Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Death of Eva Peron: Israel's ambassador shakes his head

Eva (Evita) Peron died 60 years ago today. The story of her precipitous rise from abject poverty to the pinnacle of power, from anonymity to immortality, and her death at the age of 33, give her story mythical proportions - and of course, we've all encountered the musical with her name.


During her short life and for decades thereafter, however, she was an intensely polarizing figure, loved or hated with fierce intensity. This polarization was so extreme that it caused Yaacov Zur, the acting Israeli ambassador to Argentina, to send back to his superiors two almost contradictory reports about the events after her death.

On August 4th 1952, Zur criticised his superiors in the Foreign Ministry: we (Israel) should have done more than we did, as the Argentinian government, media and public are keeping track of the international responses. Intially the Israeli embassy responded to Evita's death on its own, but in spite of our repeated entreaties, there was no adequate response from home; eventually we had to act as if we were receiving condolence cables even though we weren't. Political considerations aside, it should have been possible to respond with greater human empathy to such a tragic death of a young woman.

The very next day Zur sent his description of the mourning and mass psychosis - or was it, as he seemed to imply, cynical manipulated political spectacle? He described the anguish of masses of the poor, who regarded Evita as their guardian mother and saint, and her death as a cataclysmic event, with the hospitals full of hysterical women.
And yet, as it happens in this country with its incessant propaganda, the genuine mourning has been transformed into a demonstration of vulgarity and idolatry. Every day the media spreads additional harebrained commemoration schemes and no-one dares point out their ludicrousness. Altars are set up to her on street corners, schools and hospitals. Factory workers and restaurant waiters put down their tools and stand in her memory a quarter hour every hour. The minister of education has decreed that government announcements about her be read in every school every day. The minister of health has ordered a gigantic 100-kg candle that will burn for a hundred years, and he will put it out and re-light it every day at the hour of her death. [This seems not to be happening today]. The under-minister of propaganda has decreed that the daily news will be at 8:25, not 8:30, because that was the hour of her death. The Tango has been outlawed until further notice. And of course, one of the unions sent a telegram to the Vatican demanding her Cannonisation...

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