INTRODUCTION

As I sit here at my computer, I am at a standstill trying to decide where to start. How do you condense a person into ten short pages, and still enable the reader to ‘get to know’ them. I have decided that the task is nearly impossible, even in the telling of a life that was tragically so short.

Evita, as the people affectionately knew her, entered into this world with nothing and left with everything. From a poor peasant girl growing up in the pampas, to a popular media personality, to the First Lady of Argentina. In her short period on this earth she definitely made her mark. To this day, she is still a controversial figure in her native Argentina. She was beloved by the working classes and shunned by the aristocracy.

When Eva Perón died in 1952 of cancer, a group of anti-Perónist tried to erase all physical evidence relating to Evita. Her personal notes, diaries, and photos were burned in public demonstrations. Her monuments were torn down and destroyed. Eva’s body disappeared for sixteen years, in hopes that without the physical body, Eva would be soon forgotten.

A group sprang up soon after and flourished in Argentina, the ‘Saint Evita’ cult. Posters of Evita were on every street corner, in all the villages, and in the people’s hearts. The president, who took office after Juan Perón was overthrown, was kidnapped and murdered by Saint Evita followers who wanted him to reveal where her body had been hidden. Finally, in 1976, Eva Duarte-Perón was interred in the Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires, Argentine. For the first time since her death, she had come home again.

Who is this woman, who even in death can incite such devotion? Just as mysteries surrounded Eva in death, so did they shadow her life. The Evita of the Argentine people is straightforward, and there are very few secrets. It is Eva’s life before Perón that is obscured and shadowy. It is this part of Eva’s life that I find the most intriguing. This is the time of Eva’s life that helped define who she was. These are the events that made her ‘Evita’.

LOS TOLDOS

There are many small villages breaking up the plains of the Argentine pampa. If you went to sleep in one village and woke up in another, it is doubtful you would notice right away. An Argentine writer, Ezequiel Martínez Estrada, made this observation:

"It is not so much that the houses are small, as the fact that they are dwarfed by the immensity of their surroundings. The smallness is an optical illusion; it is the pampa that makes them seem so.

These villages are like meteorites...fallen to earth in the countryside. One can enter one of them and believe one is entering the village one has just left.... There is no real distinction between the village and the countryside; the village just depends on the latter and that is all. It is there but it could be to the right or to the left, indeed, it could even not be there at all..."

The unsurfaced streets of Los Toldos were hot and dusty in the dry season and impossible to navigate during the rains. Surrounding the plaza of Los Toldos was the church and two stores. The village stopped about four blocks, in all directions, from the plaza. The houses tended to all look alike and were made from brick. They were boxes all laid out in a perfect grid pattern. Outside the village boundaries, cattle grazed on the fertile grasses of the pampa.

Juana Ibarguren had lived in this village all of her life, her mother had been born here too. On 7 May 1919, her youngest daughter, Eva made her appearance in Los Toldos.

Juana met Juan Duarte when she was fifteen years old, and fell madly in love. It did not matter to Juana that Duarte had a wife and children in another town. Together Duarte and Juana had five children, Eva being the youngest. To this day, no records of Eva’s birth or baptism can be located. It is believed they were destroyed prior to her marriage to Juan Perón to cover up the fact that Eva was illegitimate.

When Eva was less than a year old, her father left her mother to return to his legal