Learn About Eva Peron or “Evita Duarte de Peron” Museo in Buenos Aires
I had heard the name Eva Perón, and I felt like I knew who she was more or less. She was the wife of a president that sung on a balcony that one time right? Well actually turns out that was Madonna. I had the opportunity to check out the Evita Museum last week with a few of the students from Vamos Spanish Academy. I wasn’t sure how interesting it was going to be for me but I thought it would be nice with a group regardless. It cost 75 pesos which really isn’t a crazy amount of money but a tad on the expensive side relative to other Buenos Aires museums, for example MALBA, a substantially bigger museum of Latin American Art is 90 pesos. So needless to say with my ignorance of who Eva was and the price, I did not have high expectations. However the Evita Museum and the lady herself completely won me over.
Firstly I want to clarify a little thing that had been confusing me greatly. Eva Perón was born Maria Eva Duarte in 1919, she became Eva Perón with she married her love and politician Juan Perón. So why does everyone call her Evita? Why Evita the movie, Evita the musical and Evita the museum? I enlisted a local to explain. Turns out you could say that Evita is Argentina´s pet name for Eva. When you want to make something sound cute you can add an ‘ita’ to the end. So you could have a big cena (dinner) with friends or perhaps you will just have a little cenita. You address an adult woman as Señora but a young lady is a señorita. The prevalence of Evita shows in a way the affection the people felt and still feel for her.
One of my favorite things about this museum is the first thing you notice, the building. The foyer of the museum is the first port of call and even this space is magical. Beautiful black and white tiles sprawl under your feet and a magnificent iron chandelier hangs above your head. Small details, carved pillars, iron door frames and tiled walls are ever present and delight room after room. The museum is housed in a mansion constructed for the Carabassa family during the first decade of the 20th century. This beautiful mansion combines elements of both Plateresque and Italian Renaissance styles. In 1948 the Eva Perón Foundation bought and restored the mansion as Hogar de Tránsito (Temporary Home) and it was used as shelter for women and children without resources. Evita inaugurated El Hogar with these words, “The Temporary Home shelters those in need and those who have no home… for as long as necessary until work and a home can be found… .” Evita offered “an open door, a place set for them at the table, a clean bed,” as well as “consolation and motivation, encouragement and hope, faith and self-confidence.” It was declared a national historical monument in 1999. Threes years later in 2002 exactly 50 years after Eva’s death her grand niece, Cristina Alvarez Rodriguez, inaugurated the Evita Museum.. It seems rather fitting that the building that once housed the hope that Eva brought the people of Argentina now houses her legacy.
The museum’s collection is a wonderful mix of photos, film, personal objects and journalistic articles. The highlight of the collection for me personally had to be the personal objects. The museum displays many of Eva’s dress, shoes and purses, perfectly pressed and behind glass cabinets. I was amazed to see so many dresses from the 1940’s that would pass as today’s fashion. There were so many beautiful prints and styles. One that pops to mind was a particular outfit of Eva’s from 1947. This outfit consisted of a high waisted black circle skirt with white polka dots. Which was worn with a cropped white lace top and cute peep toe sandals, I would wear that outfit any day! It was fun to experience the personal objects, it felt like you were getting to know Eva, sharing small intimate details that perhaps history books will skip. Such as how tiny her feet were!
The museum is in chronological order, starting with Eva’s early life with family in her home town Los Toldos. We then followed Eva to Buenos Aires at the age of 15 to pursue acting. Eva meets Juan Perón as we approached the end of the first floor and ascending to the second level you cannot help but contemplate the magnitude that her life changed after marrying Juan. She went from actress to first lady of Argentina in less than a year. On the second floor we found a couple of short film clips showing various public appearances and speeches made by Eva as well as her funeral procession. These films helped me contextualize Eva´s life. I could begin to understand what she did for Argentina by seeing the crowds of thousands cheering at her every words. You can see the magnitude to which the Argentine people felt her loss in the endless crowds of mourners, throwing flowers at her passing coffin. I now realise that Eva Perón was and still is so much more than a President’s wife. She upheld the rights of the poor, cared deeply for the wellbeing of vulnerable children and used her position to fight for and gain women’s suffrage for Argentina. Evita brought hope to the people and because of this her legacy lives on. For more information about the Evita Museum visit www.museoevita.org.ar