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To Be Evita © - Part III

Evita presided over international congresses.The María Eva Duarte de Perón Foundation came into being on June 19, 1948, and obtained non-profit status on July 8. From September 25, 1950, until it was dismantled by the military coup in 1955, it was known as the Eva Perón Foundation.

In her speech of December 5, 1949, given to the First American Congress of Medicine in the Workplace, Evita was very clear about why the Foundation was created: to bridge the gaps in the national safety net (because in any country which is undergoing a national reorganization there are always gaps to be covered and the government must be ready with a quick, rapid and efficient response). She conveyed the idea of transforming the traditional concept of beneficence and redefining it within the Peronista program of social justice.


From beneficence ...to social justice

Children from the orphanageChildren's City

The greatest gaps in the safety net were found in the assistance provided to the elderly, children and women.

On August 28, 1948, in the Ministry of Labor, Evita read the Declaration of the Rights of Senior Citizens. She then placed it in the hands of the President, asking that it be incorporated into the legislation and the institutional fabric of the nation. It was included in the National Constitution of 1949.

The Foundation was not content with words. It constructed Homes for Senior Citizens; the first residence was inaugurated on October 17, 1948, in Burzaco. Others were constructed in the interior of the country. At the same time, Evita obtained the passing of a law which granted pensions to people over 60 who were without resources.

Evita in the Children's City.Evita was especially worried about the education, entertainment and health of the children and youth of the country. The Foundation set up a plan for the construction of one thousand schools throughout Argentina, as well as agricultural schools, workshops, nursery schools and daycare centers. The Amanda Allen Children's City and the Students' City formed part of the educational action plan. The Children's City was created to shelter children from two to seven years of age who were orphans or whose parents' were unable to care for them. The Students' City was a residence for students from the interior who came to Buenos Aires to study and had no place to stay.

The Children's Tourism Plan began in 1950 and enabled children to vacation in the mountains,at the seashore and in other tourist spots throughout the country. The vacation colonies were the jewels of this plan.

The Children's Competitions began in 1948 with soccer and were expanded to include many other sports; they enabled the Foundation to provide medical checkups to over 300,000 children.

The Children's Hospital and Epidemiology Center, and the Children's Recuperation Clinic in Terma de Reyes were among the Foundation's contributions to improving children's health care. The National Pediatric Hospital was almost finished at the time of the military coup in 1955. It was never completed.

Evita's work to help children was inspired in her belief that "the country which forgets its children renounces its future."

The problem of finding work and temporary shelter for women was alleviated by constructing and maintaining three Temporary Homes in Buenos Aires. Other homes were built in the interior.

The General San Martin Home for Women Employees sought to resolve the problem of single women who needed permanent lodging.This Home had a dining room where Evita would often go for supper after her day's work.Here Juan Castiñeira de Dios organized the Peña Eva Perón. The Peña, or Poetry Reading,where poets often dedicated their works to Evita, provided her with much joy and needed relaxation.

Hogar de la Empleada
 
Evita frequently dined at the Hogar de la Empleada (a home for single working women). The Peña Eva Perón was held in the dining room.
   
In her desire to raise the general standard of living, Eva Perón provided the working girl with the maximum of comfort, combined with gracious surroundings.

 

To meet health care needs, the Foundation constructed four polyclinics in Buenos Aires, in Ezeiza, Avellaneda, Lanus and San Martín, and others in the interior of the country. The Foundation also donated modern medical equipment to other hospitals.

School of NursesThe Eva Perón Hospital Train, equipped with state-of-the-art medical technology, crisscrossed the country providing checkups and services to the people in the most remote areas.

In September, 1951, the School of Nurses was inaugurated. The School was one of Evita's most cherished successes; graduates worked all over Argentina and abroad.

To meet housing needs, the Foundation constructed workers' homes, such as the President Peron Neighborhood and Evita City which provided housing for over 25,000 families.

All the Foundation's works were followed and supervised by Evita, from the drawing board to their daily operation. She was often accompanied in her tours by visitors from abroad.

The Foundation also helped other countries in times of need or catastrophe, as Ecuador, Spain, Italy, Israel, France, Japan, Peru, and Bolivia (among others) can testify.

Peronista architecture

Columbia receives assistance
Colombia receives help from the Foundation after an earthquake.

hospital-ambulances
Foundation's Nursing School had hospital-ambulances equipped with ten beds and an operating room.


