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Juan and Evita Peron

Quick Facts

Him: Juan Domingo Peron, colonel in the Argentine army

Her: Maria Eva Duarte, Buenos Aires actress

Setting: Argentina, mid-20th century

 


Background

In some ways, you might claim no ruling couple since King Arthur and Queen Guinevere has been quite as revered by their people as Juan and Evita Peron were. The perfect balance of strong-willed and deeply romantic, the two had one of the most powerful political marriages – for better or for worse – in history.
 


Story

At a fundraiser for the victims of an earthquake in San Juan, Argentina, a young actress named Eva Duarte crossed paths with a widowed Argentine colonell by the name of Juan Peron. Ambitious and charismatic, Juan enchanted the blonde beauty – the two were married the following year. When he was elected President in 1946, she stepped into the role of First Lady with a passion rarely seen.

Though the relationship began in scandal – they moved in together before marriage – the two quickly became an excellent team, evidenced best by her willingness to drive the passions of voters toward her husband before and after his election. Popular amongst Argentina’s poorest classes, she stepped into the spotlight and began working feverishly with the pro-Peronist labor unions. (The strength of her love was the foundation for her campaigning, to the point she eventually angered many by comparing her husband to Jesus Christ.)

Governing alongside Juan – often in meetings with him and his cabinent – “Evita” became popular for her opinions on the need for broader rights for workers and the inclusion of women in the voting process, even founding the Female Peronist Party as a way to give her ideas more force. Despite Juan being the President, it did not take long for Evita to become a political powerhouse in her own right.

For the most part, Juan and Evita Peron were in agreement on how to achieve the goals of his party, possibly because she was inexperienced in government affairs, but only once did they clash publicly: Evita entered her name into the contest for Vice President against her husband’s wishes (and those of a military opposed to her growing power) in 1951. She would turn down the opportunity to run, hiding her declining health from even her husband for a time.

In July 1952, shortly after Juan had won re-election to the presidency, Evita passed away from the complications of advanced cervical cancer. Having been awarded the honorary title of Spiritual Leader of the Nation – the only one in Argentine history – the country seemed to shut down in the wake of her passing. Some say the country has not been the same since.

 


Reputation

From the standpoint of history, there are a variety of views on this famous love story. Few would doubt the intensity of Juan and Evita Peron’s feelings for one another, but there is room for interpretation as to the good it created.

For all the obvious quality of their romance, some in the political realm accused Juan of heavy-handedness in dealing with opposition and a tendency towards dictatorship instead of democracy. However, the influence the Perons have had on popular culture – particularly Evita as a figure fighting for the rights of the poor and dying young – is immeasurable.



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