Juan Perón: 1895-1974: Former Argentine President Biography
Began Military Training, Courted Argentine Workers, Ascension Of Saint Evita
Juan Domingo Perón was indisputably the most influential politician modern Argentina has known. Though he served as president of the beleaguered Latin American country for less than a decade—with a brief reelection a year before his death—his influence has colored Argentine politics for more than half a century. His power was rivaled only by that of the military, which for most of his tenure he controlled. His social programs reformed the country, bringing newfound wealth to the country's poor working classes—the descamisados (shirtless ones). However, he was also an iron-willed ruler more akin to a dictator than an elected president. According to Latin American historian Ernest W. Sweeney writing in America, "Juan Peron was unquestionably highly intelligent, politically astute and full of noble sentiments, charm and good intentions. At the same time, he was deceitful, opportunistic, amoral, compulsively ambitious and Machiavellian to the core." Still his legacy, and that of his widely adored wife, Evita, continues to inspire both legend and politics in Argentina.
Juan Domingo Perón was born on October 8, 1895, in the small town of Lobos sixty miles south of the capital city of Buenos Aires. His father, Mario Tomás Perón, was of Italian descent and his mother, Juana Sosa Toledo, was thought to be of American Indian descent. Because no birth records exist, rumors surfaced that Perón's parents were not married. In a country as concerned with paternity and social status as Argentina, this would have been an unfortunate fact in the life of the nation's president. However, no evidence exists to prove or disprove his legitimacy.
In 1900 Perón and his older brother, Mario, moved with their family to Patagonia, a barren and cold region of Southern Argentina. There his father became a land owner and his family built a ranch. Soon after moving to Patagonia, Perón's father abandoned the family and Juana remarried a ranch hand. In 1904 Perón and his brother were sent to Buenos Aires for schooling. In Perón: A Biography, Joseph Page quoted Perón as saying of this move: "At ten, my way of thinking was not as a child, but almost as a man. In Buenos Aires I managed alone, and the skirts of my mother or grandmother did not attract me as they did other kids my age."
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