfredo Arrieta, leader of the military district; don Jose Alvarez Rodriguez, rector of the National College; and his brother, the attorney Justo Alvarez Rodriguez. Sometimes these three guests were visited by Dr. Moises Lebensohn, the famous journalist and radical leader.
The three men ate together. They preferred the plentiful and rustic meals that dona Juana served to those of the rare greasy spoon in Junin. They spoke of politics in low and distinguished voices, all the while wiping the corners of their lips with napkins that they then swiftly placed on their knees. Evita would spy on them from the kitchen, curious as to what one had to do to be considered "classy."
In contrast, over coffee, Elisa and Blanca were allowed to look at these men face to face. They were clean, neatly dressed, and discreetly dolled up. In addition to the suffering they had endured, the young women now had to take every precaution to behave appropriately, and this mixture gave them an interesting air. Elisa later revealed an ambition equal to Evita's. Blanca, much like Erminda, was softer and more self-effacing. But all three of them obeyed their mother, and dona Juana surely told them to greet these polite gentlemen with warm smiles. They must have been charming, since Elisa ended up marrying (some say by cohabiting with) Major Arrieta, and Blanca married Alvarez Rodriguez, the attorney.
God had fulfilled dona Juana's dreams (even if Erminda entered into a shadier marriage, to an elevator operator named Bertolini whom she later divorced with the excuse of Juancito Duarte's suicide--or murder--in 1953). Juancito in the 1930s was employed at Jabon Federal. He wore a linen suit and greeted one and all by tipping his panama. He drove a Packard that had been given to him by Elisa's lover, Major Arrieta. A charmer, Juancito knew how to take care of himself, and his mustache drove the girls mad.
As for Evita, she wanted to be somebody else. Like her brother and sisters, she was, by birth, divided into two different people. According to the sociologist Juan Jose Sebreli, she had in essence dual membership. She was a descendant of landowners--her father--and at the same time a descendant of the homeless--her mother. This dual membership was typical of a mulatto country, a mirror country, torn by its desire to be something else, to find itself elsewhere.
In families as in nations, there is always someone chosen to feel what the others prefer to forget. That is how Evita's personality became more and more contradictory. Her schoolmates thought she was soft but with the soul of a leader. One of her friends, Elsa Sabella, recalled that Evita always wanted to order others around. She was the boss because, since she had been left behind, she finished elementary school when she was fourteen and her schoolmates were twelve. Evita is remembered as a mixture of charm and fear, distrusted by students with less cunning. "The boss" had therefore divided up her class according to the choice of gift that the students would give to their teacher at the end of the year. Half the students were leaning toward a missal, the other half, the one that followed Eva, wanted to give her a rosary, and they were sticking to their guns. Eva was tender yet authoritarian. She had dreamy and piercing eyes, serene and nervous gestures. She would later evoke whole litanies of opposite terms. Saint and whore, adventurer and militant, frivolous and martyr, the "white myth" and the "black myth."
Yes, she was always somebody else and wanted it that way. She observed her mother's and her sisters' efforts with a suspicious eye and chose to conform to her own rules. She was too proud to bend in this adaptation crusade, which she knew was bound to fail. Dona Juana's reputation had followed them to Junin. Here, just as in Los Toldos, her schoolmates were not allowed to play with her. Despite the women's vain efforts, Evita immensely preferred Juancito's defiance; his elegance imposed a certain style. To be somebody means to become untouchable due to one's beauty or personality, to carry an air of being somewhere else. That is how she remained faithful to the other person she was. She hated the town of Junin and had only one fear: that dona Juana would one day want to marry her off to one of the boring dinner guests.
Evita knew that white telephones and heart-shaped beds with satin sheets existed in a world beyond her own. She often told Erminda that she would marry only a prince or a president, although in certain states of despair, the only solution is to shoot for the stars. Evita would run off to the movies, where she dreamed of being Norma Shearer in the role of Marie Antoinette. Rarely is a wish ever realized to such a great extent. Evita would never have escaped her flat life without Hollywood films, music magazines that related the gossip about the stars, fashion magazines, and radio soap operas.
In school, Evita was always last in math and first in poetry. She always waited for the rain to fall, because on these days the teachers were less strict since so few students came to school. Evita took advantage of this to embark on a journey from class to class to recite "poetries." (Even as an adult, Eva never said "poem," she said "poetries" or, worse yet, "verses." The oligarchs laughed at her because Eva never possessed the keys to the language which opened the door for the chosen.)
