Even if you don’t know anything about Eva Perón, you will quickly become aware of Evita within minutes of your arrival to Buenos Aires. Her image graces both sides of a tall central Buenos Aires building, situated on the city’s wide central avenue. From high up on this building, she forever speaks passionately through a microphone to the Argentine masses…a giant-sized reminder of her importance to this South American nation. It’s been 70 years since Evita died, but her legacy is just as large as her building-side image. And it’s hard for tourists not to become as enthralled in the legend of Evita as the locals are. Let me show you some of what I learned about Eva Perón during my exploration of famous Evita sites in Buenos Aires.
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My Own Evita Awareness
I was only slightly aware of Evita before our month in Buenos Aires. I was familiar with the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, and the movie version starring Madonna. But I’d never seen either.
In high school, I was in the marching band. (We were really good – the Utah state champs.) During my senior year, our signature song was Don’t Cry For Me Argentina from the Evita musical. Very melodic, very dramatic, and perfect for horns to stop, turn, and then belt out the emotional chorus.
And that was the sum of my pre-trip Evita exposure.
So Then Who is Evita?
There is no way I can fully answer that question in a travel blog post. But here’s a quick summary:
Born into poverty in rural Argentina.
Ran away to Buenos Aires at age 15.
Became a big radio star and made film appearances too.
Met Juan Perón, Argentina’s Secretary of Labour, at a charity event. Despite the fact that he was twice her age, they immediately became inseparable.
Became an ardent disciple of his brand of politics called Peronism, and became politically active herself. She was especially passionate about advancing social programs for the underprivileged and working classes.
Married Perón when she was 25 years old, a year before he was elected President of Argentina. She used her radio show to campaign for him, delivering rousing Peronist speeches.
Her popularity grew while as First Lady and she worked tirelessly to advance her social agenda. She helped organize Argentina’s first radio workers union, helped secure voting rights for women, established nursing schools and hospitals, and founded group homes for displaced women and children.
She briefly ran for Vice President, along with her husband for his second term. But withdrew prior to the election, partly due to her own failing health.
Died at age 33 from cervical cancer just months into her husband’s second term.
Her funeral was massive. Central Buenos Aires was shut down for days as the masses mourned. Flowers had to be shipped in from Chile because Argentina ran out.
As with any political figure, there are definitely various points-of-view on her politics and intentions.
Not everyone loved Evita back then – the upper class mostly did not. And Juan Perón’s government was overthrown by a military coup a few years later.
Not everyone loves her now. She was certainly complicit to her husband’s authoritarian tendencies – he is often referred to as a dictator. And their brand of politics doesn’t appeal to everyone. (I’ve tried to understand Peronism and it’s difficult. It’s an amalgam of far left politics and far right politics, and so it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me how it all co-exists. But it somehow does, and Peronism is still one of the two major political parties in Argentina today.)
Yet, Evita’s popularity with the non-wealthy masses, combined with her way-too-early death, vaulted her into an almost Saint-like status in Argentina. A status that persists even to this day.
And all the charitable work & socially progressive good that she accomplished during her brief life is undeniable.
Evita Sites in Buenos Aires
While visiting Buenos Aires, you’ll find plenty of ways to learn more about this remarkable person. Here’s a look at the top Evita sites in Buenos Aires.
The Evita Museum is the very best way to learn about Evita. It’s located in the Palermo neighborhood, and gave us a complete overview of Evita’s life.
The museum is housed in a stately mansion, built in the early 20th century and purchased by Evita’s charitable foundation in 1948. It was then converted into one of several Temporary Homes administered by the foundation. These were shelters for homeless woman and children who were allowed to stay until the women could find work and a more permanent living situation.
Each room in the now-museum focuses on a different aspect of Evita’s life. They are filled with personal items and historical video that is all very helpful in understanding her evolution from small town girl to icon. Several rooms are dedicated to describing her many social programs and accomplishments. Most (though bafflingly, not all) of the displays and video offer an English translation.
Most fascinating to me was all the historical video – projected onto the walls in many of the rooms. We were able to watch snippets of her film career and listen to her radio program. We watched some of her impassioned speeches, delivered from the balconies of the President’s offices to masses of people gathered in the plaza below. And we watched her funeral procession.
