His first wife was a traditional UPper class South American woman. A homebody, and he found great joy in the relationship, but she died nine years into the marriage from uterine cancer. Had she lived, South America may have been much different.
Juan Peron met his second wife at a gala fundraiser in 1944. An earthquate hit the town of San Juan, Argentina, killing 6,000 people. Peron as the Secretary of Labor established a foundation and fund to raise money to aid the victims. He planned the gala as an “artistic festival” and invited the stars of the day; radio and movie actors, to draw crowds and raise money.
Enter Eva Duarte. She was one of the top earning female actors, making six thousand pesos a month, a huge sum in 1944, and was part owner of Radio El Mundo. She was considered extremely dependable and hard working.
Well, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.
After a week of fundraising – seriously, a week…can you imagine that today…one night and they’re all tuckered out- all the stars met at Juan’s gala celebration.
On the night of their first meeting, Juan and Eva left the party around 2 in the morning.
Again, fast workers, and waaaaaaaaaaaay ahead of their time, they started living together only a few weeks after meeting.
Perón’s inner circle was scandalized. Entertainers and politicians were seen as two distinct classes of people, unlike today where most are considered scum.
And since Argentina was uber-Catholic and it was 1944, it was considered ‘improper’ for an unmarried couple to shack UP share quarters.
Perón, however, could have given a rat’s ass didn’t care, he was madly in love, and introduced Eva to his inner circle of political associates and advisors.
He even allowed Eva to sit in on his meetings with close advisors and members of government. Some claim that Perón’s decision to involve Eva in his political life is difficult to understand, because it could have opened him to scandal and damaged his career.
She didn’t need to, he’d do all that on his own later on.
She had no political interests until she met Juan.
And having entered politics late in life, Perón had fewer pre-conceived notions about the role of women. He was elected President in 1946. During the next six years, Eva gained more power in the pro-Peronist trade unions.
She spoke out for labor rights, she ran the Ministries of Labor and Health, founded and managed a charity, The Eva Peron Foundation, spoke out for women’s suffrage (that’s votes for women for all you ‘Mary Poppins’ watchers), and founded the first female political party in Argentina to have any clout.
Eva was the fourth of five children born to a couple who never married, she came to Buenos Aires and became an actress at the age of 15.
She spent most of her life acting – one way or another.
But, her love for Juan, and his for her wasn’t an act.
The people of Argentina wanted her to be the Vice President, the military and the middle class were not so happy. In 1951, her health caused her to decline the nomination. This move gained her more support from the descamisados, or shirtless ones a.k.a the working class.
Eva was given the official title of “Spiritual Leader of the Nation” by the Argentine Congress, and when she died, an official state funeral in spite of the fact that she was not an elected head of state.
Popular culture has made much of her, and most of it wrong. Evita, as wonderful as it is, is historically incorrect. Che wasn’t in the picture. The closest they ever came to meeting is when their biographies were placed next to each other at Borders!
Cristina Fernandes de Kirchner, the first ELECTED female President of Argentina says that women of her generation owe a debt to Eva for “her example of passion and combativeness.”
She died of cancer at the age of 33.
Juan was inconsolable.
Juan married one more time, for companionship and a politics, but she wasn’t the love of his life, Eva was.
Isabel, the third wife, took over when Peron died, and became the first female head of state in the Western Hemisphere. Unlike Evita, she didn’t marry for love, she married for power.