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Maria Eva Duarte de Perón was born in in a two room shack in the small village of La Union, near Los Toldos some 250 km. west of Buenos Aires. She was the youngest of five children born to Juan Duarte and his mistress Juana Ibarguren. At age 6 Eva's father was killed in an automobile accident and his wife Estela prevented Juana and her children from attending the funeral. This instilled in Eva the hatred of  the unjust that spent her time as first lady trying to abolish.

Shortly after Juan Duarte's death, the family's lot improved slightly and they moved to the larger town of Junín. Here Juana opened a small pension and the children, Elisa, Blanca, Erminda, Juan and Eva attended school.

At the age of fifteen, Eva had determined to become an actress, and Doña Juana took Eva to Buenos Aires, where she stayed with friends of the family. In the musical of Evita and in many vicious biographies, Eva is said to have been seduced by the tango singer Augustín Magaldi (or vice versa). This is totally unfounded on a couple of points (1) There is no record of Magaldi ever visiting Junín in any of the three possible years that Eva could have left for Buenos Aires, 1934, 1935, or 1936. (2) Magaldi was a devoted family man, whose wife accompanied him everywhere on tour.

Once in Buenos Aires, Eva found bit parts in plays and provincial tours and quickly learnt the craft of acting. Soon she began appearing in films and on the cover of movie magazines. But by the early forties Eva had found the perfect outlet for her acting: radio soap-operas. Here she truly shined as an actress and rose to become the highest paid radio star in Argentina.

In June of 1943 the army seized control of Argentina from the pro-Nazi President Ramón Castillo. Among those who seized power was a dashing Colonel, Juan Domingo Perón.

In January of 1944, two destinies finally collided when Eva and Juan (now Minister of Labour and Welfare) met a charity event that Perón had arranged.

Perón was a rising star in the government and by 1945 he was also Minister of War, and later that year became Vice President. By October 1945, Perón's enemies, jealous of his power and sway over the workers and poor, forced him at gunpoint to resign. Aided by Perón's loyal secretary Isabel Ernst, Juan and Eva were able to escape to the country and spend a few idyllic days together. Eva later said that these were the happiest days that she and Perón ever spent together. The days of happiness were over all too soon and the Navy tracked Perón down and arrested him.

Back in Buenos Aires, union leaders were making plans for a mass demonstration to demand Perón's release. On 17 October 1945 millions descended on the Plaza de Mayo outside the Casa Rosada and demanded the release of Perón. The government capitulated and Perón vowed to the workers that he would stand for election and promised them a New Argentina.

Perón and Eva married on 21 October 1945.

In Juanuary 1946 General Juan Domingo Perón was elected President of the Republic of Argentina. Perón's Labour Party won a huge majority in Congress and the Senate and all the Provincial governerships. The die was now cast for a major change in Eva's and Argentina's life.

At first Eva was just like any other First Lady, dutifully at her husband's side at official gatherings, but little by little Eva realised that she was now in a position to help those from whom she came - the poor and needy.

Eva embarked on an European tour in 1947, and apart from all the usual official engagements, the obligatory audience with the Pope etc. Eva also visited children's homes and other charitable institutions, constantly making mental notes.

On her return to Argentina, a change came over Eva. Gone were her classic forties hairstyle and the glamorous clothes that she had worn from her days as a major star to be replaced with her trademark chignon hairstyle and business-like suits.

Then came Eva's greatest achievement La Fundacion Obra y Auyeda Social de Maria Eva Duarte de Perón, later to be known more simplz as La Fundacion Eva Perón. The Foundation began life as 5000 pesos from Eva's own pocket, but soon the contributions flowed in. There are many accusations of corruption and extortion against the Foundation all are totally unfounded. After Perón's overthrow the military junta set up a committee to investigate these claims it sat for over 5 years and during that time only one person (a furniture manufacturer) came forward to complain and the case was decided against him.

Over the next few years The Foundation built schools, hospitals, old people's homes, housing for the poor, orphanages. People would wait in line for hours to see Evita personally. She would arrive at her office in the morning at not leave until she had personally seen every person who had waited that day, leaving for the Residence at sometimes three or four the next morning. Eva would listen intently to the people who came to her for help, make a few notes which then she would pass on to one of her aides.

When the person had finished Eva would shake them by the hand or kiss them on the forehead (at great personal risk, since many lepers and other people with highly contagious diseases came to  her) and give them maybe 50 pesos the fare home, because she knew that otherwise they would probably have to walk miles.

Eva would personally supervise construction of the Foundation's building projects with each project having to meet her high standards, nothing was too good for the people.

Eventually all this work took it's toll on Eva and her health began to fail. In 1951 cancer was diagnosed, but still Eva refused to give up working for the poor. On June 4th 1952 Eva made her last public appearance at Perón's second inaguration.

At 8:25pm on 26th July 1952 Eva Perón "entered immortality".

Today her legacy lives on as do manyof her achievments on behalf of the poor of Argentina.

For more information on the legacy of Eva Perón, please visit:

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© 2000 Gareth Edwards-Williams