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Watch: 'Evitas' take to Buenos Aires streets to mark 100th birthday of their heroine

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By Lindsey Johnstone  with Reuters
Monday would have been Eva Peron's 100th birthday
Monday would have been Eva Peron's 100th birthday   -   Copyright  Reuters

On what would have been her 100th birthday, 100 women took to the streets of the Argentine capital Buenos Aires on Monday dressed as the country's most enduring cultural icon Evita.

Almost seven decades after she died of cervical cancer at the age of 33, the country's former first lady – wife of President General Juan Peron – Eva Peron is still adored by many Argentines for helping women get the vote, securing labour benefits for the working classes and founding hospitals and orphanages.

The anniversary of her death, on July 26, 1952, is also marked by many Argentines. On that day, radio broadcasts were interrupted and movies in cinemas stopped to announce that she had died. The government shut down for two days and ordered flags to be flown at half-mast for ten days.

When Peron's body was transported from the presidential palace the following day, eight people were crushed in a throng that filled ten blocks in either direction. It is reported that all of Buenos Aires' flower shops were emptied within 24 hours.

These modern-day "Evitas" used Monday's anniversary to drum up support for former Argentine President Cristina Fernandez ahead of elections later this year. Fernandez is a fiery centre-leftist who is often compared to Argentina's most famous first lady and is from the same Peronist party that has shaped Argentine politics since the 1940s.

Elsa Gandulfo, one of the marching Evitas, said: "Eva [Evita] and Cristina [Fernandez] are two women with a lot of strength, two women who have laid the road ahead for Argentine women.

"Eva was the first that gave us the vote, who fought for the dispossessed. Cristina returned to give us joy, to give us utopia back with all its convictions."

Fernandez has yet to declare herself a formal presidential candidate but is seen as the major challenger against economically conservative President Mauricio Macri if she runs as expected. The 100 Evitas carried banners with a message using a play on their heroine's name: "Evita el Macrismo" (avoid Macrism).

Businesses and investors fear that Fernandez could undo some of Macri's business-friendly initiatives and revive policies including higher export taxes and currency controls.

Video editor • Nicolas Coquet