Her teacher, Palmira Repetto, would leave her be, and even the boys would listen to her with a distracted ear. But the girls sighed with the teary verses that Evita unearthed in textbooks, recited with much emotion but catastrophic diction. Even as a radio actress, Eva still said ojepto instead of objeto and amigos del ecter instead of amigos del eter (friends of the ether, a common expression in Argentina that reflects the bodies of Argentines and, even more so, their souls). The sound waves were sometimes named after this word that poetic tradition reserved for the highest and most spiritual motives, thus establishing an unexpected link between radio and the sky. She would correct these errors only when she became Eva Peron, as if, by the grace of power her tongue had finally been untied. The possession of language, like land, is a birthright. Once she had climbed to the apex of glory, Evita who had been deprived of this right, thought of the other dispossessed and ordered that diction classes be given to her muchachas Peronistas, her loyal followers, the girls of her party who, like her, had been born deprived of correct diction.
On Sundays she could not go to the movies. This was the day for new releases, and the tickets were expensive. So on Sundays, Evita, like the other girls, took walks up and down Rivadavia Avenue. She was eleven, then she was twelve, then thirteen--this was the time when each year seems to last a century. When they walked past the boys who were lined up against the wall, or huddled on the street corners Erminda would squeeze her arm. Girls learned to fear boys at this early age. The boys would yell out obscenities to prove that they were capable of doing so. And, after all, the girls were excuses for a game that would stay, at least for the time being, male-dominated. The girls had to walk past them pretending to be deaf, their eyes glued to the ground, speechless.
Evita and Erminda licked their ice cream, waved to schoolmates who would not approach them for fear of being seen with them, and at dusk, they would go home. From the end of the street they could smell the sweet aroma of milanesas. Revolted, Evita would pout. Every time dona Juana placed a piece on her plate, she felt threatened. Could a girl chosen to become the next Norma Shearer be chubby? All throughout her life, she refused to eat, so that she would not become like her mother. She forged for herself a body whose goal, whose purpose, whose foundation was to reject her maternal roundness.
Movie day was Tuesday, when tickets cost only thirty cents. Evita would come home at noon (there were no afternoon classes) and pick at her lunch, with knots in her stomach, under the reproachful watch of dona Juana who felt rejected by this refusal to eat. Then she would leave for the Roxy or the Crystal Palace, dragging along the loyal Erminda.
There was a moment, when the lights of the theater went out, that reminded Evita of the fear instilled by the boys. In the dark, waiting for the lion on the screen who softly roared and was surrounded by a ring of stars, Evita, at fourteen, already knew what the strongest emotion of her life would be. It would not be waiting for love, but rather the anticipation of a show about to begin. The young audience tapped their feet to a rhythm of a military march that they called, for reasons no one knew, "French bread, English cho-co-late." Then, finally, illumination! Hollywood came overflowing onto the children of Junin. The theaters never showed fewer than three films, so Evita could escape far from herself for the whole afternoon.
She did not limit herself to enjoying the film simply as a spectator. At an early age she already brought a "professional" eye to the screen. All the other girls had read Norma Shearer's biography, too. They, too, knew that Evita's idol had been born, poor and obscure, in Montreal, and that she had tried her luck in Hollywood, where Irving Thalberg had hired her at MGM, the company with the exquisite lion. They all knew this, but Evita knew it in a different way. She would go home, her face imprinted with a profound seriousness. She would wave away the annoying aroma of the milanesas and announce, "I am going to be an actress." Her mother, who at fourteen had not had the luxury of imagining her future, which had already been clearly drawn out in her own mother's mind, felt betrayed. "What! So much work to be like everyone else and then the princess decides to throw it all away?"
If Juana dreamed of a respectable life, her bed did not always correspond to her dreams. It opened from time to time to some graying friend. This was a contradiction that Evita knew how to exploit, for she knew this subject inside out. Her mother could be as authoritarian as she wanted, but she had neither rigid principles nor definitive ideas. Her generous nature engendered a laid-back attitude. So dona Juana hesitated. What if the little one had talent after all? She had not been so bad when she acted in that school play. And don Pepe Alvarez Rodriguez had gotten her into the National College's acting troupe when she was only in sixth grade. After that, didn't Evaristo Tello Sueyro, the family hairdresser, encourage her to perform with him in the amateur clubs? And hadn't she recited poetry on a real micro phone in that music store? The owner had placed a speaker on the street because he wanted to bring life to this sleepy town. Through this instrument, Evita's little voice took on a strange tone and her voice glided over the town. "Done Juana," said don Pepe, "we cannot tear down a child's vision of her vocation. Let her be. If she fails, she will not be marred. If she succeeds, then good for her."
During this time, Eva had dated Ricardo, conscript into the Junin military. Eva began asking herself a bold question, "Can social barriers be overcome? Is it fatal to dwell among the nonlandowners when I am so beautiful?" It was thanks to their beauty that Elisa and Blanca had found fiances, boring ones perhaps, but very much above their condition. The four sisters were pretty. And Juancito was the perfect image of the Latin lover. So why not take a chance? the devil murmured to her. The radio soaps that she passionately listened to told of the love between a poor young girl and an aristocrat.
