Week Ten: “Power to the People”

This week’s readings could have been titled: Populist leaders and the power or the Radio. People like Juan and Eva Peron (Argentina), Getulio Vargas (Brazil), Jorge Elieser Gaitan (Colombia), were categorized as ‘populist’ leaders but I would say that more than populist; they were smart enough to find a way to be charismatic, relatable, and similar they intended to govern. Each one of these leaders, and especially Eva Peron, found in the radio a direct communication channel which catapulted her to power. Populist leaders were not just defined by a normative political style or movement; they were at the centre of a specific time where social and political change was achieved through the incorporation of new technologies such as radio (commercial, propaganda and songs). In the case of Argentine’s working classes, Tango songs were a way to connect with their struggles, solitudes, and desire which in many cases where underestimated or regarded as socially classless. When I think of Tango, I think of Carlos Gardel and the song Cambalache, which my mother used to play and sing along. Similarly, in the same way Gardel was known, remembered, and loved by many in Argentinians and internationally; Eva Peron was a formidable, almost saint-like figure which transformed her country political arena and made her a unique symbol.


Peronismo in Argentina started during the 1930’s (la Década Infama) and it was very well supported by the labour workers in that country. Juan Peron himself was a very popular leader, always finding effective ways to communicate his political message which seemed to ally with the country’s working class. Peron, a cleaver man, once in power not only free tango from previous censorship, but also capitalized that he could speak and swear like a Tango singer to connect to the people. Peron was the typical ‘self-made man’, someone who embodied the antithesis of the argentine oligarchy and who followed the social compass of the workers and industrialist people of the time. On the other hand, Juan Peron also used his political position to stablish networks of loyalty from which he could give to his political allies’ jobs, fixed favours, money, food, and more. Conversely, Eva Peron, Juan Peron’s second wife, had a clear and even more loyal relationship with the working Argentinian masses to the point that she renamed them “Los Descamisados” (The Shirtless). This unshakable relationship that Eva Peron created facilitated with her descamisados, positioned her as one of the most powerful people (and woman) in the country. Eva became simply, Evita and with her ability to draw people in, formed a powerful alliance with the working classes of Argentina making her husband’s government and party stronger.


In a sense, and to my opinion, Eva Peron was more powerful and loved than his husband ever was. She was never welcomed in Argentine’s high-society, but this did not stop Eva. On the contrary, their acts of cruelty only gave her more courage to get even closer to the working people (to her descamizados). I find interesting how the readings depict the physical transformation which Evita underwent, where her hairstyle and wardrobe evolved, making her stronger, and loving, motherly-like figure of the Argentine people. Eva Peron founded her own foundation (Eva Peron Foundation, FEP), which allowed her to gradually build schools, hospitals, create jobs, and help the poor (donations). Her foundation gave her the political, economic, and social power to get even closer to the working classes of Argentina and made of her a beloved political figure. Her speeches were recorded and played on the radio and heart by many in the cities and across the whole country regardless of class and social status. It also allowed her to be in practically a ubiquitous being ever present. Furthermore, Eva Peron is a romantic political figure which, up to this moment, for some still symbolizes hope for the social struggles which the poor still have to endure at the hands of the powerful.


  1. When you describe the techniques that these leaders used to gain support, it is scary looking at our own governments and seeing the same tactics used in a much more subtle way.

  2. Wonderful posting and look at this weeks chapter. I think your comments on the Perón’s (especially Evita) power and popularity in Argentina was really interesting and in-depth. Would have liked to hear your thoughts on Brazil and the impact of the radio in others countries in the region, but I think the analysis you gave about Argentina went far beyond my look at that country during this period. Overall, great post and wonder look at this weeks chapter.

    1. Hi there,

      Thanks a lot for your comments. I also wanted to include more about Brazil but I run out of time.
      Take care.

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