Why Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is This Generation’s Eva Perón
Eva Perón—the first lady of Argentina from 1946 until her death in 1952—traces her thoughts on feminism in her book, “My Mission in Life,” she wrote: “Everything, absolutely everything in this contemporary world, has been made according to man’s measure. We are absent from governments. We are absent from Parliaments. From international organizations.” Eva continued, “We are absent from all the great centers constituting power in the world. And yet we have always been present in the time of suffering, and in all humanity’s bitter hours. Man accepts too easily the destruction of another man or of a woman, of an aged person or a child. He does not know what it costs to create them! We do!”
It’s 2019 in America and women, more specifically women of color, have finally found their rightful place in politics. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is one: She’s young, Latina, working-class, progressive, and proud. And she is fighting tooth and nail to represent her district.
Eva Perón led according to her moral code. She headed the Ministries of Labor and Health where she worked aside labor unions, processed and responded to the concerns of working people. She established the first feminist party in Argentina, called the Female Perónist Party. She was instrumental in the movement that won Argentine women suffrage in 1949.
“I believe that in a modern, moral, and wealthy society, no person in America should be too poor to live. What that means to me is health care as a human right, it means that every child no matter where you are born should have access to a college or trade-school education if they so choose it. I think that no person should be homeless if we have public structures or public policy to allow for people to have homes and food and lead a dignified life in the United States,” Alexandria told Stephen Colbert on The Late Show.
Eva founded and ran the Eva Perón Fundacion, which served the homeless and the working-class. Eva’s work helped build a successful welfare state. She constructed entire cities that included schools, hospitals, and homes for working women. Eva’s cities were built luxuriously to give the working-class a home where they could lead a dignified and happy life. “I wish themselves to live like the rich...to feel worthy to live amid the greatest riches. For when all’s said and done, everyone has a right to be rich on this Argentine soil,” Eva wrote.
At 29, Alexandria made history when she won New York’s 14th Congressional seat as the youngest woman to ever serve Congress. She was raised by working-class parents; her mother from Puerto Rico, father from the South Bronx. Alexandria identifies as a democratic socialist. After earning a degree in International Relations and Economics, Alexandria returned to the Bronx to help her family economically recover from the death of her father. Alexandria was working as a bartender and waitress when she was approached by Justice Democrats to make a bid against Joe Crowley, who had until recently occupied the seat since 1999.
Like Alexandria, Eva grew up in a working-class family among the agricultural plains of the Pampas. Born María Eva Duarte in 1919, Eva moved to Buenos Aires where she met and married Juan Perón in 1945. Juan won the presidency the following year, in which the two embarked to create a new hegemonic power in Argentina.
Perónism sought to provide justice to the working people of Argentina after centuries of conquest, colonization, oligarchy and exploitation. Perónism instituted the rise of syndicalism—the movement for transferring the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution to workers’ trade unions. Under Perón, trade unions popped up in every industry; social security was universal; education was free to all who qualified; paid vacations became standard; there was guaranteed free health care.
Perónism saw the rise of unions, the Trump Administration is the assassinator of public-sector unions. In June 2018, the Supreme Court ruling, Janus v. AFSCME, determined that public employees do not have to pay fees to unions any longer to cover the costs of collective bargaining, which is expected to impact union membership and revenues nationwide.
A comparison of Eva’s politics and Alexandria’s is fitting because Perónism championed the working-class and deposed oligarchs. Trump is the quintessential oligarch. Trump’s government shutdown illustrates just how little he cares about the workers of this country, holding 800,000 government employees hostage for 35 days over his manufactured border crisis.
On immigration, the rookie congresswoman wants to abolish ICE. She represents one of the most racially and culturally diverse districts. Indeed, New York’s 14th district is half immigrant. She is not calling for open borders; she just wants to see a humanist U.S. immigration policy that considers foreign policy and the integral role that immigrants play in the U.S. economy.
Although Juan Perón and Donald Trump have divergent politics, both Presidents share the same strain of populism. Juan’s administration demonized and suppressed the political opposition; measures that Eva supported, as she wrote: “The only condition is that no one must say a word which does not refer to our common Leader!”
Contrastingly, Alexandria is convinced that fighting America’s injustices can be accomplished via non-partisan avenues. She wants to build a movement that unites people! And Unlike Eva, Alexandria does not hide behind a man’s agenda. Alexandria is alluring and controversial because she believes in herself, her moral code, and she does not back down. She’s powerful in all the right ways.
She is standing up to what the Trump Administration represents and is challenging the Democratic establishment in radical ways. Before being sworn in as congresswoman, she accompanied a group of young climate activists to Nancy Pelosi’s office, where they called for the establishment of a committee to produce a plan to tackle climate change. Alexandria and Bernie Sanders propose a Green New Deal, which would convert America’s energy sector to 100 percent renewables by 2030. Accomplished through a mammoth job’s creation program and financed by a heavy tax on the rich. The Congresswoman proposed raising the federal tax rate on incomes over $10 million to 70 percent.
Hey Alexandria! In addition to a 70 percent tax on the rich, why not take on the billionaires who are responsible for global climate change by taking a page from Elizabeth Warren’s playbook and advocate for a wealth tax?
But what will she be able to accomplish?
In response to this very question, Alexandria told Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes: “What is the worst possible situation that could possibly happen? Let’s say I’m only in Congress for two years. If we can radically change the conversation then we can potentially accomplish more in two years than many people are able to shape the conversation in ten.”
Giving the amount of attention that Ocasio-Cortez is receiving, she is showing young Latinas that they too can change the conversation and just maybe the system in America.
Just like Eva’s legacy has for Argentina: Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the first woman President of Argentina told Time Magazine in 2011, “Eva was a unique phenomenon in Argentine history, so I'm not foolish enough to compare myself with her. Women of my generation owe her a debt: When we came of age during the dark [military] dictatorship of the 1970s, we had her example of passion and combativeness to get us through."
Photos by: Scott Eisen & Win McNamee | Getty Images News; Creative Commons