Date of Award

10-2006

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Program

Mass Communication

Department

School of Graduate Studies

First Advisor

Valeria Fabj

Second Advisor

Coleman Bender

Third Advisor

Graciela Helguero-Balcells

Abstract

Santa Evita: The mother of the descamisados is an analysis of the rhetoric of Eva Peron, her ability to deliver a public communication primarily focused on the descamisados (shirtless ones), represented by the poor men, women, and workers of Argentina. By wrapping her rhetoric with personal imagery and ritual symbolism that alleged the Peronist doctrine, Eva Peron successfully cemented those social classes to her own right, identifying herself in the figure of a descamisada to secure devotion from them and legitimize her political role.

This thesis uses myth criticism as a methodology applied to the ideology of Peronism. The premise of the study is that Eva Peron climbed the political ladder by combining the ability to persuade and identify herself with the poor Argentine public through her Peronist rhetoric to legitimize her leadership position. She was driven by the desire to speak against elite cultural forms, thus emphasizing the value of Peronism and the rights of her people. Through her rhetorical ritual, Eva Peron attained political power in support of Juan Peron's government, placed the descamisados into the political arena, and guaranteed her power for their support. Of greater importance, her rhetoric has served to legitimize "Evita" as a powerful communicator for the descamisados, elevating herself as the mother of the nation, a virginal "saint" icon for the shirtless poor.

If there was any hope for the descamisados in the Argentina of the 20th century, it fell upon Eva Peron's mastery of communication to instill passion of the masses. She spoke with words of justice and love through her rhetoric, identifying herself as a simple woman with a proletarian laboring image. It was, in fact, the Peronist demand that gave Evita not only a good cause to fight for, but also allowed the shirtless poor to identify with her in ways they had not realized. Because of Eva Peron's mythical performances, the Argentine people demonstrated support for national unity. Above all, the rhetoric of Eva Peron has functioned as an empowering symbol for the descamisados and served as a unifying force in the political ritual for legitimizing the Peronist myth.

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