Argentina declared independence from Spain in 1825. Almost immediately thereafter, the country became embroiled in a Civil War which lasted until 1853. A constitution was installed in that year, and the country remained relatively stable until 1930.
The early twentieth century was a fairly prosperous time for Argentina; by 1929 Argentina had the world’s fourth highest per capita GDP. However, the stock market crash destroyed that stability, and gave rise to the political instability and unrest which would characterize the 1930’s for Argentina.
The first of many military coups was staged in 1930 when President Hipólito Yrigoyen was forced out of office, and replaced with Félix Uriburu. The next thirteen years—a period deemed by historians as the “Infamous Decade”—was characterized by continued economic instability and collapse, and increased violent conflict between the political left and the political right.
At the same time, the beginnings of what would become Word War II were stirring in Europe. As the Second World War began in earnest, Argentina came very close to fighting on the side of the Allied Forces; however, popular fear that that would lead to the spread of Communism forced Argentina to remain neutral.
On June 4, 1943, the GOU (Grupo de Oficiales Unidos)—a military junta, of which Juan Peron was a member—staged a coup and demanded the resignation of President Castillo; this is considered by historians to mark the end of the “Infamous Decade.” One of the leaders of the coup, Pedro Ramirez, assumed Supreme Executive power, and in that capacity broke all remaining Argentinian ties to the Axis powers. In 1944, another leader by the name of Edelmiro Farrell replaced Ramirez, and in 1945 he declared war on Germany. However, by that point, the war had already ended.
In the meantime Juan Peron had been named as Head of the Department of Labor. This work caused him to form an alliance of sorts between the Department, labor unions, and the socialist movements growing within those unions. This made him very popular with the people, but earned him some enemies within his former inner circle.
On January 15, 1944 the devastating San Juan earthquake hit the city of San Juan, and Peron became highly involved in the relief and fundraising efforts. These efforts increased his popularity amongst the people. It was also through these efforts that he met a young radio actress named Eva Duarte.
By 1945, Peron had been so committed—or perhaps, tied through questionable alliances—to labor unions and the social reform movement that conservatives forces within the government began to see him as an enemy, and began to fear his popularity amongst the people. This sentiment continued to grow until September 1945, when he was forced to resign. He was arrested shortly thereafter.
While the government may not have liked him, the public love for him only grew, and they greeted his arrest with such massive demonstrations that the government was forced to release him after only four days.
It is here, against a history of military coups and a backdrop of public devotion strong enough to sway a military government, that we can begin to discuss the woman who would soon be known to the world as Eva Peron.
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