“Santa Evita,” directed by Rodrigo Garcia and Alejandro Maci, focuses on the afterlife of Eva Peron, the First Lady of Argentina, a social activist and a flag bearer of women’s rights. After she succumbed to her illness, her body was embalmed and preserved by her husband, the then-sitting President, Juan Peron. But soon after his government was overthrown by rebel forces, there was a conscious effort to bury her and all that she stood for. The government didn’t want people to see her as an inspiration and deemed it fit to bury the Peronist movement once and for all. So let’s understand why Eva Peron was such a threat and try to shed some light on the most eventful era of Argentine history.
‘Santa Evita’ Plot Summary: What Is The Series About?
Eva Peron was not only Argentina’s First Lady, but also the first woman to have an impact on the country’s politics. But she had been unwell for quite some time now. She was suffering from cancer, and the doctors had told her that she didn’t have a lot of time left. She wanted to be remembered even after she was gone.
On July 26th, 1952, the fierce woman who had stood up to the patriarchal Argentinian society left the world forever. Her husband, and Argentina’s president, Juan Domingo Peron, decided that her body would be embalmed and preserved to remind the generations to come of what all she stood for. Dr. Pedro Ara was called to perform the procedure, and the body was kept in the General Confederation of Labor (CTG) headquarters in Buenos Aires. Eva’s mother, Juana Ibarguren, wanted a proper burial for her daughter, but the president was very firm about the fact that his wife’s body would be preserved. Juan Peron’s government was overthrown in the year 1955, three years after Eva’s demise. The president fled to Paraguay, and then eventually settled in Madrid. The coup was executed by the members of the army. Some people considered these officers as revolutionaries, and some considered them as traitors. The revolt mainly happened due to the corruption and authoritarianism in Juan Peron’s regime, but during his tenure, he had also made a lot of positive changes in the national policies and regulated the country’s economy, which uplifted the working class and made them owe their allegiance to the leader. These groups of loyal followers were referred to as the Peronists.
When Juan Peron escaped, he had to leave the body of his deceased wife in the care of Dr. Pedro Ara. The doctor had contacted a sculptor from Italy, who had made three more copies of the body of Eva Peron. The sculptures were so identical that it was almost impossible to differentiate between the original and the copies. Lieutenant Colonel Carlos Eugenio de Moori Koenig was given the responsibility by the new government to take the bodies in his possession and secretly dispose of them. Moori Koenig reached the laboratory, and coerced Dr. Pedro Ara to give him possession of the bodies. But Dr. Ara was not willing to do so because he knew that the body couldn’t be preserved without his technical expertise and specialized care. But Colonel Koenig was adamant. He made an incision on the real body, so that he wouldn’t mix up the replicas with the real one, and then asked Aldo Cifuentus, an informer who worked for him, to find three army officers who didn’t have a very clean image and had a blot on their service record. Aldo Cifuentus came up with three names: Eduardo Arancibia, an Infantry Major; Milton Galarza, an artillery captain; and Lieutenant Gustavo Adolfo Fesquet. Keonig needed some dirt against them because he wanted to be assured that if they planned to betray him, he could use the information that Cifuentus had provided against them. These three officers were vested with the responsibility to bury the three replicas of Eva Peron, though all of them were falsely told that they were carrying the real one. Koenig himself took the real one, but due to some accident on the street, he was not able to bury it that night.
The body of Eva Peron, who was fondly referred to as”Evita,” stayed on the street for many days in the service truck. The position of the truck was moved to avoid any suspicion, but wherever it was taken, candles and flowers emerged almost magically, in all probability put there by Evita’s ardent followers. Colonel Moori Koenig was losing his mental stability every passing day. He was getting anonymous calls that threatened him and his family. He kept the body for some days inside Eduardo Arancibia’s attic, before finally taking it with him to Germany and burying it in his farmhouse.
Was Eva Peron A Social Activist Or Just A Narcissist? Why Did The Government Want To Dispose Of Her Body?
“Santa Evita” shows the transition of Eva Peron, from a girl coming from a humble background to becoming the most influential political figure without even holding any governmental position. Eva was good at reciting poems, and her mother knew that she had a future in the creative field. She wanted her to become an actress, but she didn’t have the resources or the contacts to send her daughter to Buenos Aires. She met Agustin Magaldi, a renowned and celebrated singer, and requested that he take Eva under his wing. First, he refused to do so, as he thought that Eva was too young to face the harsh realities of Bueno aires, but then after he talked to her, he changed his mind. Eva came to the capital but found it very difficult to make a living. Magaldi helped her during the initial days and got her a couple of auditions too, but then he got fed up with her constant nagging and wanted to get rid of her. Eva got to audition for a radio show, and she seized the opportunity with both hands. In the years to come, she became one of the most popular radio actresses in the country.
On January 15th, 1944, San Juan, a province in Argentina, was hit by a devastating earthquake. The President, Juan Peron, at that time, was holding the post of Secretary of Labor and Social Welfare. He met Evita a couple of times during that period. The politician got smitten by the charming Lady, and eventually decided to marry her. The series shows that at the fundraiser, Eva tried to initiate a conversation with Juan Peron. The elites of society and the army officials branded her as a gold digger. Somewhere, due to the execution of the scene, as an audience, you also feel that maybe Evita was not so attracted to the personality of Juan Peron as she was to the position that he held. But does it change the fact that it was because of her efforts that the women’s suffrage bill was finally passed by the government?
