Ava. Considering my hometown is the same as the famous former Hollywood actress Ava Gardner, I might be expected to write about Ava. Today, however, I want to mention another former actress with a similar sounding and spelled name, “Eva.”
I’m referring to Eva Duarte de Perón. How much do you know about the former first lady of Argentina?
I recall first studying Eva and Juan Perón during a Latin American history class at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. My professor was from Chile — Castillo was his last name. There, in Chapel Hill, in the spring of ’93, I learned about the complicated history of Juan and Eva Perón, who was known affectionately as “Evita” by thousands of Argentines. I learned that while the working-class “descamisados” viewed Eva as a saintly woman, countless others, such as members of the military and bourgeoisie, were not Eva fans.
While working at IBM in the ’96 timeframe, I became friends with a beautiful, kind coworker and Argentine woman named Nieves. I recall asking Nieves about her view of Eva Perón and was fascinated to hear her tell a story of a poor family with whom she was acquainted who had been gifted a house by Eva Perón, after Eva met that family when one of their children was in the hospital. I remember Nieves telling me that the family still owned the house and that the house was located in a section of Buenos Aires known as “Evita Village.”
Whether fan or not, one can recognize that Eva Perón impacted the lives of many in Argentina and throughout the world. Just last month, Eva’s continued impact in Argentina evidenced itself as the current President of Argentina, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, announced that the image of Eva would appear on the new 100-peso note, making Eva Perón the first woman to appear on Argentine currency.
Learning about Eva’s upcoming appearance on Argentina’s currency made me wonder about how many women have been represented to date on U.S. currency. For example, did you know that Martha Washington was solely featured on the $1 bill in 1886 and that the only other woman to appear on U.S. paper currency was Pocahontas in 1865? Are you aware that no U.S. women appeared our paper currency during the 20th century? Last, do you have a suggestion for which woman in recent U.S. history deserves to be recognized with representation on U.S. currency?
Getting back to actresses and Eva Perón, earlier this year, Elena Roger became the first Argentine actress to portray Eva on Broadway in the long-running Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice musical titled, “Evita.” I hope to catch Elena’s performance in the role. Until then, here’s a “cry-out” to history-making, inspirational women like Elena and Eva.