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Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Históricas Eva Perón*
March 27, 2002

Alicia Renzi at the Museo Evita in Buenos AiresAtilio Renzi was Evita’s private secretary until her death in 1952 and stayed by Perón’s side until the military coup in 1955 when Perón went into exile. Renzi,a scrupulously honest and loyal assistant, gained the respect of all who knew him regardless of their political beliefs. His daughter Alicia volunteers many hours of her time each week to the INIHEP*.

“We’re going to talk a little about Atilio Renzi and his relationship with Evita. It is important to learn how they met, so I will begin by saying that Atilio Renzi had embarked on a military career and was a “suboficial mayor” in the Argentine Army. He had, first of all, a relationship with Perón because Perón was in the War Ministry and in the War Ministry Atilio Renzi was in charge of the Garage, where the Ministry cars were kept, so Perón and Renzi met in the War Ministry. It’s important because in the Ministry Perón had told Renzi that it was very important to stay within budget. Perón had observed that a lot of money was being spent, above all in the use of the cars which belonged to the Army. Perón discovered that some people were using the cars for their own personal business. Therefore, Perón told Renzi to issue an order: so as to be able to identify the cars, they would all be painted green and a seal added which would identify them as “War Ministry” cars. When the cars were on the street, they would be identified as War Ministry cars so as to end the abuse of using them for personal or family business.
Now after October 17, 1945, when Perón was President... let’s talk about the first contact between Renzi and Evita. This happened when Renzi was still in charge of the garage where the official cars were kept. One day Evita’s chauffeur came to tell Renzi that Evita thought that the upholstery of the official cars was not in good condition and should be changed. This on one hand. On the other hand, Renzi was still following Perón’s orders, and Perón had indicated that it was essential to economize, that not one unnecessary peso should be spent.
“After Evita’s chauffeur had passed on Evita’s suggestion about new upholstery, Renzi answered that he thought that the upholstery was still in good shape and that he did not consider it necessary to install new upholstery because General Perón had indicated that it was necessary to economize. The chauffeur told Evita what Renzi had said, and Evita expressed an interest in meeting him: she was surprised that someone would not even take her suggestion into consideration, and she wanted to meet him. After she did, she told her chauffeur, “Remind me that I want to bring this man to the Residency to work with me.” This is important because Evita realized that Renzi was a person who would respond to the indications given to him and would not be manipulated. Evita discovered one of Atilio Renzi’s characteristics: he had a strong sense of loyalty to Perón’s beliefs; therefore, he did not consider it necessary to change the upholstery. Contrary to what people might think, that Evita would have been upset with Renzi because he would not take into account her suggestions, she wasn’t upset - she was pleased. This is important because it shows the way she was, especially when people say she always wanted her own way. She recognized that people shouldn’t always agree with her and say “yes.” After their initial meeting, Atilio was put in charge of the Presidential Residence in Olivos, the “Residencia de Olivos” [used by Argentine Presidents as a weekend residence. Until the military destroyed it in 1955 - because Perón and Evita had lived there - Presidents and their families lived in the Unzue Mansion on Aguero while the President worked in the Casa Rosada, the Pink House, overlooking Plaza de Mayo] In other words, Atilio Renzi was the “indendente,” the concierge of Olivos. Once he was put in charge of Olivos, he made many changes to help the employees of the “ Quinta Presidencial,” as the Olivos Residence was also known. Employees were given many benefits; for example, their work schedules were no longer broken up but were continuous from the moment they punched in so that if they wanted or needed a second job they would have time to fit it in. They were no longer considered part time employees but made full time employees with rights to benefits. They were incorporated through the Ministry of Agriculture since many of them were gardeners. Until the Peronista government, they had had no rights or benefits, but with Perón all that changed.
“Atilio Renzi spent some time in charge of the Quinta Presidencial; his official residence was there and he and his family lived there. However, after a time, Perón and Evita asked him to come to Residence on Aguero (where the National Library is now).
