Many people have seen the movie Evita which chronicles Eva Peron’s rise to power in Argentina. However, the movie ends just as things really got interesting.
Eva Peron, “Spiritual Leader” of Argentina and wife of Argentine President Juan Peron died of cervical cancer on July 26, 1952. Although she had no official political title, she had been a vibrant force in her husband’s rise to power.
She was deeply adored by her “descamisados,” the Argentine working class, and just as deeply hated by the wealthy upper class. History has praised her as a feminist and a champion of the poor, and decried her as a corrupt fascist with Nazi sympathies. Her death at the age of 33 plunged Argentina into deep mourning.
What few people know, however, is that the story of Eva Peron dead is almost as interesting as the story of Eva Peron alive.
Eva Peron Preserved
Immediately after Evita’s death, Eva’s husband Juan Peron paid physician Pedro Ara $100,000 to embalm Eva’s body. Ara cosmetically restored her cancer-ridden form and replaced her bodily fluids with glycerine to preserve her organs and tissues. The whole process took two to three years.
Meanwhile, Peron began construction on a monument to Evita. It was to be bigger than the Statue of Liberty. The top of the monument would feature a man representing one of Eva’s descamisados. Eva’s body would be displayed in a glass coffin at the base of the monument.
Before Juan Peron could complete his grand plans for Eva, however, he was overthrown in a military coup in 1955. He escaped to Spain, leaving Eva’s body in Argentina.
Eva Peron in Hostile Hands
Eva’s body left the new regime in Argentina with an interesting problem. They couldn’t destroy it–that might cause the masses to turn against them. They couldn’t bury it, either–any place that Eva Peron was buried would be a potential lightning rod for Peronist agitators.
Over the next few years, the Eva Peron corpse was shuffled from one ignominious location to another, once spending time stuffed into a piece of furniture in an army major’s office. There are bizarre stories about various army officers falling in love with and even having sex with the body, but these allegations have not been verified.
In 1957, the Argentine government finally smuggled Eva’s body out of the country and had her buried under an assumed name at the Musocco Cemetery in Milan. There she rested for fourteen years.
Eva Peron and Juan Peron Reunited
No one knows exactly who tipped off Juan Peron as to Evita’s whereabouts. What is known is that in 1971, Eva’s body was exhumed from the cemetery in Milan and transferred to Juan’s home in Spain. At this point, Juan Peron was 75 years old and married to his third wife, Isabel.
Juan and Isabel kept Eva’s perfectly preserved body on the dining room table. Isabel combed Eva’s hair every day and often–with Juan’s encouragement–lay down beside her in an attempt to absorb her charisma.
Evita Returns to Argentina
This odd domestic arrangement ended in 1973 when Juan Peron returned from his exile in Spain to Argentina and was elected president for a third time. He left Eva’s body behind. But his triumph was short-lived. He died in 1974.
Isabel had Eva’s body returned to Argentina and displayed her for a short time beside Juan, although the two were not buried together. Eva was finally laid to rest in Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires. Her body lies in a specially constructed vault more than twenty feet underground where she is at last safe from grave robbers and prying eyes.
For now it appears that her long journey is at an end.