When considering the topic of Argentine women, particularly as it relates to power, the image of Eva Perón is inescapable. The poor, illegitimate girl from the provincial countryside not only became, while still in her twenties, the First Lady of Argentina (then the breadbasket of the Americas and Europe), she ultimately became a myth so enduring that Andrew Lloyd Weber took her story to Broadway and Madonna to the Hollywood screen. She still remains a polarizing figure in Argentina, where she is simultaneously considered a saint by some and an avaricious prostitute by others. Her character and relevance are debated by historians, biographers, and authors who portray her in their works. One quality that all agree upon is that she was an immensely powerful woman who had an extraordinary hold on the Argentine people. I begin this book evoking her image not only because of her status as a powerful Argentine woman, but also because of the legacy of Peronism that continues to dominate the social, political, and national character of Argentina and, in turn, its culture and literature.
In Argentina, like in much of Latin America, as noted by Jean Franco and others, the socio-political landscape becomes the backdrop and often the theme of much of the country's literature. While Domingo Sarmiento's Facundo (1845) debates the future of Argentina in terms of civilization versus barbarism, and Miguel Hernandez's Martín Fierro (1872) depicts the plight of the gaucho, or cattle-hand, in the pampas (grasslands), others, like Roberto Arlt in Los sietes locos (1929) and El lanzallamas (1931), explore complex socio-political dilemmas of the Buenos Aires metropolis. Many of the Boom writers (a term coined to capture the breadth and quality of literature produced in Latin America in the 1950s through 1970s), like Julio Cortázar (Rayuela, 1963, and El libro de Manuel, 1973) for example, combine their political concerns with their thirst for aesthetic experimentation. Jorge Luis Borges is considered an exception to this emphasis on socio-political themes, though some of his stories have been read as critiques of power, and particularly of Peronism, with which he was personally very much at odds.
Argentina has been among the leaders in Latin America in the number of women authors produced in the twentieth century, a fact that Donald Yates (Contemporary Latin American Literature) attributes to the Perón years, when wom