Evita Peron official website Evita 1919-1952

Fundacion Eva Peron Foundation
EducationThe Amanda Allen Children s cityby Dolane Larson

Ciudad infantilThe Children’s City was not an amusement park although it brought joy to thousands of children. It was a safe haven for children whose parents were experiencing difficulties and needed long or short term help with child care. As such, La Ciudad Infantil functioned in much the same way as the Hogares Escuelas (see article on this website), having both day students and residents. A motto from the Peronista Golden Age - those early years of Perón’s first Presidency when Evita was alive and everything seemed possible- proclaimed that “the only ones with privileges are the children.” Evita wanted the children to be not only privileged but protected. Her Fundacion wove a safety net stretching from childhood (the Hogares Escuelas for primary school children), to adolescence (the Ciudad Estudiantil for secondary school children) and beyond (the Ciudad Universitaria).
The Ciudad Infantil, which sheltered children from two to seven years of age, held an enchantment all its own. Social workers referred children on a needs basis as stipulated by the Ciudad’s charter (very similar to that of the Hogar Escuelas). At capacity, the Ciudad could take in 450 children; on an average, it held around 300, including residents and day students.
The Children’s City was the apple of Evita’s eye. There she could see the fruit of the sacrifices she was making in her own life. Visitors from other countries commented that it was a model establishment, well ahead of its time; its aim was to integrate marginalized children into society, prepare them for school and help them develop healthy relationships by means of play.
When people remember the Children’s City, they inevitably think of its miniature buildings: chalets, the plaza with its splashing fountain, the school, city hall, the Nordic style church with its vitraux, the gas station where pedal cars were driven up to the pumps and the attendant was told to “fill it up” , the police station where speeders were issued tickets, the bank and shopping center with its assorted stores (pharmacy, greengrocer’s, grocery store), and the azure stream which meandered through the city. In the Children’s City, everyone had the chance to be mayor, banker, pharmacist or teacher, but only for a day. Occupations were rotated, so that each child could fulfill different roles in the community.
But the Ciudad Infantil was much more than a collection of miniature buildings. The entire City occupied two blocks, bordered by four streets: Echeverria, Húsares, Juramento and Ramsay in the Barrio Belgrano, a suburb of Buenos Aires. One block was a large tree-shaded playground with slides, teeter-totters, sandboxes, merry-go-rounds and an electric train. The other block held the main building which housed the administrative offices, a clinic, school rooms, a dining room with a capacity for 450 children, four dormitories with a capacity for 110 children, a circus, a large hall and a theater. Outside were solariums, a swimming pool and the miniature city (an adult wishing to enter the buildings of the miniature city had to stoop).
Walls in the main building were decorated with drawings of the characters familiar to children down through the ages: Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, the Three Little Pigs, circus animals. The dining room ceiling was scalloped so it wouldn’t seem so high, and all the rooms were bright, spacious and airy.
The children’s clothing came from the best shops in Buenos Aires and was changed every four months. Children with shaven heads wearing the drab uniforms of the Society of Beneficence had no place in the New Argentina.
One detail illustrates the quality of care the children were given. The dining room tables had tablecloths of three different colors, but the yellow, pink and blue cloths were not part of a decorator’s color scheme. The children were divided into three groups as recommended by their dietitians. The caloric value given to the resident students was based on their height and weight and contained the vitamins, minerals and protein they needed to meet 100% of their daily requirements. The day students, who might not be given a sufficient amount of nourishing food at home, received 90% .
The children went to the Children’s Hotel in Chapadmalal for summer vacations where many of them splashed in the Atlantic Ocean for the first time in their lives.
If the home situation had not improved by the time the child was ready for school, then that child was given priority of placement in a Hogar Escuela.
Construction of the Ciudad Infantil went on day and night for five months and twenty days. It was completed in record time and inaugurated on July 14, 1949, surely one of the happiest days of Evita’s life as wife of the President. The old newsclips show her whirling around, almost dancing, as she points out its features to those attending the inauguration. The workers who had clocked the most hours presented her with “the keys to the city” and told her that they knew that they were working for the good of their own children when they worked for the Fundacion. The City was named “Cuidad Infantil Amanda Allen” after one of the Fundacion nurses killed in a plane crash as she returned from helping the victims of an earthquake in Ecuador.
Her sister Erminda relates an anecdote which shows that the Ciudad Infantil was never far from Evita’s thoughts. One day an elderly man went to ask her to help him find work. “I really like the country,” he stated. Evita felt that farm work would be too hard for him at his age, so she told him, “I need you in the city. And I am going to give you a job. I have been given three little donkeys for the children of the Cuidad Infantil to ride on and I want you to take care of them for me.” Erminda says that taking care of those donkeys made him the happiest man alive.
Evita often visited the City unannounced, day and night. She would check to see if there were enough supplies and ask for children by name if she missed seeing them. Erminda relates how, when she knew she was dying, she escaped from her doctors and went to visit the Ciudad Infantil. When she returned to the Residence, she cried as she told her sister that the level of care she had always insisted on was not being maintained.
After the military coup of 1955, the children in residence were evicted and the establishment was turned into a nursery school for the children of the upscale Belgrano neighborhood. Later the AntiInfantile Paralysis League took over the administration buildings. In 1964, the author of this article found out that the miniature city was scheduled for demolition and appealed to the newspapers and magazines most sympathetic to the workers whose contributions had made its construction possible. Newspapers wrote articles, but the public had no power to stop the destruction and the buildings were razed to make way for a parking lot.
What happened to the Ciudad Infantil is symbolic of the destruction of Evita’s works. In the Argentina of the third millennium, children are no longer privileged. Indeed, in a country capable of producing enough food to feed the entire population of the United States, Argentine children today are dying of starvation.
After the military took over Argentina in 1955, Evita’s works were systematically destroyed or given other uses more in accordance with the philosophy of the once again ruling classes (for instance, the military turned the Children’s Hospital in Terma de Reyes into a luxury hotel and casino for themselves and their families). As a reason for justifying the dismantling of the Ciudad Infantil, the military investigative team issued a report on December 5, 1955. We give them the last word: “The attention given to the minors was varied, even sumptuous. One could even say excessive and not at all in accordance with the sobriety which should be part of the austere formation given to the children of a republic. Fowl and fish formed a daily part of the children’s diet. And as for clothing, their wardrobes were renewed every six months and the old clothing destroyed.”


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