Spanish – It is not the first time that a San Juan earthquake has been felt, even in the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires. Monday’s could have been the first in the era of camera phones, the internet, and viral videos of lamps swaying on ceilings, but the older ones remember an even more intense one. Those of us who didn’t live then have the memory of those who did in 1944.
My grandmother’s story at home revolved around the fright of a closet that moved, and the hangers fell off with the clothes. The furniture is no longer there since I put a wine cellar there, but that corner of the living room always reminds me of the story of the “San Juan earthquake felt in Buenos Aires.” But beyond the particular stories of Buenos Aires families about the earthquake that took place in each house, that episode has a common history that ended up affecting all Argentines: the beginning of the romance between Juan Domingo Perón and Eva Duarte.
The date was similar. On January 15 of that year, at ten to nine o’clock at night, the earthquake that was more than 10 kilometers deep left us a disaster. It destroyed most of the province and caused approximately 9000 deaths. The exact number is a mystery since many victims were never found.
The military government official in Buenos Aires who proposed to lead the public campaign for San Juan’s reconstruction was the Secretary of Labor and Social Security, Juan Domingo Perón. Peronism did not exist yet, but it was about to be born. The man was a widower since his first wife, Aurelia Tizón, had died prematurely in 1938.
In a meeting before a big event linked to the fundraising for the tragedy in Luna Park, the military man met with one of the actresses called the young Eva Duarte, 24 years old. The host of the event was Roberto Galán, who passed the microphone for a poem recitation to the young woman who would go down in history as “Evita.”
“Eve entered my life like destiny. It was a tragic earthquake that shook the province of San Juan in the mountains and almost entirely destroyed the city that made me find my wife. At that time, I was the Minister of Labor and Social Assistance. The tragedy of San Juan was a national calamity. To help the population, I mobilized the entire country. I appealed to men and women so that they would all reach out to those poor people in that remote province. Among the many who passed by my office in those days, there was a young lady of fragile appearance but with a determined voice, long blond hair falling on her back, her eyes burning as if with fever. She said her name was Eva Duarte; she was a theater and radio actress, and she wanted to attend, at all costs, the relief work for the unhappy population of San Juan,” Perón said about that event.
Within a month, they were living together. And the rest, as they say, is history.