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"(Schneider, 396) it was certainly Evita's dedication to the poor which promoted her as a cultural icon in the first place. This idea is openly available in her writings, where she emphasizes her view on social justice and her indignation when confronted with social discrimination between the different classes of people: "I have discovered a fundamental feeling in my heart which completely governs my spirit and my life. That feeling is my indignation when confronted with injustice."(Peron)
According to Evita's own confession, her first realization of the idea of social injustice was shocking to her, as she perceived openly the difference between the poor and the rich: "I admit I learned it almost at one blow, and that I learned it though suffering; and I declare that it never seemed to me either logical or natural."(Peron) Evita's confessed natural repulsion towards injustice was perhaps her greatest trait of character and the most important ingredient in her political success. She gained her place in the hearts of the people by actively fighting for their rights, and discarding personal considerations. This was indeed, for Evita, 'the reason for her life': to be able to counteract the oppression exercised by the rich over the poor: "I felt, even then, in my innermost heart, something which I now recognize as a feeling of indignation. I did not understand why if there were poor people there must also be rich ones, nor why the latter's eagerness for riches must be the cause of the poverty of so many people."(Peron) She regarded even her union with Peron as a symbol for her mission towards the poor. Evita thus was all the more successful as a political leader precisely because she was devoted to the causes he defended beyond everything else, personal life included: "This revolution brought -- and still does -- a great light into my life. To me, a humble and lowly woman, he entrusted the care of his workers, his greatest love. And I thought to myself: "He could have entrusted them to others, to any of his friends, including some trade-union leader...but no, he wanted it to be me...a woman who knows nothing except how to love him!'"(Peron) From her words, it is evident that she demoted herself as a lowly woman, whose greatest happiness were the active defense of the poor. Therefore, she took upon herself a great responsibility and subsequently worked feverishly in favor of the poor: "I am the head of my people not only by a decree of destiny. I am there because, without knowing it perhaps, I prepared myself for it as though I had known that someday this responsibility and privilege would by my lot."(Peron) Evita's legacy is first of all cultural, but her acts of charity were also very important. Thus, throughout her short life, she worked in favor of the poor, establishing charity societies, hospitals and helping the poor in a number of ways. Sadly however, her work was cruelly destroyed soon after her death, once the Peronist regime was conquered by its political enemies. Her enemies thus were not satisfied with taking over the power but were also careful to destroy all the signs associated with Juan and Evita Peron. Thus, the hospitals and each little thing that bore the emblem of the Peron regime were senselessly destroyed by the combatants. Despite this, Evita's myth remained alive among the people, who saw her as an almost sacred figure, because of her devotion to them: "The working classes, her devout descamisados, were hungry to accept her extraordinary acts of generosity. They had always been on the margins of society, and when Juan and Eva Per n placed them at the very center, they won their unwavering devotion and harnessed their tremendous political power. Rumors began to circulate that Evita was capable of almost superhuman accomplishments and that she wielded a sort of divine power."(Foster and Lockhart, 26) According to Foster and Lockhart, the myth of Evita is even slightly religious in its form, since the first lady was not only extremely popular but almost revered by the people: "Both in Argentina and abroad, it was widely believed that the myth of Evita had arisen in the Argentinian working classes and centered an ideal of pure and passive womanhood incarnate, who exercised saintly power closely related to this classic femininity. According to this idea, popular enthusiasm for Eva Per n not only assumes a vaguely religious nature, but also takes the form of an irrational, mystic reverence for a saint or madonna."(Foster and Lockhart, 25-26) Naturally, Evita's early death was accompanied by a state of nation mourning, which was assumed even without previous instruction. Also, her popularity and the fear of a crisis among the people compelled the greatest secrecy related to the cervical cancer which caused her death. The diagnosis was concealed from Evita herself and from the general public, so as not to increase the vulnerability of the Peron regime: "Politics was another potentially relevant factor. The concealment of Evita's diagnosis may in part have reflected a decision not to burden her with the ramifications of her impending death to Argentina's future. In addition, because the family's decision to withhold the diagnosis from Evita necessitated keeping the Argentine people uninformed, secrecy may also have had the additional benefit of hiding information that would have increased the political vulnerability of the Peron regime."(Lerner, 312) the biographical details of Eva's life thus emphasize her great historical role and her enormous influence as a cultural symbol for the Argentinean people.
As Eva Peron emphasized in another of he writings, namely, the History of Peronism, her actions were all performed out of devotion to the ideas promoted by Peronism, such as the triumph of the working class people, and the establishment of social justice: "The working class forces have triumphed, thanks to the humble, good men and the workers who saw in Per n not only the social reformer, but also the patriot, the man who brought security to the nation, the man who would fight so that when he retired the country would be bigger, happier, and more prosperous than when he found it. These men made the triumph of Per n possible. This is why we Argentines may enjoy our social justice, and our economic independence which grows greater every day, thanks to the patriotic effort and extraordinary vision of General Per n."(Peron) These were seen as patriotic aims as well, as they also promoted the economic independence of Argentine.
Nevertheless, Evita has had over the course of time quite a few detractors. According to some of them, the myth surrounding her life is so full of inaccurate or even intentionally forged information that it would be extremely difficult to establish the truth behind the story. Schapiro remarked that it is assumed by many that even the hour of her death was faked so as to match the hour of her marriage to Juan Peron and thus turn the story into a potent symbol: "It is entirely characteristic of the career of Eva Maria Duarte de Peron that even the hour of her death -- 8:25 P.M. -- was a fake, altered to match the exact hour of her marriage to Juan Domingo Peron. Her autobiography, La Razon de mi Vida ("My Mission in Life") was a ghostwritten fraud, and even her birth certificate was replaced by a completely falsified document intended to conceal her illegitimacy."(Schapiro, 19) Despite the fact that the historical truth is lost in the mythical view of her life however, Eva Peron does remain an important cultural icon which endured the test of time.
If her actual life and personality are not easy to establish with exactitude, what remain remarkable is that Eva Peron was one of the very few first ladies which have gained such popularity during and after their life. First of all therefore, Evita stands for justice and righteousness, and for protecting the rights of the poor and the ones that are in any way oppressed or discriminated. The figure of Evita remains an equivalent of a potent and extremely popular social activist, who believed in justice as the supreme principle of any human society.
Thus, Evita's life and figure are surrounded by so many myths as well as assumptions, that she may virtually be termed as a legendary figure. Her exemplary life converts her into an interesting and popular figure, who succeeded in surpassing even the success derived by her husband from his political activity. As Jerome Adams points out, the myth of Evita stands between two opposed views, one that is convinced of her ultimate purity and perfection as a woman and the other that argues Evita was just a symbol artfully manipulated by specialists to serve a definite political purpose: "Biographer J.M. Taylor, discussing "the myth" of Eva Per n, writes of the division of feeling, with one side convinced…[continue]
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