lunes, 29 de junio de 2009

Guy, Donna. 2004. Life and Commodification of Death in Argentina: Juan and Eva Perón.

Guy, Donna. 2004. Life and Commodification of Death in Argentina: Juan and Eva Perón. In Johnson, Lyman (ed.) Death, Dismemberment, and Memory: Body Politics in Latin America. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.
In this article Guy tries to map the trajectories of both Juan and Eva Perón during their lives and after their deaths, and more generally the persistent popular religiosity over the heterogeneous grouping of people who died tragically and became enshrined into popular sainthood. Guy argues that, “Eva Perón both before and after her tragic death at a young age and the subsequent theft of her remains, became eminently marketable as a popular saint, while Juan Perón, wildly charismatic before his death, lost the charisma associated with him during life” (245). Men of the Army kidnapped Evita’s embalmed and plastified corpse in 1955 and this action further enlarged her cult. Her remains were only returned on 1976 and buried in the Recoleta Cemetery. Juan Perón, on the other hand, died in his bed as an old man in a chaotic country destroyed by political violence. His remains were buried at the Chacarita Cemetery and his hands were cut off from his grave in 1987 (crime still unsolved, and his hands have never reappered). For Guy, Evita after her death became more and more a powerful popular saint, whereas Juan Perón gradually lose his symbolic power and the dismemberment of his body was the last shot at the symbolic cult of Perón. Indeed, these two figures are inscribed in a larger historical tradition of popular cults and popular heroes, which are “rooted in the crisis-filled nature of modern Argentine society and a popular desire of the masses to empower themselves so that they can translate and control the meanings of public and mythical figures” (257). Guy concludes that what has been a trend in the configuration of these popular saints and heroes is the “strong popular preference for those who give to, rather than those who take from the people” (268).

In this general context I wonder how we can think about children experiencing life-threatening conditions in Argentina. In some sense their dying and death could also be seen as tragic as the popular heroes and saints who have been enshrined in the popular cults. Can we think about these deaths in the same line of martyrism and heroics figures of the popular cults? Indeed, there used to be a large popular cult all over Latin America of the "little angels", or dead infants, who died prematurely usually by hunger. This cult was more located in the rural areas and it seems now less frequent. But my question points to the fact that the personal, familiar and collective experience of death, especially of children in Argentina are traversed by popular religiosity and the need to find powerful figures who protect from suffering and pain and who give to the people certain symbolic power that help them during tough journeys.

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