We left the Evita Museum with a much better understanding of why Evita is so revered.
As I just mentioned, many of her speeches were delivered from the President’s administrative building called the Casa Rosada (The Pink House). This beautiful building is located in central Buenos Aires on the edge of the city’s most important and historic public square – Plaza de Mayo. This central square dates back to Spanish rule. In fact, a Spanish Fort once stood where the Casa Rosada is now situated
Casa Rosada is called the Pink House because, well… it’s Pink. The Presidential offices are inside, along with various other meeting rooms. Unlike the White House in the U.S., the President does not live in the Pink House.
During the presidency of Juan Perón, huge gatherings of support in the Plaza de Mayo became commonplace. Both Juan and Eva would stand out on the balconies of this building and speak to their impassioned followers below.
Nowadays, a single fence offers a degree of security around the building, but it was easy for us to stand relatively close to these famous balconies and imagine Evita speaking to us from above.
The Casa Rosada has traditionally offered a free weekly tour, giving visitors a chance to stand on the famous balconies themselves. But unfortunately, this did not seem to be operating during our time in town.
Plaza Evita Perón
Rather than living in the Casa Rosada, the Peróns lived in another government-owned mansion in the nearby Recoleta neighborhood. However, that house is not one of the famous Evita sites in Buenos Aires. It was demolished by the military government shortly after Juan Perón was overthrown. The new rulers wanted to abolish everything Perón. They didn’t want any physical reminders of these beloved populist leaders left behind.
Ultimately, the National Library of Argentina (Biblioteca Nacional) was built in its place. In a city of really beautiful buildings, the Biblioteca Nacional stands out for being one of the ugliest. Mrs. TT speculated that the anti-Peronist government wanted to replace their beautiful house with something really ugly instead – an architectural slap in the face. In reality, the brutalist style of architecture was just really popular in the 1960s when it was designed.
Eventually, when the ever-changing government warmed up to the Evita once again, a Plaza in her honor was established on the former grounds of their Presidential mansion.
This Plaza is a relatively small green space compared to some really large nearby parks. Its main feature is a statue of Evita in its center. This is a humble Eva Perón – striding forward, barefoot. And it’s surrounded by a protective fence. Remember…she’s beloved by many. But not by everyone.
A Peronista Restaurant
For a unique look at Juan and Eva Perón, and Peronism in general, you should definitely eat a meal at Perón Perón Resto Bar. The original location is in Palermo, but there’s also a second location near the popular San Telmo market.
These restaurants are dedicated to all things Peron. And while they may appear a bit touristy on first glance, they are actually a popular gathering place for modern-day Peronistas, who reportedly sing the Peronist anthem at the top of each hour. Plus the food is really good.
(The singing didn’t happen during our 1 pm visit in Palermo. That hour is a bit early for an Argentine lunch, and there were only a few patrons at the time).
The walls of the restaurant are covered with Peronist memorabilia, with plenty of wall space dedicated to Evita.
At the time of our visit, the staff was decorating a statue of Evita – a statue would be carried through the streets of the San Telmo neighborhood a few days later during Evita’s May 7th birthday celebration.
The menu features lots of Argentine classics. During our visit, I decided it was fitting to try Locro – a humble Argentine stew made from pumpkin, beans, potatoes, chorizo, other cuts of pork, and tripe. It was one of the best things I ate during our time in Buenos Aires.
Probably the most visited of the Evita sites in Buenos Aires is her final resting place, inside the city’s famed Recoleta Cemetery. This amazing cemetery is, in my opinion, the top attraction in Buenos Aires. And Evita’s grave is certainly the most popular of the almost 5000 vaults therein.
She is buried in a fairly unassuming vault when compared to many of the other elaborate vaults in the Cemetery. It’s her paternal family’s vault. And only a few simple name plates gives any indication that she is there. (All the flowers – more than any other vault in the cemetery – give hint to her presence too)
The story of what happened to Evita’s body after her death is fascinating, strange, and sad.
Because she was so beloved, Juan arranged for her to be embalmed with glycerine. This helped preserve her body and organs in such a way as to prevent significant decomposition. The intent was to build a monument and permanently display her body.
