Although today I’m at a loss to remember the name of the girl I corresponded with in Argentina, I will forever remember her fondly for being the first to introduce me to the personality and the image of the spectacular First Lady of Argentina, Doña Evita Perón.
The images slowly began arriving on the beautiful postage stamps that appeared on the letters I received from this young girl who, along with her mother, waited breathlessly for my return letters detailing my life as a part of the Westindian community in our fair country of Panama. The images on the stamps were not only beautiful but some of them were descriptive of the innovative works of this brave and ingenious First Lady of Argentina.
Eva Duarte de Perón, wife of Juan Domingo Perón, had extremely humble origins having been born in 1919 in Los Toldos, Province of Buenos Aires to the “mistress” or the “segunda frente” of Juan Duarte, an influential Conservative politician from a prominent family in Chivilcoy. Juan Domingo Perón’s rise to power- he was three times elected to the Argentinian presidency- and fall makes for interesting reading.
But, Evita’s life is by far the most interesting and dynamic of the two when one considers her brave and, some consider, high handed maneuvers to help her “cabecitas negras” or the little black heads of her beloved people, the poor, dispossessed and working class of Argentina who adored her.
Once Juan Domingo Peron moved from military officer to elected President of the great Argentine Republic, all with Evita’s unabashed help and her personal charisma, she then set up her Beneficencia. The Foundation was backed by the powerful worker’s unions and cash donations from various influential sources. Evita seemed to have been born for this mission since much good came from her Beneficencia’s dozens of programs. From her official web site the description is almost dizzying with the great things it did for the poor, the vulnerable, and the discriminated:
“The Foundation was not content with words. It constructed Homes for Senior Citizens; the first residence was inaugurated on October 17, 1948, in Burzaco. Others were constructed in the interior of the country. At the same time, Evita obtained the passing of a law which granted pensions to people over 60 who were without resources.
Evita was especially worried about the education, entertainment and health of the children and youth of the country. The Foundation set up a plan for the construction of one thousand schools throughout Argentina, as well as agricultural schools, workshops, nursery schools and daycare centers. The Amanda Allen Children’s City and the Students’ City formed part of the educational action plan. The Children’s City was created to shelter children from two to seven years of age who were orphans or whose parents’ were unable to care for them. The Students’ City was a residence for students from the interior who came to Buenos Aires to study and had no place to stay.
The Children’s Tourism Plan began in 1950 and enabled children to vacation in the mountains,at the seashore and in other tourist spots throughout the country. The vacation colonies were the jewels of this plan.”
Many things have been said and written about this brave women who, for me, would put to shame most other feminists of her or any other times. She was a rising star who came to this earth to carry out a wonderful plan of good for millions of people since her Foundation’s program started being imitated in other countries of Latin America, including Panama.
Not long after my friend from Argentina and I started corresponding the Panamanian government fenced off a small city lot in our Calidonia on “M Street,” with swings, sandy areas and seesaws for the small children of a neighborhood that had always been a Westindian neighborhood but was rapidly turning into Spanish-Panamanians. For me these developments seemed to point to the advent of some improvements for us older kids in their teens who had become disenchanted with the streets and the dangers and temptations they held.
Those times became even more memorable for us as our government started bringing in foreign cultural groups of theatre, dancing and singers like Lola Flores and ensembles from Mexico, Spain and Venezuela to entertain, absolutely free of charge, the Panamanian people.
These would represent the first and, sad to say, the last times that we would get to see some of the people and hear some of the voices we knew so well on the radio but had never seen, even in the Mexican movies.
Note: Image of the Eva Peron postage stamp is thanks to rickrockhill.
This story continues.