Eva Perón is a welcome exception to the many subjective and emotionally charged treatments of the most controversial female political figure in the history of the Americas. The authors treat Eva Perón’s life as an object for serious historical investigation, and their approach is a dispassionate assessment of a historical and contemporary phenomenon that still arouses intensely passionate debate among Argentines. The book is a detailed account of Evita’s life, from her illegitimate and poor small-town origins to her death in 1952 as the beautiful and powerful wife of the president of Argentina. The final chapter deals with the mystery surrounding the whereabouts of Evita’s corpse and briefly traces the current political situation in Argentina.
In an admirable attempt to separate fact from fiction regarding Evita’s life and her political sentiments and activities, Navarro and Fraser rely on available primary and secondary sources, as well as on more than a hundred interviews, which they personally conducted between 1972 and 1978. For the most part, when there is great discrepancy regarding a specific event in Evita’s life or interpretations of her motives or deeds, the authors choose their own interpretation with deliberation informed by both empathy and distance. There are, however, some disconcerting moments when they take a position that seems to be based on only one or two sources without conveying to the reader the reasons why they have chosen to rely on the particular evidence they have selected or why they conclude what they do with respect to some debatable issue in Evita’s life.
The presentation of the material requires a close reading in order to perceive the authors’ general analysis and assessment of Evita’s character because statements in this regard are often articulated in the middle of a general discussion or as part of an evaluation of a specific aspect of her life. While this book is the most reliable depiction of the details of Evita’s life, it would have been strengthened by a chapter that clearly articulated the authors’ views on the symbolic and real significance of Eva Perón.