The story of Argentina is an interesting one, beginning as a Spanish colony but also as a nation of many immigrants, chiefly Italian, along with English, German and French. Argentina’s name meant ‘the land of silver’ and until the death of Evita, was a very rich nation, one of the wealthiest in Latin America. Up to the 1940s, Buenos Aires remained in a select club of cities which included London, Paris, New York and Berlin.
Eva’s life spanned from 1919 to 1952. Although her life was short, she lived during a period of Argentine and world history in which the world was rapidly changing. She herself was born during the Tragic Week of Argentina, and under the presidency of Hipolito Yrigoyen. The government in Argentina had always been fragile, originating to the time of Juan Manuel de Rosas, a 19th century caudillo leader with a powerful wife, Encarnación, whose rule of the nation and love story would eerily be echoed by Juan and Eva Peron a century later.
Like much of the rest of the Western world, Argentina experienced an economic boom in the 1920s. However, unlike in the United States, in which the ‘flapper era’ began, there was no such granting of suffrage to Argentine women and until Eva Peron came to power, the life of Argentine women was one of subservience to men. Eva would do much to change this, both by lot and example. The economic downfall of 1929 did not spare Argentina and the 1930s was an era of hardship, one in which Eva grew up in an actress. The 1930s was referred to as the "Infamous Decade" in Argentine history and politics.
During the 1930s and early 1940s, a series of military coups defined Argentine politics, which would eventually lead to the rise of Juan Peron, Eva's husband. Officially, Argentina was neutral in the Second World War. However, many generals, including Peron, were sympathetic to the Axis Powers, believing Hitler would win. They were mistaken, and not long after the US and Russia defeated Hitler, Argentina declared war on Germany. Howevr, while the Argentine government had Axis sympathies many citizens did not, and rejoiced at the liberation of Paris in 1945. Paris, not Madrid, was the "Second home" of much of the Argentine oligarchy. In 1946, Peron was elected President, and he and Eva worked to being their "new Argentina."
Juan and Evita were successful at giving women and the poor a voice in Argentine society. However, there was a dark side to their reign. The Peronist regime gagged the press, controlled the radios, and imprisoned/exiled dissenters, not to mention that at the time of Eva's death, Argentina was very close to bankruptcy. Their legacy is a mixed blessing and the history will be a part of Argentine and Latin American history forever, as well as the controversy.