The actress who helped poor and sick people in Argentina
María Eva Duarte de Perón (1919 1952), better known as just Eva Perón or by the pet name Evita, was the wife of Argentine President Juan Perón (1895–1974) and First Lady of Argentina from June 1946 until her death in July 1952. She was born in poverty in the rural village of Los Toldos, in the Pampas, as the youngest of five children. In 1934 at the age of 15, she moved to the nation’s capital of Buenos Aires to pursue a career as a stage, radio, and film actress.
The actress who helped poor and sick people in Argentina
I was a famous actress in Argentina. I helped my husband, Juan Peron, to become President. I used my power to help sick and poor people. I also helped women to get the vote for the first time in Argentina.
I was born in 1919 in Los Toldos in the Argentinian countryside. My mother was a poor country girl, but my father was a rich man from the city. Unfortunately, my father died when I was very young and life was very hard for my family. My mother worked hard to earn money. She made clothes for other people.
Four years after my father died, in 1930, we moved to a small apartment in the city of Junin. Life was very difficult at first, but my brothers and sisters were growing up. Soon they got jobs. With their money, we moved to a larger home and I was able to start school.
I enjoyed school very much, but my favourite lessons were singing and acting. In 1933, I won a role in the school play – I was so excited! From that day, I knew that I wanted to be an actress. It was my dream.
In 1935, when I was 15 years old, my mother found me a place to live in Buenos Aires. It was exciting for me to be in this amazing city, but it was a time of great economic problems. Many people didn’t have work and everywhere I went, I saw poor and hungry people in the streets.
Luckily I found a job so I had enough money to pay my rent. During the day I worked and, in the evenings, I joined a theatre group. Soon I was given my first role at the Comedias Theatre and, in 1936, I travelled with the theatre company around Argentina. I also got my first part in a film. I was only 17 years old and I was already an actress!
In 1937, I started working for Radio El Mundo on a popular radio show. Radio El Mundo was the biggest radio company in Argentina and soon my name was well known. Then Radio Belgrano asked me to work for them on their show, Great Women of History. On the show, I played some famous roles – Queen Elizabeth the First of England was one of them.
I was no longer a poor girl from the countryside. Important people wanted to meet me and, by 1942, I had my own apartment in one of the best parts of the city. But then something happened that changed my life forever.
In January 1944, an earthquake hit the town of San Juan. It was terrible because 10,000 people were killed and many more were hurt. Juan Peron was an important political leader. He organized a concert to help the people of San Juan and I was invited to be in it.
After the concert, I talked to Juan Peron and learned about his political ideas. From that day, I had a new dream – I wanted Juan Peron to become the President of Argentina.
On the radio, I talked every day about Juan’s work and his ideas. Unfortunately, Juan had powerful enemies and they found him and put him in prison. On my radio show, I asked the people for help and, on 15th October 1945, 300000 people came to the Casa Rosada (the President’s house) in Buenos Aires. I stood on a balcony of the house and spoke to the people from my heart. Soon everyone was shouting, ‘Free Juan Peron! Free Juan Peron!’
Two days later, Juan was free. And the following day, Juan and I got married – we were so happy! We travelled together around Argentina and we both spoke at political meetings. I told the people that Juan could help them and their families. I also asked them to call me Evita (little Eva). We were a great success and, in 1946, Juan Peron became the President of Argentina.
Suddenly, at the age of 27, I was the President’s wife and the ‘First Lady’ of Argentina. I wanted to work hard and help the people. In 1947, Evita City was built to give homes to poor families. And, in 1948, I started the Eva Peron Foundation, an organization to help poor and sick people.
By 1950, the Foundation had received over $200 million and had 14,000 workers. We also gave out thousands of shoes and cooking materials and built hospitals and schools. I worked day and night and met with thousands of sick and poor people. I wanted to give them hope.
I also wanted women to have more political power. When Juan became President, women weren’t able to vote. Juan and I fought to change this and I also started a new political party for women. It was called the Female Peronist Party. By 1951, the party had more than 500,000 women members. With the help of these women, Juan Peron became President for the second time.
Many people wanted me to have a bigger political role, but I had to say no. I was already working too hard, sometimes more than 20 hours a day. And the problems I saw every day were making me ill. My husband asked me to take more rest, but the poor and sick people needed my help. I couldn’t stop.
I was taken to hospital several times and lost a lot of weight. I was also in a lot of pain and the pain got worse and worse. I wanted to help my husband, but it wasn’t possible. I wanted to see our country become a better place, but unfortunately this didn’t happen. I was only 33 years old when I died, but people around the world still remember me. And many people in Argentina still think of me as their Evita.