One night during my first week in Buenos Aires I woke up to a bunch of guys singing outside. If I had to venture a guess I’d say they were Americans- they were singing/shouting “Don’t cry for me, Argentina” in unison. A few weeks later I met a cool woman on a graffiti tour who was on her way to Paraguay. We got to hang out one night but failed to meet up again before she left. The subject line of her goodbye note to me was “Don’t cry for me, Argentina,” she went on to say she had a wonderful time in Buenos Aires. As a singer and lover of musical theater, I grew up humming that famous Andrew Lloyd Weber/Tim Rice song myself. Evita never said those exact words, but sadly and a bit shamefully, I admit that this musical was more or less all I knew of Argentina, its history, or about Eva Duarte de Perón (Evita) for a long time.
Whether one believes all the good Evita did and calls her a saint (many have actually tried to make her a saint through the Vatican) or thinks she abused her power and calls her a “whore,” there is no question that the story of her short life (she died of cancer at the age of 33) captures and fascinates everyone who learns about it. A Dutch transplant Emily, with whom I had dinner at the Evita Museum restaurant one night, likes to say that the Evita Museum is all propaganda and she prefers eating at the restaurant over the museum itself. There are countless legends and myths about this first lady of Argentina, and she is still omnipresent in this city. And next month, to mark the 60 year anniversary of her death, Buenos Aires is gearing up for something special. Evita fever is also being felt thousands of miles away, as a new revival of the musical Evita with Ricky Martin and Argentine star Elena Rogers (great NYT article on how she won the part) opened on April 5 on Broadway.
I rather enjoyed the Evita museum (the food wasn’t too bad either) when I went to visit on a quiet Sunday afternoon. It chronicles her rise to fame, all the work she did for the poor, children, women, and her country, and how fabulous she looked doing all those things.
It’s not difficult to find Evita in Buenos Aires. You can visit her final resting place in Recoleta (the story of what happened with her body after her death is quite sad and tragic… her body was taken and buried in Spain and Italy before being returned to Argentina in 1974). Below is a photo of the Duarte family mausoleum and an image from her funeral procession.
I saw this poster on the side of a kiosk near Cementerio de la Recoleta. You can go see a tango show about Evita. Evita lives!!!
This is the Ministry of Health building in Centro that has a 10-story tall image of Evita. It was unveiled last July – I’ve only seen the north side (facing the wealthy part of the city), which is what my photo below is showing. I didn’t know that the south side, which faces the poorer section of Buenos Aires, has Evita smiling.
Of course there is Casa Rosada (pink house) where she used to make her speeches from its balconies (photo below). There are free guided tours of Casa Rosada on the weekends where visitors are led through various parts of the building, including a quick walk in & out of the president’s office as well as a room dedicated to some of the strong female figures in Argentine history. Evita is featured prominently there as well.
The week before I left Buenos Aires I went to visit the bicentennial museum adjacent to Casa Rosada. On one side of the museum you can trace the political and presidential history of Argentina where one can learn a bit more about Juan Perón as well as his famous wife. The other side of the museum displayed a portrait of the Perón couple and the dress worn by Evita in the painting.
And this is something I found out a few months into my stay in Argentina; there is a city that was built to look like Evita! This Ciudad de Evita is about 15 miles outside of Buenos Aires. You can see the profile of Evita in the air; I tried to look for it when I flew in and out of the capital but I’m sad to report that I couldn’t clearly make it out. I found this image on Google.
Where I found Evita in Buenos Aires:
Cementerio de la Recoleta: Junín 1790 in Recoleta, free English guided tours on Tues/Thurs at 11AM
Museo Evita: Lafinur 2988 near Gutierrez, Palermo Chico
Museo Bicentenario: Paseo Colón 100, behind Casa Rosada, open Wednesday to Sunday, free admission
Casa Rosada: Plaza de Mayo. Open for public tours on Saturdays and Sundays.
If you want more, this New York Times article on Evita (March 9, 2012) is great: Evita’s Buenos Aires