I’m working at a tiny disadvantage today, as I visited the Museo Evita a couple of weeks ago and photographs are not allowed, but fortunately for potential visitors, the website is well done with a lot of information.
The English-speaking world is often introduced to her first via the musical “Evita,” which is unfortunate, as it was sourced in anti-Perónist accounts and is historically inaccurate. In any case, regardless of the facts of her life, Eva Perón is subjected to the sort of scrutiny and sneering criticism that male political figures are rarely, if ever, subjected to.
It would be difficult, or even impossible, to overstate the cultural impact of Eva Perón in Argentina (as a foreigner here, I am reminded of this Sarah Glidden comic often). She is memorialized in very large ways, including the 100 peso note…
…and the entire Ministry of Health building:
Small wonder then that the museum dedicated to her appears to be well-funded with a very engaging community presence. The vexing question of why the English-language Wikipedia identifies her primarily as an actress is perhaps a larger one.
Incidentally, wanna see how she’s identified in her Latin American Google results?
The building that houses Museo Evita and the cafe was built in the early 1900s and acquired by Eva’s social aid foundation in 1948 as Temporary Home #2, serving as a transitional support home for women and children.
These sorts of buildings present a bit of a challenge for chronological presentation, as you can see on the map that visitors receive:
But it’s not so difficult to navigate. There are signs and an abundance of security staff to make sure visitors know where the chronology goes next. Honestly, I would not change the set up at all; who ever feels like life moves predictably?
The museum assumes visitors have enough familiarity with Argentine history to understand the context of things, and the treatment overall is kept rather light. Most of the signage is translated into English, so English speakers will not be lost. Video clips are also subtitled with English.
Since I don’t have many photos to offer, I’m going to briefly mention my biggest impressions from the museum.
The woman had an exceptional amount of hustle. Evita was born in the sticks, the fifth child in a wealthy man’s illegitimate, side family. That man abandoned her family, leaving them in dire poverty. She went to the big city at age 15 to be an actress, which had to be at least as unforgiving an industry to women in the 1930s and 40s as it is today. She worked hard and was active in her unions, helping found the Argentine Radio Association and serving as its president in 1944. Evita took no half-measures and was probably incapable of doing so.
Women’s suffrage. Evita is widely credited with driving the issue of women’s suffrage to its political fruition, legalized in 1947 and first exercised in 1951. She also organized a women’s political party. The museum has a newsreel on the women’s vote, showcasing the government’s preparation of the new voter rolls and how to vote, and featuring a scene in which an Evita lookalike argues passionately with reluctant female family members on the civic duty of women to exercise their right to vote.
The funeral room. The room adjoining the funeral room shows a large video of the Cabildo Abierto del Justicialismo–a massive rally where the assembled people pressed Evita to accept the nomination for vice president–and the Renunciation, a radio address made nine days later where she declined the nomination (these would be among her last public acts; she would die of uterine cancer less than a year later). The visitor then turns and sees silent footage from her 14 day funeral, during which more than two million people came to pay tribute. Her voice from the Cabildo rally and Renunciation in the room behind is still heard over the funeral images, creating a moving impression of memory and legacy.
Before exiting through a nicely stocked gift shop, visitors can participate in the Millones photo project, taking a self-portrait with a photo of Evita using a mounted digital camera. I took one, but it doesn’t seem like the website has been updated in awhile.
Finally, I had some fun in the swag room, where I picked up the museum guide and the lady’s autobiography.
At 180 pesos (at the time, anyway; about US $6), it’s one of the more expensive museums I’ve been to. But it is certainly worth a visit! It’s easily accessible via the D line of the subway, and is very close to the botanical gardens. The cafe is really nice, too.