Body swap

The corpses of Eva Perón, the first lady of Argentina, and Pedro Eugenio Aramburu, one of the generals who overthrew her husband’s government, became the centrepieces of a bitter dispute more than twenty years after Evita’s death.

HerFariasP / CC BY-SA

Just before her death at 33 years old, Eva Perón was given the title “Spiritual Leader of the Nation” of Argentina. The wife of President Juan Perón, she made a name for herself as a champion for labour, women, and the poor, and is still seen as an icon of Argentina today. (Her fame in the rest of the world probably stems from the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Evita.) Her body was embalmed and work began on a memorial building and statue in which to display it to the public.

Unfortunately, the statue was never finished: her husband was overthrown in a military coup and fled the country. Eva Perón’s body disappeared and its whereabouts were unknown for sixteen years. The Peróns still had a lot of support in Argentina and the new leaders did not want the spectre of the spiritual leader looming over them.

Pedro Eugenio Aramburu, one of the generals who had led the coup against President Perón, became President of Argentina in November 1955. The supporters of the Peróns never forgave him, and had their revenge in 1970 when they kidnapped and murdered him.

In 1971, the Argentine government revealed the resting place of Eva Perón’s body: she had been moved to Italy and buried under a false name. She was promptly exhumed and shipped to her husband, who was in exile in Spain. Juan and his new wife kept Eva in the dining room. (Ew!)

Juan Perón returned from exile in 1973, and was re-elected president that same year. Apparently he didn’t bring Eva Perón’s corpse with him. His health was failing and he died the following year without ever returning the body to Argentina. Juan’s new wife, Isabel Martínez de Perón, became the new president – and this is when it gets weird.

The same group that murdered Aramburu four years before stole his corpse and held it for ransom. Their demand: that Eva Perón’s corpse be returned to Argentina. It worked – her body was flown back to Argentina and now rests in a very secure tomb in La Recoleta Cemetery. The body-nappers returned Aramburu’s body by dumping it in the street and running off.

(End note: Juan Perón had a rather gross posthumous run-in with grave robbers too. Maybe I’ll write about that another time.)

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