Learning about Evita this week made me think back to a comment that Professor Jon shared in one of our classes, that female political leaders in Latin America are more accepted than in other places. Without a doubt Evita left a mark in Argentina and become an icon of popular culture, even having a broadway show made after her life story. What I found particularly interesting about Peronism is that Evita played a key role in Perón’s appeal to the masses, however, at the renunciamiento speech we can notice how she attempts to downplay her role. I think that this need to reference her contributions and at the same time downplay her importance in Perón’s achievements speaks to the heteronormative role of men and women as couples but also in this case as political allies.
I will be looking at the renunciamiento as compiled from newsreel and archival footage (document 3). To begin with, I noticed that Evita’s speech gets confusing when we pay attention to who she is speaking to or as. She speaks about her own experiences with Perón and what she has done for the people, she speaks to the masses but also for the masses, and she speaks about the oligarchy. Consequently she has to keep switching from first person and to third person, and at a certain point she even uses the third person to talk about herself. Moreover, Evita calls Perón “my General” and the use of the possessive in this case, knowing the relationship they have, is ambiguous. She talks about “my General” as her romantic partner and as a political figure who represents her. Below are a couple of excerpts that demonstrate the ambiguity in her speech:
“My General, we the people, your vanguard of descamisados, are willing to finish off, once and for all, the intrigue, the slander, the defamation, and the merchants who sell out their people and their country.”
“For I know the deep affection you have for the descamisados and because I carry a debt of gratitude in my heart to them, the people who, on October 17, 1945, gave me back my life, my light, my soul, and my heart by bringing the General back to me.”
“They are upset that Eva Perón has devoted herself to the Argentine people; they are upset that instead of devoting herself to the oligarchs’ parties, she has devoted her hours, her nights and her days, to alleviating sorrows and healing wounds.”
At certain moments she uses the first person to talk about what she has done for the descamisados and how she has helped the people, which is turn helps Juan Perón, but at the end she attributes all the success to him:
“For I always wanted to rub shoulders with the workers, the elderly, the children, and those who suffer, working side by side and heart to heart with them to ensure that they love Perón even more, and to serve as a bridge of peace between Perón and the descamisados of our Fatherland.” (Evita clearly outlines her role in Perón’s political project)
“All these years of my life, I have devoted my nights and days to helping the humble people of our Fatherland, without consideration for the days or the nights or the sacrifices.”
“I have done nothing; everything is Perón. Perón is the Fatherland, Perón is every- thing, and we are all light-years distant from the Leader of the Nation.” (when she uses the third person here, she is talking as part of the descamisados and talking about Perón objectively as a political leader).
Lastly, I think that Evita’s story makes us reflect on the importance of representation in politics. When we think about female leaders occupying positions of power, firstly it matters who they are (their intersectionalities) but secondly it matters whether their actions and policies actually reflect the egalitarian beliefs of feminisms.
Discussion questions 😉 :
How do you think that switching from first person to third person impacts the audience’s emotions? How do you think that gender norms impacted her decision to decline the position of Vice President?
Out of curiosity, which female political leader inspires you the most? I’m personally inspired by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sônia Guajajara!