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Juan Carlos Pallarols, Replica of Death Mask of Eva Peron, 1952.

Bowers Museum To Unveil U.S.’s First Eva Perón Exhibition July 16, 2005

Evita: Up Close and Personal illustrates the life of the dynamic and charismatic former First Lady of Argentina who transformed underprivileged minorities into a majority with a major role in national development.

(SANTA ANA, CALIFORNIA) -- On July 16, 2005, the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, California, will unveil the first U.S. exhibit of Eva Perón, the dynamic former First Lady of Argentina who is considered one of the most powerful and influential political figures in world history.

Evita: Up Close and Personal will feature more than 50 personal artifacts -- never before seen in the U.S. -- from Perón’s inspirational and controversial life. The objects are on loan from Museo Evita in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The exhibition will be on display through October 16, 2005.

"We are proud that the Argentinean Consulate selected the Bowers Museum to showcase this exhibition of one of history’s most famous women," says Bowers President Peter Keller, Ph.D. "It’s very exciting to be the chosen venue to feature an exhibition of a proud, powerful woman who had such a major impact on her country and the world."

The intimate exhibition features documents, dresses, shoes, personal objects, photos, films and writings, all of which irrefutably capture Evita’s stature as a world-renowned figure. The most intriguing objects in the exhibition include:

The death mask, wrought in silver, is a replica created in 1952 by Argentine silversmith Juan Carlos Pallarols, the son of the original death mask creator, Carlos Pallarols. When Evita died, her husband built a memorial featuring the famous death mask. The memorial was never unveiled because a military coup ousted Perón in 1955 and destroyed the Eva Perón Foundation. Evita’s embalmed body was kidnapped and hidden for 17 years, prompting outrage by Evita’s followers. The senior Pallarols was forced to destroy the sacred mask. He later suffered a stroke, distraught over being forced to destroy the mask. Pallarols‚ son made a replica of the mask, retaining the family tradition as one of Argentina’s most famous silversmith families.
Designed by Marcel Rochas, 1951
Evita wore this dress at the Gala Performance at the Teatro Colón Opera House for the anniversary of the Argentine Independence, July 9th, 1951. This dress is representative of Evita’s gala wardrobe.

Designed by dressmaker Luis Agostino, 1947
This dress was worn by Evita at the Women‚s National Assembly in the Cervantes National Theatre, an occasion in which Evita was elected President of the Women‚s Peronist Party. This type of suit was Evita‚s preference on her working days at her Foundation while providing social assistance to the poor and while visiting factories, hospitals, orphanages and public shelters for women and children.

Evita was a major promoter of the women’s civil and political rights in Argentina by fostering Law number 13.010, which passed in September 1947. She promoted active political participation of women by creating The Women’s Peronist Party and appointing delegates in provinces to inform and register Peronist women throughout the country.

Book by Eva Perón. Special Edition, 1951.
An autobiography in which Evita explains the causes she embraced and her devotion to help women, children, the poor and laborers.

Evita: Up Close and Personal will be a multi-dimensional, multi-media exhibition that will incorporate video footage and audio of Evita’s historic and vibrant public appearances.

"We’re going to create an eclectic gallery with photos and video footage of Evita’s public appearances along side her personal artifacts such as gowns, shoes, jewelry, and an assortment of various possessions," says Bowers Museum Director of Exhibit Design Paul Johnson.

Evita: Up Close and Personal will acquaint visitors with the thinking and personal works of Perón while illustrating the life and labor of a woman who made politics an instrument for transforming the underprivileged minorities of the period ˆ children, women, workers, the dispossessed, the elderly ˆ into a majority with a role in Argentina’s national development.

The exhibition reflects the historical context of Evita’s childhood, acting career, political leadership, her fight for women’s rights and for social justice, her charisma and her passion for work.

“This exhibition is not merely to bring to life a personality from the past,” says Cristina Alvarez Rodriguez, grandniece of Evita and president of The Eva Perón Historical Research Institute. “Evita is permanently present. Time has been unable to erase her presence as an idea of an unfulfilled utopia.

“Evita is present in every needy child, each forgotten elderly person, each neglected worker, each human being who has been victim of discrimination for any reason,” says Ms. Rodriguez, who inaugurated the Evita Museum in Buenos Aires on July 26, 2002. “Her love for the poor provided clear examples of her enormous vocation for service. Evita is the story of a passionate and fighting spirit that touched the hearts of her people. Her days were the days in which social justice became a reality in Argentina.”

The Argentinean Consulate approached the Bowers Museum nearly a year ago about the exhibition. After several months of negotiations, the parties agreed on the objects for the show.

“The Bowers Museum’s prestige and international recognition makes of it one of the most acknowledged institutions of its type in the West Coast,” says Luis Maria Kreckler, Consul General of Argentina. “Its commitment to displaying different aspects of world cultures makes the Bowers the ideal choice for the world premiere of Evita: Up Close and Personal.

“The Bowers’ intimate approach to the exhibit will let us all unveil, rethink and debate who really was one of Argentina’s world-known icons: Evita, a woman that today, more than 50 years after her death, is still present in the soul of Argentinians beyond political ideologies, hates and loves.”  

Evita was born María Eva Duarte on May 7, 1919 in Los Toldos, a small town in the Province of Buenos Aires. She was diagnosed with cancer in 1950, and died less than two years later at the age of 33, on July 26, 1952.

As a child, Evita dreamed of becoming a famous actress. At the age of 16, she moved to Buenos Aires. She began acting in theater, film and radio, working her way to stardom. By 1943, she had emerged as a famous radio actress, appearing on Radio Argentina, El Mundo and Radio Belgrano. Later, she began a series entitled “The Biographies of Illustrious Women” in which she portrayed historical female figures Elizabeth of England and Catherine the Great.

In 1944, Evita participated in a fundraiser organized by Secretariat of Labor & Social Welfare Juan Perón, who was immediately attracted to Evita and soon asked her to be his wife. They were married October 22, 1945. When Perón ran for President in 1946, Evita accompanied him during his campaign, handing out buttons and meeting supporters. Using her weekly radio show as a platform, Evita campaigned heavily for Perón, delivering powerful speeches urging the poor to rise up. Perón won the Presidency, yet it was Evita who wound up taking the political stage.   

Evita began working furiously to unite Argentinean women in the fight for woman’s right to vote. She organized a group of women to operate local political centers. In the 1951 elections, more than three million women exercised their right to vote, a first in the country’s history.

In 1948, the Maria Eva Duarte de Perón Foundation, an institution to assist the poor, was established. This foundation, now known as the Eva Perón Foundation, built schools, daycare centers, children’s hospitals, homes for senior citizens and homes for over 25,000 workers families. Three years after Evita died, the foundation was dismantled, yet Evita’s legacy remains stronger than ever.

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