The Spirit of Evita & Argentina's Protests

by Suzie Raven

More than fifty years after her death, actress and the former first lady of Argentina, Evita Duarte Perón is still everywhere in Buenos Aires. (This Saturday, July 26 will mark 56 years since she died.) Billboards advertise "Evita's movement” and tourists always crowd around her family’s tomb at the city’s famous cemetery. Farmers wave signs with her name during protests against the government’s tax hikes on soybean and grain exports.

People remember Evita's seemingly constant struggle for social justice. She was instrumental in women’s suffrage, crafted a Declaration of Rights for Senior Citizens, and built twelve hospitals throughout the country. Dolane Larson wrote of the former first lady: “Evita was concerned with providing her special loves — the children, the seniors, the workers and the poor — with housing that was more than adequate (adequate was not acceptable to Evita)." As a champion of the workers, odds are that Evita’s heart would lie with the farmers in the country’s current struggle. (For more background on these protests by farmers, please see: "Argentina in the Protest Season.")

At the very least, Evita would be happy that the farmers have found a voice. During the protests, crowds would swell to more than 100,000 people. Noise exploded as the protestors banged pots and pans, beat drums and shot fireworks.

Even after weeks of daily protests on my street — I live a block from Argentina's Congress — I could never ignore the noise. The sound of fireworks consistently sent me and other students to the balcony. President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner could not ignore it either, and would frequently take to her own podium at these rallies to respond to the opposition’s speeches. Even those unwillingly caught in the crossfire made their voices heard. They passed out flyers that said “Ni con el campo, ni con el gobierno,” meaning not with the farmers or with the government.

Evita, the Argentine workers' champion, would support this dialogue between citizens and the government. It’s not just a handful of people in suits sitting at a mahogany table making decisions. Four months of protests worked. Late last week, Vice President Julio Cobos broke a tie in the Senate and stopped the bill that supported Fernandez’ tax hikes on various farm commodities.

In Washington, D.C., when people are upset with President George W. Bush, they don’t take their pots, pans, drums, flags and fireworks to the White House Lawn. Too often, they assume nothing can be done, but the Argentine farmers proved that’s not true. Take note, disgruntled U.S. citizens.

(The photos of Argentine protestors are © copyright Suzie Raven, and used with permission.)

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