That is how she came to accept, with a friend, an invitation by two young "oligarchs" (she didn't know the word then, but later she would often use it). The boys invited the two girls from an inferior social caste to a day trip to Mar del Plata, the "Pearl of the Atlantic," a luxurious and boisterous seaside resort. In Junin during the 1930s there were more than enough naive souls to go around. Eva and her friend honestly believed that they were en route to a game of beach Ping-Pong and a nice dip in the ocean. Maybe they even imagined a kiss of love under the stars, but not for one second did they imagine that the car would stop at an isolated estancia, that the two "aristocrats" would try to rape them, and that, to exact revenge for their stubborn refusals, they would throw them naked onto the side of the road. A trucker driving by with his family picked them up and covered them with a blanket. Years later, Eva must have been remembering this painful scene when she railed against the oligarchy before the crowds that came to see her on May Square.
In a crazy love letter to Peron in 1947, Eva dispelled the rumors that had been spread about her life in Junin. Rudi Freude, a very blond and very handsome German who was good friends with Peron, had brought gossip to the President. "I was thirteen when I left Junin!" she writes in the letter, forgetting in her despair that she was fifteen. "What indignation to imagine a little girl capable of such lowliness!" In light of the rape episode, this clumsy message manages to touch us. Eva, at the apex of power, still had to explain herself to men.
Her attempt to get close to high society had failed. In order to become something different from her mother and her sisters, in order simply to become someone else, to do something else, that is, be an actress, Evita had one choice: leave Junin. There are so many versions of the story of her departure that most biographers, exasperated, agree to tell only the essential fact--that she left. This pattern of uncertainty about Eva's life returns again and again. The slightest detail always seems to be mirrored by its opposite or followed by many facts that are similar but not completely the same, like a stone that shines under the water, broken and fractured by the light's refractions. It seems that many of the trails were intentionally muddied by Eva herself.
In the first version of her departure, the one according to Erminda Duarte, Evita asked her mother to accompany her to Buenos Aires to audition for the National Radio. After much hesitation, dona Juana finally agreed. Evita recited Amado Nervo's poem "Adonde van los muertos" (Where are the dead going?), and the radio director, Pablo Osvaldo Valle, offered her a small contract. The young actress settled in Buenos Aires at the house of friends of her mother's.
The second version is from biographer Fermin Chavez. Evita asked her mother to accompany her to Buenos Aires for an audition at Radio Belgrano. With the help of Palmira Repetto, the teacher whom she loved so, she had rehearsed three "poetries" for a month, one of which was Nervo's "Muerta." Mother and daughter went to Buenos Aires, Evita auditioned, and they returned to Junin. But the radio station's response took a long time. Even so, Evita announced to her teacher, "With or without a response, I am leaving." Juancito, who was completing his military service in Buenos Aires, would protect his little sister from the perils of the big city.
The third version, the one adopted by journalists Jorge Capsitski and Rodolfo Tettamanti among others, is that the tango singer Agustin Magaldi appeared at a theater in Junin. Juancito approached him to talk about his sister who wanted to be an actress. Eva visited the singer in his dressing room and begged him to take her with him to Buenos Aires. Magaldi agreed, the trip wrapped in an exemplary decency since his wife was traveling with him.
The fourth version, this one from Mary Main, the most ferocious and unforgiving of her biographers, is that Evita sneaked into the singer's dressing room, became his mistress, and that is how she got to Buenos Aires, with him, to live a life of debauchery.
Within this succession of possible scenarios there is only mystery. These refractions can be explained by either the era's prudishness, to which Evita was forced to adhere, or by certain political reasons. The first version, the family's version, tends to present things conventionally. The second emphasizes a very real element--a teacher's testimony--but the trip itself leaves us wondering. The fourth enjoys its salacious suggestion.
Agustin Magaldi was nicknamed "the Carlos Gardel of the provinces (Gardel was a famous tango singer)." He was a pale man with a high tenor voice. To highlight his voice's poignant melancholy, he would sing with his hand on his heart and lift his eyes to the sky as if he were looking at a saintly Madonna. In fact, he was married, and he was generally considered too gloomy to chase skirts. That is the servant cavalier.
In terms of beauty, Evita was a little thing who was pale, skinny, and poorly dressed. She could act audaciously, but her cold and clammy hands always gave her away. She had no breasts, no hips, and no shapely calves. Her only assets were her transparent skin and her vivid eyes. Her beauty had not yet been born. Evita did everything by herself, she invented it all--her life, her beauty, even her death. During that time, when she looked in the mirror she saw her future image. It is impossible to say that this future image was seen by others or that the melancholy Magaldi glimpsed it.
