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Argentina’s Evita exhibit aims to ‘show real person’ behind the myths

July 9, 1997

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) _ After watching the rest of the world celebrate their former first lady in theater, film and fashion, citizens of Eva Peron’s homeland now have access to some ``Evitamania.″

``Thousand and One Evitas: A Woman Who Changed History″ offers Argentines a chance to see Evita’s dresses and other memorabilia, listen to radio broadcasts of her voice, and watch her address huge rallies on black-and-white movie newsreels.

The exhibition at the Palais de Glace was organized by the Evita Peron Historical Research foundation, presided over by Evita’s 29-year-old grandniece Cristina Alvarez Rodriguez.

``There are a lot of myths about Evita,″ Alvarez Rodriguez told The Associated Press. ``Some are positive, some negative. The point of the exhibit is to show the real person behind those myths, a hard-working woman of action.″

The worldwide fascination with Eva Peron began in the 1970s with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical ``Evita.″ Then came Alan Parker’s film starring Madonna that was based on the musical, followed by Evita’s dresses, shown at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art as part of a Christian Dior exhibit.

The musical, banned by the former military dictatorship, never was staged here. The film aroused interest, though many Argentines deplored what they said was its departure from historical truth.

The main theme of the Argentine exhibit is the 50th anniversary of the Evita-sponsored 1947 law that gave Argentine women the right to vote in national elections. Women voted here for the first time in 1951.

``I’m no Peronist, but she’s the greatest woman in the history of South America,″ said Eduardo Sigmaringo, 64.

Not everybody shared Sigmaringo’s enthusiasm.

``It’s just a lot of propaganda. The Peronists want to convince people that (Evita) defended workers’ rights, but she only worked for her party,″ said Juan Stigliano, a 29-year-old doctor.

The biggest attraction of the exhibit is Evita’s collection of dresses, including those given her by the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco during Evita’s 1947 ``rainbow tour″ of Europe as goodwill ambassador for her husband Juan Peron’s recently elected government.

The exhibition begins with Evita’s arrival in the capital as a teen-ager in the 1930s, seeking fame and fortune as actress Eva Duarte. It ends with her death of cancer at 33, in 1952, when she was hailed as ``the spiritual leader of the nation.″

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EDITORS: ``Thousand and One Evitas: A Woman Who Changed History″ runs until July 27.

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