Pagu/ Evita

Evita and Puga: Inspirational Latin American Feminists

               In mid-century Latin America, women struggled to make peace with the homemaker and caregiver ideology of the era and their newfound sense of social, political, and spiritual freedom. Several factors, including the onslaught of industrialization, progressive systems of thought characterizing politics (such as populism), and inspirational figures like Eva Peron and Patricia Galvao, created an atmosphere in which women could begin to express themselves. In many countries, they won the right to vote, and in others, they were able to take “respectable” jobs as schoolteachers. Many of the changes that women were able to achieve in the early feminists’ movements may not have been readily seeable, as the patriarchal vision of a “perfect wife” was still a “woman who is quiet, intuitive, and who does not make speeches” (Problems in Modern Latin America, 197).

                In the case of Eva Peron, First Lady to President Juan Peron of Argentina, she was both adored and worshipped by the citizenry, while also being utterly condemned for her outspokenness and attributed power by her opponents, and by the prevailing sexist idealists of the era. While dedicating her life to helping the poor and children, Eva Peron asserted her independence, but most of her power was attributed to her husband’s consent and assistance. As Taylor states in Problems, “A woman may involve herself in any area of activity to which her man directs her, but her place and the function for which she was born are in the home” (194).  This ideology, women can gain some semblance of power through their spouse’s consent and only if it benefits the male agenda, seems hypocritical and unfair. Were the feminists aware of their concessions, in that, they felt that they had to give up some rights to gain others of more significance? Did they truly believe that full citizenship for women entailed them keeping their place in the home? How is that real freedom? Is it proper freedom/true equality if it comes with clauses, addendums, and fine print that cater to the male viewpoint?

                Peron herself addresses this contradictory stance in her own writings. She seems to take pride and joy out of being risen in status and power through the help of her husband, stating “He encouraged me to rise … In this, as in everything, he showed me the way” (Problems, 200). She address critics of her brand of feminism, saying that she is not consenting to the superiority of a man, but rather realizing where the support of a man can lead her (201). Peron also makes a case for the importance of keeping the maternalistic sensibilities alive, that women live for others, triumph for others, and that “social service is something we women have in the blood!” In some ways, Peron may be endorsing the sexist ideology of the era, but she also recognizes it, turns it around, and uses it to her advantage. It’s not a problem to accept help from men, in Peron’s views, if you’re her type of feminist.

                Another influential feminist of the time was Patricia Galvao, also known as Pagu, of Brazil. She was far more radical and confrontational than Peron. She dressed in short skirts, wore lots of makeup, and could hold her own during the most inappropriate conversations or in any “boys’ club.” Pagu seemed to disregard the fact that she was living in a time when women “were to be enlightened, resourceful, and independent on the one hand and satisfied with the restrictions of the role of housewife on the other hand” (Human Tradition, 169). She would gladly grasp the former hand, while swatting away the latter, and she didn’t care how anyone would react to her decisions. Pagu also had a rational view of feminism in that “women could only achieve equality and sexual liberation after poverty and class exploitation had been eliminated” (173). Pagu, as explained by Besse in Human Traditions, may have been marginalized or forgotten in the history books, but she was as influential and inspiring a figure as Peron.

                Both of these women recognized and broke through the sexist ideologies of the day with their own brands of feminism. They were strong women, sometimes backed by supportive husbands, and they made a name for themselves because of their uncompromising feminist ideals.

 Evita\’s Funeral

*Somewhat long video, but amazing footage of Eva Peron’s funeral, at 3 – 3:20 you can see the sheer size of the crowds drawn to Evita’s powerful speeches. Despite the fact that Eva Peron never held an official political office, she was eventually given an official funeral usually reserved for a head of state.


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