Stacy in Antarctica

An adventure to the frozen continent

Nov 4th – Evita

Today it rained. I was actually pretty happy about the cloudy weather because after the past two days in the sun, my shoulders were looking rather pink and I was hoping to give my skin a rest from all the UV rays I had been getting.

I put together a fairly simple plan for the days activities, which required getting myself to Recoleta to visit two tourist sites, both revolving around the Argentinian icon, Eva Perón. My Argentinian history is pretty rough so while I had heard of Eva Perón, otherwise known as Evita, I really had no idea about who she was. As I now know, the movie and stage play of the same name were about her life, but as I have never seen either of them I was still drawing a blank. Ana had given me a pretty good introduction to the controversy surrounding her life and death a few days earlier so I wanted to find out a little bit more about her life by visiting the Eva Perón Museum and her final resting place in the Recoleta Cemetery.

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I started with the cemetery first as it was the first stop along the metro and since it is open air I wanted to get there before the rains. I jumped on the Metro, got off at Pueyrredón station and walked the few extra blocks to the Recoleta Cemetery. I have been to a number of old cemeteries in my life but none have come close to the grandeur of Recoleta. The cemetery was commissioned in the 1820s as the first public cemetery in Buenos Aires. It is now home to many wealthy and famous citizens, locked away in the grand mausoleums that fill its space (can I say “home”? Oh well, I already have now). To be honest, I don’t know who any of them are either but obviously someone did because the tombs are magnificent, if not a little morbid in their displays of family coffins through windows open for the world to see.

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I wandered through the many rows of mausoleums, peering in occasionally at their contents, wondering about the stories of those who were buried there (again, I don’t think I can really say “buried” as many coffins are sitting out on display). It appeared as though there was some restoration being done to some of the more neglected tombs, while others were obviously still very well maintained by the families that owned them. One such mausoleum was that of the Duarte family, which is the final resting place of the body of Eva Perón. It was not too difficult to find as it was obviously the most popular site in the cemetery. However, as the story goes, this was not the only burial site of Eva. Originally she was meant to have a huge monument erected that would house her embalmed body on public display, such as that of Lenin and Ho Chi Minh. Before the monument could be completed a coup instated a military dictatorship and her body disappeared for a number of years. In 1971 the body was finally tracked down to a grave in Milan, where she was placed under a pseudonym.

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For the next few years her body was kept in the house of her husband, former president Juan Perón until he died in 1974. His wife of the time, Isabel Perón (then president of Argentina) moved her body to its final resting place in the Duarte family tomb in Recoleta cemetery. To quote Wikipedia,

Extensive measures were taken by the Argentine government to secure Evita’s tomb. There is a trapdoor in the tomb’s marble floor, which leads to a compartment that contains two coffins. Under the first compartment is a second trapdoor and a second compartment. That is where Evita’s coffin rests. Biographers Marysa Navarro and Nicholas Fraser write that the claim is often made that Evita’s tomb is so secure that it could withstand a nuclear attack.

Much rumour surrounds the state her body was found in after it disappeared in 1955. Her body had been mutilated and abused, thought to have been performed by the new military dictatorship who, unlike the working class citizens of Argentina, had no love for the woman and the work that she had done while in office.

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I found out some of this information when I visited the Eva Perón Museum and the juicy details of the country’s love/hate relationship with the woman from my host Ana. The Museum was very interesting but was created with the intent of providing an impartial view of the woman, her life and the work that she did for the Argentinean people. Therefore, it was a little bland on the details but did provide some fantastic video footage of the key events of her life. She was best known for instituting social welfare programs to the poor and working class citizens but there appear to be many differing opinions about whether she was a heroine or a villain in the story. The day’s excursion only helped to pique my interest in reading more about her and the myth that surrounds her life and work.

In the evening my new friend Karina and I decided to head down to San Telmo to check out some of the Argentinean night life. Fortunately for me she came well prepared with a list of places that we should go to and we had an enjoyable evening visiting a few bars and chatting with some of the locals (more so her than me as her Spanish comprehension far outweighed mine). Time got away from us and we ended up returning home at 4am after some assistance from a nice person who lead us to the bus stop showed us which bus to get on. I have to say that Argentinians make much better drunks than Australians as the streets were calm and everyone was very well-behaved for 3am on a Sunday morning.

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