Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas
Photo Essay

In Tattoos, Protests and Street Art, Perón’s Legacy Lives On

Argentines are still commemorating, and arguing over, Juan and Eva Perón, as this photo essay shows.

May 3, 2022
Reading Time: 4 minutes

This article is adapted from AQ’s special report on the Summit of the Americas

The Peronist legacy in Argentina has few if any parallels elsewhere in Latin America. Nearly 50 years have passed since Juan Perón was last president (he ruled from 1946 to 1955 and again from 1973 to 1974), but the contours of his political platform continue to define the country’s ideological divide. His second wife, Eva, was just 33 at the time of her death in 1952, but also remains an almost saintly figure among admirers thanks to a preternatural ability to connect with Argentina’s working class.

Their legacy continues to evolve—and be disputed by many parties—in today’s Argentina. Both President Alberto Fernández and his vice president, former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, call themselves Peronists. So too does around 37% of the general public, according to a 2020 poll. But Peronism means different things to different people. For proof, look no further than the diversity of Peronist iconography on display in this photo essay.

Images of the Peróns and their successors are a common sight not only at museums, but at cafés, public buildings and protest marches. Seventy years after Eva’s death, she and her husband remain touchstones in Argentine art, politics and much else in between—inspiring devotion, derision and nostalgia in almost equal measure.

The Peronist March plays every hour on the hour at Perón Perón Resto Bar in Buenos Aires’ Palermo neighborhood. Patrons are encouraged to stand and sing along with the lyrics of “Long live Perón!” The restaurant, opened in 2010, is a veritable shrine to the storied couple—complete with an altar to Eva where devotees light candles in her memory.
Admiration for the Peróns extends to people born long after their rule. At a march celebrating the inauguration of Alberto Fernández in 2019, many demonstrators walked the streets draped in LGBT pride flags and T-shirts made by a local Peronist club. Others wore tributes to Eva and Juan Perón and their successors, including this prominent display of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s initials (right).
Notebook covers wait for assembly at the Gráfica del Pueblo, a “people’s printshop” in Buenos Aires. Los días más felices (the happiest days) recalls the relative economic prosperity of workers during the Perón years. From the time Perón was elected president in 1946 to the year he lost power in 1955, Argentina’s public sector workforce doubled in size. Wages and working conditions also improved.
Two giant portraits of Eva by artist Alejandro Marmo have adorned the iconic Ministry of Public Works building in Buenos Aires since 2011. The Argentine flag backdrop, lit up under the presidencies of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Alberto Fernández, was left dark during Mauricio Macri’s presidency from 2015 to 2019. A smiling portrait of Eva looks south, toward the city’s working-class neighborhoods, while a more challenging pose faces the richer north.
Not all Peronist iconography is reverential. Indeed, many Argentines view the Peróns’ economic legacy as one of profligacy that paved the way for the country’s current travails. Marina Olmi, a Buenos Aires artist, instead has a more ironic take—depicting Eva and her husband in quotidian, at times outlandish, detail. There’s Eva as a chef, an astronaut or, pictured, as the biblical Eve to Juan Perón’s Adam.
Eduardo Valdés, a Peronist congressmember and Argentina’s former ambassador to the Vatican, runs Café de las Palabras, an invite-only “closed door cafe” in Buenos Aires. His collection of Peronist memorabilia, on display at the café, includes references to modern-day figures, including Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, her late husband former President Néstor Kirchner, and even Pope Francis—whom The Economist once referred to as the “Peronist Pope” thanks to his Argentine roots and criticisms of untrammeled capitalism.
Eva in particular has garnered a following among a younger generation of Argentines. Blue forget-me-not flowers, a discreet Peronist symbol when the movement was banned under Argentina’s military dictatorship, are another popular choice.
Break time at the Gráfica del Pueblo, alongside a picture of Eva. The low-cost printing house publishes work along ideological lines that tends toward social justice and support for workers’ rights.
Alfonso Calvo, who collects Peronist memorabilia, became drawn to the famous former leaders after first supporting Cristina Fernández and Néstor Kirchner. Here, Calvo holds a book that challenges readers to find a hidden Juan Perón à la Where’s Waldo? A framed clipping from the Página 12 newspaper, from the day after Néstor Kirchner died in 2010, sits on a table nearby.
The Santa Evita restaurant in Buenos Aires’ Villa Crespo neighborhood, which also features an altar to Eva and is adorned with murals and imagery of the Peróns, has become a favorite for Peronists and tourists alike.

Tags: Alberto Fernández, Argentina, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, Néstor Kirchner, Peronism, Photo Essay, Summit of the Americas
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