Posts Tagged ‘Eva Peron’
The breaking news is that the family now plans to bring the body of Michael Jackson to Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Apparently the family could not find the nearby helipad, so the body will be driven there from Forest Lawn Memorial Park. This procession will likely turn into one more ring in the media circus. (The fact that an actual circus parade is scheduled for downtown L.A. today—to announce tomorrow’s opening of the circus at Staples Center—needs no comment.)
Hearing this, the only thing I could think of was the death of Argentina’s Eva Peron—Evita.
For those who only know Evita from the musical, there is a much more fascinating and complex story that the show barely touches.
In 1952, Evita was a more significant star in Argentina than Elvis, Princess Di or Michael Jackson ever were. Their outsized influence was cultural; Evita used her self-made stardom—some would say idolatry—to help radicalize the politics of a nation.
How she got there and what she did with that power remain the stuff of living, breathing controversy today, fifty-seven years after her death that year. You cannot visit Argentina, or follow online discussions, and not quickly find ongoing arguments about her motives and her role in history.
Evita was a master of creating a bigger-than-life public persona that would engender absolute loyalty and love, not just masking the possibility of darker motives and actions, but obliterating that possibility completely. Some would say that there were few better at this sort of manipulation. She made herself Santa Evita.
Which is why when she died in July 1952, millions who believed she could do no wrong turned out in the streets of Buenos Aires. Even those of us jaded by big funerals and mourning for big public figures can only be awed by the films and accounts of that mass of people. Though myths have grown up, it is said that every flower in Buenos Aires was bought up that day, and the pictures make that plausible. Eight people died in the crush of mourners.
There is one more point to make about Evita in death. Because of her enduring appeal and popular power, and because of the perpetual political controversies about Peronism, Evita’s body was secreted out of the country and spent many years in Europe. Her well-travelled remains eventually returned to Buenos Aires, where her tomb is a (controversial) tourist attraction.
In some ways, we are experiencing a sort of Evita moment, especially in the media coverage of the Michael Jackson death. We will see whether this last-minute funeral procession prompts even a little of that Buenos Aires madness. And we will see whether in death, bitter disagreement and controversy will interrupt the peaceful rest of Michael Jackson. There’s no doubt that in the short term it will; only time will tell what fifty years bring.