May 7, 1919 was the beginning of the passionate, unpredictable life of María Eva Duarte de Perón, known throughout the world and in the Broadway musical as Evita. Evita was born in poverty in Argentina, and at the age of 16, she went to Buenos Aires, the capital city, to become a successful actress. After her husband’s election as President, Evita became increasingly influential in politics, campaigning for women’s rights and for the poor, known in Argentina as the descamisados. (Descamisados translates as the shirtless ones, like the 99% in the US, except that we usually do have at least shirts.) Evita supervised the newly created Ministry of Health that constructed many hospitals and established a remarkably successful program to eradicate diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, and leprosy. (No, it wasn’t called Evitacare.) In the 1951 election, Evita was nominated as Vice President, but was unable to complete the campaign given her illness with cancer. She died in 1952 at the terribly young age of 32.
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