The origin of the funds which the Foundation used for its works has been an object of controversy in Argentina. The Foundation's Balance Sheet for 1953 specifies the origin of its funds: cash donations, mostly from unions but also from individuals and companies; collective bargaining agreements; taxes; rents; Legislative grants, etc. We must mention that stories circulated about forced donations where resistance was met with persecution; the Mu-Mu Candy Factory is cited as an example.

Historian Marysa Navarro, in her biography Evita, notes: "But if the "spontaneous contributions" had existed on a large scale and been accepted systematically, those who were forced could have denounced them after September of 1955. If they did not wish to denounce them publicly they could have done so before the commission in charge of investigating the administration of the Foundation and presumably the commission would have been pleased to receive these accusations. We must believe that there were not a large number of denunciations because if there had been, the commission would have listed them and it does not do so" (Navarro, Marysa: Evita, ed. Planeta, Buenos Aires, 1994, pg. 263).

After Evita's death the Foundation continued to operate but without its former vigor and achievements. Perón tried to take her place but two circumstances were different: Perón was not Evita and the economy was not the same as it had been when Evita was alive.

Evita with her brother Juan Duarte and Raul Apold
Evita with her brother Juan Duarte, private secretary to the President and Raúl Apold from the Subsecretariat of Information.

As Evita's popularity and power grew so did criticism from the opposition and (in some cases) from certain sectors of Peronismo. They attacked from different angles: activities inappropriate for a First Lady, undistilled resentment, dangerous influence on Perón, uncontrolled ambition for power. Under the surface, but not too far under, was the criticism not of what was being done, or how it was being done, or why it was being done but that it was being done by a woman. As J.M. Taylor says, "Evita confronts us with the enigma of power attributed to a woman in a traditionally and formally patriarchal society, a society that devalues women as against men." (Taylor, J.M.: Eva Perón, The Myths of a Woman, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1981, pg. 10).

 



Evita reached the height of her power in 1950-1951. These were also the years when she was confronted with her illness and her last choice: should she be Vice President of the nation?

On August 2, 1951, the CGT asked Perón to run again for President (this was possible after the reform of the Constitution in 1949) and expressed the desire that Evita would be his running mate. Support for the ticket Perón-Perón grew in the following days.

On August 22, in the historic Cabildo Abierto de Justicialismo, a mass concentration on Nueve de Julio Avenue, over a million people voiced their desire and support for Evita's candidacy.

Evita

Evita spoke to the multitude but eluded accepting the office of vice president. The people insisted and a dialogue began whose fervor and intensity is difficult to put into words. Evita asked for time to think things over before reaching a decision.

"At least four days."

"No! Now!"

"I do not renounce my work, I only renounce the honors ... ."

"Now!"

"I don't want any worker in my country to be without a response when the resentful, the mediocre people who never understood me nor never will, who believe that everything I do is for personal gain ... ."

"Now!"

"One day ... ."

"No!"

"Two hours ... ."

"No!"

Evita left the microphone. Torches were lit and illuminated a multitude willing to spend the night there waiting for a reply. Evita took the microphone.

"Friends! As General Perón said, "I will do as the people ask."

The dialogue was over. The people believed she had accepted.

Evita dialogues with over a million people who want to vote for the ticket Perón-Perón.
Evita

On August 31, in a nationwide broadcast, Evita announced her "irrevocable decision to renounce the honor which the workers and the people" had wished to bestow on her.

Peron's second inauguration
June, 1952. Perón's second inauguration and Evita's last public appearance.

The background behind the story of Evita's renunciation has yet to be written. There are many threads to be woven together ... the Armed Forces, her illness, the CGT, the people, Evita herself.

The Perón-Quijano ticket won the November elections. Evita voted from her sickbed in the Polyclinic in Avellaneda for the first and last time.

She accompanied Perón during his second inauguration.

It was her last public appearance.

 



Her work had become a part of the thousands of men, women, and children who mourned her. In only thirty-three years Evita had found the reason for her life and had left to others, as she herself once said when she inaugurated a polyclinic, the easiest task: that of changing the names of the works she had built.

Evita's love for her people changed their lives.
Evita's love for her people changed their lives.
Evita's love for her people changed their lives.

 


To Be Evita ©
Biography
Evita Peron Historical Research Foundation
Translation by Dolane Larson
Hecho el depósito que marca la ley 11.723
May not be reproduced in total or partial form
without authorization of the FIHEP
April, 1997


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