The anti-Peronist at that time said that she started all those social movements because she liked the attention and fame that she was getting in the process. They claimed that she never intended to do social good but was just an attention-seeking lichen who was looking out for herself. Aldo Cifuentus also thought the same, and had written a book too, criticizing her. A very valuable point that the series, “Santa Evita,” makes is that even Eva Peron was aware of her changing sensibilities. She says that maybe she never thought about the country and never saw herself as being a part of a social revolution, but things had changed, and now she felt obliged to speak for the downtrodden and be the flagbearer of feminism in her country.
The very fact that the newly appointed power yielders, after Juan Peron’s departure, considered her corpse as a threat says a lot about the kind of impact the woman had made in her brief tenure. Maybe deep down, she always had the soul of an actress who craved attention and wanted to be in the limelight, but it was an undeniable fact that her efforts had shaken the very foundations of a patriarchal setup, and that was all that mattered. Moori Koenig was told to bury her embalmed dead body because the officials wanted to put an end to the era of Peronism.
‘Santa Evita’ Ending Explained: Is Mariano Vazquez Able To Find Evita’s Body?
It was the year 1971, and Mariano Vazquez, a renowned journalist, had been informed that the current Argentine regime was planning to transfer the body of Eva Peron to Madrid, where Juan Peron was staying after he escaped from the country back in 1955. Mariano had once taken the interview to Juan Peron, who had developed a liking for the journalist. Mariano gave him a call in Madrid, and, surprisingly, got a response from the ex-president, who had married for the third time and was seeking to come back to power once again. The rumors were not totally untrue after all. Mariano went on a search to find the whereabouts of the dead body of Eva Peron. He knew that Moori Koenig held the key to the mystery, but the army colonel had gone into hiding. The journalist was threatened and beaten to death, and was told to stop looking for the Colonel.
Mariano, during his investigation, had become so engrossed and involved in the whole story that he put his whole life at stake. His wife left him because both of them had very different priorities in life, and she didn’t want to compromise on her family’s safety. But he didn’t stop. He got to know about the informer, named Aldo Cifuentus, through one of the loyalists of the Perone regime, named Correa. Mariano finally met Moori Koenig, through Cifuentes, and learned that the Colonel had a strange relationship with the First Lady. Juan Peron had asked him to look after the safety and security of his wife, and Koenig had developed a liking for her. He thought that she treated him differently and had feelings for him too. He resented the fact that she was with Juan Peron, and maybe it became one of the triggering factors that made him a significant part of the coup. After getting possession of Eva Peron’s body, we see that Koenig caresses the dead body to the extent that you think he is showing symptoms of necrophilia. Even if it was out of genuine care and love, it looks cringeworthy and says a lot about the mental state of the Colonel. Moori Koenig often got these hallucinations when he saw Eva Peron. Maybe he was grievously affected by her death or couldn’t accept the fact that for her, he was just another worker like everyone else. He had made this image in his mind that he held a special status and was in denial for the longest period of time before he passed away in 1971, due to alcoholism. He had taken the corpse to Germany and buried it in his ancestor’s farmhouse. But the Argentinian government had gotten a hold of it.
In 1957, Milton Galarza and Lieutenant Gustavo Adolfo Fesquet, who had earlier helped Koenig in burying the replicas of Eva’s body in the year 1952, were vested with the responsibility by Colonel Coromina to take her body to Italy and bury it under a false name in the Milan Cemetery. In 1971, the body was sent to Madrid before finally making its way back to Argentina in 1974, after the death of Juan Peron. Today, Evita, the most hated as well as the most loved political figure of Argentina, rests in the Recoleta Cemetery, but her voice can still be heard through all those women who decide to take a stand in the patriarchal society and fight for their rights.
The series, “Santa Evita,” suffers due to a soulless screenplay. The narrative lacks the emotional depth and even the intended eeriness that was so much needed in this case. Though it focuses on the afterlife of the First Lady, it is important for the viewers to understand why Evita had become a symbol of women empowerment and equality in the 1950s, and why the government was so desperate to make her body disappear. We don’t get to know who Eva Duarte was as a person and how her life changed after she took the surname Peron. We are made privy to the struggles of her earlier life in snippets, but they are never able to completely establish the kind of sensibilities she had. We are given a superficial view of her struggles with the women’s suffrage bill and how she was able to make it pass. Instead, the makers have chosen to place a lot of emphasis on the character of Colonel Koenig and his infatuations, which intrigues us but still is never enough to give a context to the proceedings or even a detailed insight that was necessary to understand his motivations, and also of the rebel forces who so desperately wanted to bury her. If you were not well versed in the topic from before, you would never come to know why she was seen as a threat by the elite and the army officials. It is left to our perception if she was a narcissist or a selfless activist, and the makers want you to fill in the gap yourself, without giving much aid through their screenplay.
Natalia Oreiro as Eva Peron, Diego Velazquez as Mariano Vazquez and Ernesto Alterio as Moori Koenig put up convincing performances. I would have personally loved to know more about Aldo Cifuentus, why he despised the First Lady so much, and understand the essence of his patriarchal ideologies. It would have been fascinating to know more about the character of Juan Peron, and whether he actually believed in the ideologies that his wife stood for, or supported her only to get political leverage. “Santa Evita” talks about one of the most influential personalities and the most intriguing events in Argentinian history, but fails to create an impact and falls flat due to a flimsy screenplay and an ineffectual, single-tone execution.
“Santa Evita” is a 2022 Political Drama Mini Series directed by Rodrigo Garcia and Alejandro Maci.