“Then my father was no longer in charge of Olivos, but was in the Residence, working with Evita as her private secretary and taking care of everything related to the Fundación Eva Perón, working at Evita’s side all day long.
DL “In what year did he begin to work with Evita?”
Evita and childrenAR “In 1946, 1947... Atilio Renzi continued to live in the Quinta Presidencial [in Olivos], but his most important work was done in the Residence on Aguero with Evita.
“I’m telling you this about how they met because it shows how Evita constantly confirms that he is a person who can be trusted. She had devised a system to communicate with him. For example, suppose that someone came to visit her and she noted something that didn’t seem right, she would write a little note to my father: “Renzi - arreglar” ; “Renzi, fix this.” So when he received this note which said “Renzi, fix this,” it was like a code between them and it meant that she wasn’t too happy with the situation and she wanted him to investigate a little before she made a decision. She would leave all these things in his hands. She had absolute trust in him because she knew he would never do anything which went against her principles.
“My father always said that Evita was an untiring worker, so dedicated to her work that Perón was worried about her...and this was before her illness was discovered. My father used to tell an amusing anecdote which captures her spirit. Perón finally convinced Evita that she had to rest and he suggested that they spend a few days in their country house, la Quinta de San Vicente.
“At first Evita was totally opposed to the idea of taking a few days off, but she could not refuse to listen to Perón, so she said, ‘All right, I will rest a few days but I want Atilio Renzi to come with us.’ So my father went along.
Once they were there, Evita said, ‘Renzi and I are going to take the boat out on the lake for awhile.’
She took my father out for a boat ride and she also took all her file folders so that they could keep on working. This was a way to keep from upsetting Perón. In a way she deceived him because he thought she was getting some rest but she found a way to keep on working. My father said that once the wind blew the papers into the water! Renzi said that he believed that she felt she could not spare any time, that she had to dedicate her time to her work.”
DL: “Did she have any premonition that she had little time left?”
AR “No, my father never said that she felt that the end was near, at least she never verbalized it, but she did always seem to be in a hurry; one never knows how much she perceived. She had given herself up to her work which was what she most enjoyed doing.”
DL “And Atilio Renzi worked as intensely as she did?”
AR “For instance, during my childhood I can tell you that I have the memory of his absence because he worked from one day until early morning of the next day without stopping. I had very little contact with my father during those years. He wasn’t a father who would be at the dinner table every evening. He was totally dedicated to this cause. He was either with Evita or doing something related to her work such as giving out toys to children in hospitals.
“There are many photographs which show Evita talking to people and he is listening and taking notes. He participated in everything.”
DL “You were going to recount an anecdote which showed Evita’s sense of humor.”
AR “One anecdote I know about shows that playful spirit she had and that sense of adventure.
“My father often told about the times when some important date was coming up, some anniversary was being commemorated, people sent many, many flowers to Evita. Evita, of course, was grateful, but she wished that people would not spend so much money on flowers. Therefore, she and my father had an agreement. She would say, “Renzi, what we have to do, every time people send me so many flowers for an anniversary or any important date, what we have to do is find a contact with a flower seller so we can sell these flowers... what we need here is money,” she would say. But of course Perón did not like any of these goings-on... . So Evita had an agreement that when she was given many flowers, she would give the order, and Atilio Renzi had found a contact with a flower seller so that at dawn when everyone was sure that Perón was asleep and wouldn’t find out, the flower seller would come with his little cart, pick up the flowers, and sell them, and that way there was money for whatever projects they had going on at the time. She always liked the idea of saying mischievously, ‘Just don’t let the General find out!’
“Another anecdote my father always told was when, for example, the photographer came to take her picture, she would always call for my father. She would say, “Please call Atilio, let Atilio Renzi come so he can tell me some jokes because I want them to take my picture when I’m laughing.”
“So my father, behind the camera, would make her laugh. She would laugh and then they would have these pictures of her laughing. She wanted him to tell her jokes so that she would have a spontaneous smile.
