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WoWasis book review: Juan Perón and the Enigmas of Argentina

Written By: herbrunbridge - Apr• 29•14

PeronEnigmasThe ascendance, decline, and re-emergence of Juan Perón into the political life of Argentina remains one of the more compelling stories of twentieth century South American politics, and Robert D. Crassweller’s Perón and the Enigmas of Argentina (1987, ISBN 0-393-30543-0) tells it in remarkable detail. Part of the power of this book is that Crassweller is a natural story-teller and the book reads somewhat like a novel. It’s been said that for a biographer to succeed, he or she must, to a certain extent, fall in love with the subject, or failing that, has to at least try to live in the subject’s skin as much as possible. Only then can he or she make educated guesses as to why and how the subject reached decisions, the reasons of which might otherwise be buried in time. The author has done an admirable job of doing that.

Crassweller provides a small yet important history of the Argentina that preceded Perón, the strongmen, the gaucho culture, and the mestizo sensibility that partially explain the popularity of Juan Perón. We here at WoWasis found this 432 page book fascinating. Highlights include discussions of his relationships with union, military, and political leaders, his relationship with his wives Evita and Isabel, and his May-September romance with the teenage Nelly Rivas. His troubled relationship with the Press, political engagement with the Catholic church, and impeachment of the Supreme Court are described in detail and, we thought, with a good deal of objectivity. What results is that, at least twice in the turbulent history of his nation, Perón was the man of the hour. There are delicious anecdotes and quotes, including the report of a brilliant riposte made by Spanish poet Augustín de Foxa to an insult made by Perón, then in exile in the Dominican Republic. Perón, who never made a secret of his dislike for the United States while occasionally having to court it, told the poet “I realize that you don’t like the Americans, but I suppose you like their dollars,” to which de Foxa relied “Yes, true enough, but I also like ham, and that’s no reason for me to go and bring the pigs into my house to live.”

This is a wonderful biography by a terrific writer, a real page-turner for anyone wishing to get an insight into a remarkable individual that, for a few significant years, represented one of the great military and political powers of South America. Buy it here at the WoWasis eStore.

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