Eva Peron was no doubt a woman of style and glamour. As First Lady of Argentina, she had to dress the part, but she often went above and beyond duty. She was often criticized for how she dressed, especially due to her claim of love for the poor, but Eva herself said "the poor like to see me beautiful."
Though it seems somewhat hypocritical, Eva's jewels, furs, and gowns were no different than any other First Lady. Even Eleanor Roosevelt, a contemporary of Eva, had nice gowns and dresses.
Eva had grown up poor, so likely as a child she did not have many nice things. As a woman who has not been able to wear jewels and perfume until recently in my life, I don't blame her. Eva's story was a true Cinderella one. However, even as a child, Eva was very beautiful. With her black hair, olive skin, and enormous eyes, all the poverty in the world could not hide the beauty of her pure heart.
As an actress, Eva often dressed for her parts. During the time of this era, many actresses were often "sponsored" by men who paid for their dresses and parts. However, when Eva first arrived in Buenos Aires, she did not know anyone who could do this for her and was often poorly dressed and mocked for this. I have noted the dress she wore for the part of Napoleon's sister, as well as the swimsuit picture in Sintonia.
Eva toiled many years in Buenos Aires before the hard work finally paid off. Her big break came in 1939, and then she could begin dressing as a more elaborate woman, with her hair done up in the ringlets of the 1940s and the beginning of Eva's glamour began when she began to be known in radio. For most of her acting career, Eva had dark hair. It was not until her part in The Circus Calvalcade, in which she bleached her hair to play a country girl, that her famous blonde beauty was born. She was still a brunette when she met Peron.
Paco Jamandraeu is considered the creator of the style of the iconic blonde Evita. He was an Argentine fashion designer who met Evita before she became the wife of Peron, and who appears in my novel, warning her that if she decides to become a blonde she may never be able to return to her natural color. But he was more than just a man who created her chignon and gave her advice on how to dress. The two were friends and confidantes. His friendship with her is dramatized in the Argentine movie Eva Peron, which was Argentina's answer to the film with Madonna.
This biography, written by J.M Taylor, an anthropologist, was published in the 70s, during Argentina’s Dirty War. The author lived with a working class Peronist family to study the ‘myth of the myth’ about Evita.
This biography requires a lot of patience, since it is not so much a retelling of her life as an in depth study of Eva’s impact on Argentine culture, as well as Argentine culture’s view of femininity and how Eva is seen as either the embodiment or a defiance of their feminine ideal. Taylor supposes that while Peronists and Anti Peronists believe their values are different, they truly are not, and explores both the Black and White Myth in detail. I found her insights into both enlightening, such as the White Myth’s claim that Eva was pure and virginal and that ‘the virtue of the Peronist woman lay in never thinking to supplant the opposite sex.” (page 76.) Her insight that the Anti Peronists have the same view of women states in that some anti Peronists felt Eva was ‘immediately trying to wear the pants in the relationship.’ (page 78). Both myths also emphasize Eva’s sexuality, the White Myth denying she had any sex drive at all, while the Black Myth making her into a vamp and seductress. In this case, the White Myth is actually closer to the truth, since most who met Eva said she had little to no sex appeal and also did not have sexual relations with Peron from 1950 until her death.
I decided to include a section on Eva’s mother, Dona Juana, because I believe Juana’s personality and life shaped Evita quite a bit.
Juana’s birthday is not known, but she was very young when she became the mistress of Juan Duarte, Eva’s father, a landowner from Chivilcoy. It is assumed Juana was a native of Los Toldos, the pueblo Eva was born in. Her mother was Petrona Nunez, who was descended from the Argentine Indians and also had Basque blood in her. (The Basques are a nomadic tribe who live on the Spanish-French border and are known for stubbornness.) Juana’s real name was Juana Ibarguren.
Juana is assumed to have been a very proud and resourceful woman. To quote Fraser and Navarro, ‘She did not behave as though she were merely Duarte’s mistress. She adopted the name Duarte.’
Juan Duarte abandoned Juana in 1920, one year after Evita’s birth. Juana and Juan had four other children in addition to Evita– Elisa, the eldest, Blanca, Juan, and Erminda. Juana is supposed to have been a good mother and worked very hard to support her ‘little brood.’ After Duarte left her, she made her living sewing pantaloons, which aged her prematurely.
Juana attempting to attend Duarte’s funeral is true. Juana marched her children to Chivilcoy and insisted on seeing Duarte’s body. This was a huge affront to Duarte’s legal wife, Estela Grisolia de Duarte.
Eva’s childhood is somewhat surrounded in mystery since she herself deliberately tried to erase all traces of her past, other than the fact she was of humble birth. Her autobiography, La Razon de Mi Vida, contained no references to any childhood events, occurances, or locations. In fact, Eva even changed the date of her birth from 1919 to 1922. I do not believe this was female vanity but she had a personal and political reason to do this. Since Peron was about to marry her at this time– it was 1945– she had to change the date of her birth so she would not be considered a child born in adultery.
Eva was born in 1919 and was the last of five children. Her father left her mother(her mother was his mistress as opposed to his wife) the next year and she never saw him again. In 1923, she is thought to have been badly burnt in an accident, however, the only biographer to have stated this is Tomas Eloy Martinez in his very bizarre, jarring novel Santa Evita.
Her father died in 1926 in an accident and when her mother insisted on going to the funeral, it was likely the first time Eva left Los Toldos, her village. The funeral seems to have had a big impact on Eva, and should have, since she was only seven at the time, a very impressionable age and it was likely the first time she realized her mother and family were very poorly thought of.
She is thought to have left Los Toldos for Junin at the age of 11, in 1930. Junin was barren for the young, dreaming Eva. In this sense I can relate to her since I grew up in a small town in Ohio that also did not encourage my dreams to be a writer nor did not have many cultural activities. In this sense, when I wrote of Eva’s desire to leave Junin, I related completely.
Eva did not have much schooling– she left in 6th grade. But that did not mean she was not intelligent in other ways. Contrary to many biographers, I personally think Eva was a good actress or at the very least, a very good speaker. During her school days, Eva loved poetry and reciting it for her class and her teachers also said she was a good poet. Her classmates appear to have thought so as well.