Among the four versions, let us choose the third, the one where Magaldi and his wife drove this poor young girl in her maroon pleated skirt and white blouse (Evita would later describe her travel outfit to her designer, Paco Jamandreu) to Buenos Aires. Or better yet, Magaldi gave her his address so that Evita could visit when she arrived in Buenos Aires, and she took the train. One thing is certain: Magaldi met Evita. It is he who introduced her to the theater critic Edmundo Guibourg, a serious intellectual whose recollections, quoted by Jorge Capsitski, leave no ambiguities.
Let us then embrace the most convincing scenario. On January 2, 1935, at fifteen years of age, Evita left her mother and her sisters and took the train to Buenos Aires. Clutched in her hand was a scrap of paper on which Magaldi had scribbled his address. Juancito picked her up at the station and took care of her as best he could within his means. Eva left behind a flat land and a flat existence. Of course, Buenos Aires is built on the same flatness. It just tries to trick us by erecting tall buildings like the thirty-three-floor Kavanagh, the highest building in all of Latin America. It was with the Kavanagh that Evita secretly identified herself in her heart. She would do whatever was necessary to rise higher than all the others.
Table of ContentsContents
PART ONE.............................................................1 1. ILLEGITIMATE..................................................3 2. THE ACTRESS..................................................29 3. THE LOVER....................................................49 PART TWO............................................................89 4. GRATEFUL.....................................................91 5. WIFE........................................................131 6. THE MESSENGER...............................................163 PART THREE.........................................................205 7. FOUNDER.....................................................207 8. RENOUNCER...................................................245 9. THE MARTYR, THE MUMMY, THE SAINT, AND THE GRANDMOTHER.......273 BIBLIOGRAPHY.......................................................305 INDEX..............................................................311
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
One cannot escape the fascinating personality of Evitia Peron in this book. Recommended reading.
I am a sophomore in high school and I was required to read this book for a research project. The story of Eva (Evita) Duarte/Peron is an important piece of history in which should be portrayed more throughout society. After reading A Biography: Eva Peron I have learned so much about Eva than I have ever known before. Prior to this research project I had no clue who Eva Peron was and now I have learned about all the wonderful things this woman has done. Throughout the book there were some parts that would excite and engage me into wanting to learn more but at the same time there were also many parts that I had felt were boring. A part that I had disliked throughout the book were pages 8, 9, 16, and 30. I would get bored throughout these scenes the reason being is that they were more factual pages, about the city and land than about her actual life story. I didn’t enjoy the scene when the author would explain the Nunez family history the reason being I had felt it was totally irrelevant to the following scenes. I would get frustrated because those scenes seemed boring to me throughout the book. Although the book was very lengthy, boring, and irrelevant at moments, it did have some amazing parts which I found very interesting for example hearing about all the different theories from the prior authors about her departure to Buenos Aries because all the authors had their own theory about who? And why? She exactly went. I believe it had caught my attention due to the fact that there were so many different theories making it a mystery to find out which theory would ever be correct.
Eva Peron by Alicia Dujovne, is easily one of the best non-fiction books I have ever read. This book tells how Evita Duarte a young, poor, and hopeful little girl, turned into Evita Peron a beautiful, wealthy, and famous woman. Her life was truly a Cinderella story, complete with mean ugly step sisters, and a prince who took her from her less than glamorous past. The first lady of Argentina had an incredibly interesting and difficult life. Starting with her poor childhood, her mother, Dona Juana a poor woman, had an affair with a middle class man who had another family. Her father Juan Duarte had no interest in Dona or her two daughters. After he died there was much tension between her father¿s two families, and her mother struggled to support her family. Eva desired fame and fortune, as a teenager she moved to Buenos Aires, to become an actress. Eva did not have much money, but she used her sex appeal to her advantage. She eventually found fame in modeling, acting, and radio. After an earthquake shook Argentina, she meet her future husband Juan Peron, he was running for president of Argentina. After a time of dating, they were married. Evita was popular with the descamisados (lower class) and with her help Juan won the election. Eva was very active in spreading the new ideas of Argentina, so much so that she was going to run for vice president. Eva fell very ill not long after the announcement of her running. The rest of her life was inspirational and heart breaking. If you are interested in reading about a strong woman who overcame many obstacles and came out on top, I recommend this book. The writing is incredibly descriptive and the book is very detailed. Something I did not like about this book was it spent a lot of time talking about other people and sometimes it felt irrelevant to the story. Overall I really enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it.
I have been interested in learning more about Evita ever since I heard and fell in love with the movie musical. This book answered all my questions and more. Not only do you learn about the life of Evita, but also the historical times surrounding her short life. I never knew of the mystery surrounding her death, and this book covers all of that, too. I was sorry when the book ended.
This book has everything you ever wanted to know about this amazing woman. Very detailed and extensively researched, this is by far the best biography I've ever read about Evita!