Argentina pays tribute to icon Eva Peron on 70th anniversary of death

·2-min read

Crisis-wracked Argentina on Tuesday marked the 70th anniversary of the death of iconic political figure Eva Peron with a series of events, marches and tributes.

Known affectionately as "Evita", Maria Eva Duarte de Peron became a legend due to her fight for women's rights and her premature death in 1952 aged just 33.

The wife of former president Juan Domingo Peron (1946 to 1955 and 1973-74), she helped found the Peronist political ideology, an eclectic mass movement with sometimes opposing political currents but with a pronounced populist social bent.

In Buenos Aires, trade unions gathered outside the ministry of social development, a building whose facade is adorned with Eva Peron's image.

It was the place where two million people congregated in August 1951 to ask Peron to support her husband's bid for reelection as his running mate.

But already battling cancer, the former actress turned down the invitation and died less than a year later.

For student Alma Gambi, 14, Peron remains "an inspiration" to the working classes and women.

Center-left Peronist President Alberto Fernandez paid tribute to the icon on Twitter by quoting one of her most famous phrases: "I know that you will gather my name and carry it as a flag to victory."

"Here we are, dear Eva, with the conviction of continuing to work for the people, always putting first those with the least," added Fernandez.

His vice-president and former leader Cristina Kirchner described Peron as "an Argentine passion" in her own Twitter post.

- 'Standard-bearer of the humble' -

Earlier this year, Argentina returned Peron's image to the 100 pesos bill after liberal former president Mauricio Macri had discontinued a series of bank notes that paid tribute to her.

Faced with inflation of more than 60 percent in the last year and a chronic currency devaluation, Argentina's 100 pesos bill is now worth less than one US dollar.

Inflation in the cash-strapped South American country is expected to top 80 percent this year.

Born on May 7, 1919 in Los Toldos, 200 kilometers (120 miles) from the capital, Peron moved to Buenos Aires at 15 in a bid to launch her acting career.

There she met the future president in 1944 and they were married the next year.

Peron's fame carried beyond Argentina as her life story was depicted in books, a long-running musical and a film starring pop icon Madonna, who also performed a song about Peron: Don't Cry For Me Argentina.

After her death, her body was subjected to a dramatic and macabre escapade as it was whisked away and hidden in Italy for several years following the 1955 military coup, before being sent to Spain to join her exiled husband.

It was finally repatriated in 1974 and now lies in the Duarte family tomb in the chic Recoleta cemetery in the capital.

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