In 1949 the most familiar scene in Argentina was the one played out almost
at the Ministry of Labor in Buenos Aires. There, under the glare of camera lights,
radio star and movie actress, now the most powerful woman in South America, would
enter her office past a crush of adoring, impoverished women and children. Evita
the wife of President Juan Peron, would sit at her desk and begin one of the great
of Peronism, the political movement she and her husband created. It was a pageant
sustained them in power. She would patiently listen to the stories of the poor,
into her desk to pull out some money. Or she would turn to a minister and ask that
house be built. She would caress filthy children. She would kiss lepers, just as
had done. To many Argentines, Evita Peron was a flesh-and-blood saint; later,
them would write to the pope attesting to her miracles.
She was born on May 7, 1919, in Los Toldos, and baptized Maria Eva, but
everyone called her Evita. Her father abandoned the family shortly after her birth.
years of poverty followed and, in early 1935, the young Evita fled her stifling
go to Buenos Aires. Perhaps, as some have said, she fell in love with a tango
was passing through.
She wanted to be an actress, and in the next few years supported herself with
parts, photo sessions for titillating magazines and stints as an attractive judge
competitions. She began frequenting the offices of a movie magazine, talking
for mention in its pages. When, in 1939, she was hired as an actress in a radio
she discovered a talent for playing heroines in the fantasy world of radio soap
This was a period of political uncertainty in Argentina, yet few people were
prepared for the military coup that took place in June 1943. Among the many
instituted by the new government was the censorship of radio soap operas. Quickly
adapting to the new environment, Evita approached the officer in charge of
airtime, Colonel Anibal Imbert. She seduced him, and Imbert approved a new project
Evita had in mind, a radio series called Heroines of History. Years later, people
that Evita had been a prostitute.
Six months after Evita met Imbert, an earthquake struck Argentina. Colonel
Peron, the secretary of labor in the military government, launched a collection for
victims. He arranged for the Buenos Aires acting community to donate its time for