“Also, when Perón and Evita would go to San Vicente, they would dress very informally, in sport clothes. There are photos of their stay in San Vicente. My father told us how Evita liked to wear clothes very similar to the outfits Perón wore: a similar pair of slacks or a jacket. My father said that when he saw them dressed and ready to go somewhere, he would ask them, ‘Where are you going? Are you going to the “corso”?’
“Corso is a carnival, where people [in Argentina] wear costumes.
“So he asked, ’Are you going to a “corso”?’ as a way of asking them if they were wearing costumes.
“Evita would laugh and say, ‘Juan, listen to what Renzi is saying. He’s asking me if we’re going to the carnival.’
“And she would laugh. She didn’t mind if he joked about the way they dressed.
“She liked jokes and teasing.
“The important point is that Atilio Renzi always accompanied her. He was also with her during the long hours of her convalescence. And he would try his best so that she wouldn’t worry, so that she wouldn’t realize what was really happening. Sometimes he would fix the scales so that she wouldn’t realize how much weight she was losing.”
DL “But sometimes he would go too far and she would think she was gaining weight.”
AR “Certainly. As far as taking care of her, he was always taking care of them both and supervising what they ate. Both Perón and Evita were very austere as far as food went; they were people who ate very simply.
“Evita loved strawberries and my father knew it. When dessert was served, he always saw to it that Perón had tangerines and Evita had strawberries. Once Perón tried the strawberries and exclaimed, ‘How delicious!’
“Evita answered, ‘So you like strawberries too?’
‘How could I ever get to eat strawberries?’ Perón answered. ‘Renzi saves them all for you and tangerines are good enough for me!’
“As though Renzi were saying, ‘Tangerines for the General. The strawberries are for Evita.’
“ He made sure that the people in the kitchen knew that the strawberries were for Evita, not for Perón.
“It was a way of taking care of her, of taking care of all the details. Besides being a person who was with her all day, he truly cared about her. This prevailed above all else so that for her he was a person whom she could trust absolutely; she knew he would never betray her, nor do anything behind her back. I think these anecdotes describe my father and describe the relationship.”
DL “They say that when your father was sad because his football team had lost, that she had requested that some little doggie coats be knit in the colors of his soccer team. She would put them on the poodles, Canela and Negrita, and let them run up to your father.”
AR “Yes, his team was Ferrocarril del Oeste. He was a “Ferro” fan. He loved sports and there are a lot of pictures where he is with Perón and Evita at sporting events. They used to go to a lot of boxing matches, and he always accompanied them.”
DL “What was his job description in the Residence at Aguero?”
AR “He was there as her private secretary because that was his job; he was always involved in anything that concerned the Fundación.”
DL “Evita’s death must have been terrible for him.”
AR. “Yes. For a time after Evita’s death, Perón took over the management of the Fundación but after a time he could no longer continue. Really, only Evita was capable of the work. My father worked at Perón’s side because he was the one who knew most about the day to day functioning of the Fundación. But of course, her death was a great sorrow to him. He missed her youthful enthusiasm and joyfulness.
“She would get mad when she needed to, be strict when she needed to, but she was a kind and warm person, according to the anecdotes my father told us. She could be mischievous, pretending to Perón that she was resting when in reality she continued to work. There are so many anecdotes. Many women of the Partido Peronista Feminino have come here to the Institute and they have many anecdotes about how Perón wanted her to get more rest but she stayed up until very late, and all the things she did to hide the fact that she wanted to keep on working and working.”
DL “Did your father ever tell you about a time when he saw her really angry?”
AR “I don’t remember any specific anecdote. I know that what really bothered her was the contact she had with some people whom she sensed to be false. That was something she really did not like. She was quite disgusted with what she called “flatterers,” people who came to talk to her and she realized the person was not sincere. That was quite unpleasant for her.”
DL “Yes, because she was a very sincere person.”
AR “Exactly.”

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