However, he was overthrown before the monument was completed. The new military regime, in their effort to destroy everything Perón, secretly transported her body to Italy, and buried her under a different name.
After another government change in the 1970s, her body was recovered and returned to Juan in Spain, where he was living in exile. He and his third wife Isabel kept the body at their home and reportedly displayed it in their dining room.
Ultimately Juan returned from exile and won the Presidency again in 1973. When he died a year later, Evita’s body was returned to Buenos Aires, and plans for a joint monument were started.
But it was never built – due to yet another military coup. Ultimately, Juan and Evita’s bodies were separated for political reasons, and she found her final resting place in her family’s Recoleta vault. Safely buried in a fortified crypt. 16 feet underground.
An Evita-centric Food Tour
While it’s not difficult to see all of these famous Evita sites in Buenos Aires on your own, an alternative approach to learning about Evita is via Detour BA’s Don’t Cry For Me Argentina Food Tour.
On this tour, not only will you see most of these sites, but you’ll also eat a lot of typical Argentine food. All while learning about Evita from the perspective of your local guide.
Detour BA reached out and offered me the opportunity to take a complimentary Don’t Cry For Me Argentina tour. Even though it was at the end of our time in Buenos Aires (my last day in fact), and even though I had already visited most of the sites featured on the tour, I still jumped at the chance to learn even more about Evita. (And while the tour was complimentary, the opinions here are my own).
While on the tour, we visited her gravesite, Plaza Evita, and the Evita Museum. I did find that touring the museum a second time with my guide Nati was more insightful than the first, since she could explain the displays that didn’t have an English translation. Plus she was able to give me more background on the Temporary Home program.
We also visited an additional site that I hadn’t discovered on my own – a small cafe called Un Café con Perón. This café is located next to the Biblioteca Nacional, on the grounds of the Perón’s former home. It is mostly dedicated to the memory of Juan Perón and is very much off the beaten track. I don’t think many tourists find their way here. (There’s also a museum dedicated to Juan adjacent to the cafe, but it has been closed since the pandemic and hasn’t reopened.)
Since this was an Evita-themed food tour, there was plenty of food….
At Un Café con Perón, I had coffee and a Juan-decorated Alfajor. Alfajores are a traditional Argentine dessert – two cookies, a thick layer of Dulce de Leche in between, covered in chocolate.
We stopped at Chori – a small restaurant in Palermo. Chori is one of the highest-rated places in Buenos Aires to eat choripan (and I had previously visited Chori because of this reputation). A choripan is one of the favorite street foods in Argentina. It’s basically a sausage sandwich – grilled chorizo cut in half, place on a bun, and topped with various condiments. It’s featured on this tour because choripans were commonly served from small food stands at Peronist rallies.
Near Perón Perón in Palermo is another restaurant dedicated more specifically to the memory of Evita called Santa Evita. It was closed on our last-minute tour day so we were unable to visit, but participants usually eat empanadas or tamales here, along with wine or other drink options.
And the tour ends at Perón Perón for dessert. I chose this Argentine classic – Flan with a huge dollop of Dulce de Leche
(Here is something else to love about this food tour. Detour BA offers participants a choice of 3-5 menu items at each restaurant visited. In my experience with other food tours around the world, this is unusual. I really liked having the choice!)
As I hoped, my tour guide Nati was able to teach me more about Evita (and Juan) than I would have otherwise taken the time to learn on my own. I finished the tour with an even greater appreciation of this remarkable woman, and a definite sense that she is deserving of all the adoration she receives.
You can schedule your own Don’t Cry For Me Argentina tour with Detour BA here. And you can use the code thoroughtripper to save 10% on this or any of their other unique Buenos Aires food tours. (I’ve also reviewed their Chacarita & Vermouth Food Tour in a previous Buenos Aires post)
Certainly, no trip to Buenos Aires would be complete without seeking an understanding of Eva Perón. And whether you choose to visit Evita sites in Buenos Aires on your own, hook up with Detour BA for an organized food-centric tour, or book a private tour of Evita sites (like this one of Viator), be sure to make learning about this Argentine icon a priority during your time in this great city.
If you would like to read more about Buenos Aires, then be sure to check out these posts:
And if you would like to read about other interesting tours I have taken around the world, then check out these posts: