Monday, February 20, 2006

I Found Evita Perón

Last week, I went to grab a bite to eat with Enzo, an Italian acquaintance. We went to Don Niceto, a neighborhood parrilla that thankfully offers none of the design-happy ambience that is typical of the shiny, capacious resto-bars that have popped up like pimples during Palermo’s growth spurt.
We ate choripan and provoleta, which is a heart attack in the form of a thick slice of provolone cheese thrown on a grill and sprinkled with oregano.
When the restaurant closed, we found ourselves on the sidewalk with two men in their fifties. One of them was a thick, gregarious cab driver who introduced his companion as an historian of the neighborhood.
“Some people write history,” this historiador barrial said, “but I have lived it.”

This, warped by a few glasses of beer and my translation, is the story he told:
My twin brother and I were mischievous kids.
We used to sneak into the Cine Rialto. At least we thought we did. Later I found out that my Dad – who owned a moving company around the corner – had made a deal with the theater owners and was paying for us.
I was seven or eight years old – it was the nineteen fifties. We went to watch a western and, like we always did, we sat in the front row.
We’d seen the movie a couple of times already. Right before the big fight scene, I snuck up onto the stage and, as the first punch was thrown, jumped up in front of the screen. All the sudden I realized I was losing my balance, so I grabbed onto the screen, which tore before it came loose and fell on top of me.
Fifteen years later, after I had been out of the country for a number of years, I went back to the Rialto. The old man that took my ticket asked if I was one of the Pérez twins.
Yes, I said, surprised that he remembered me after all those years.
Come with me, he told me, I want to show you something.
We walked past the seats, right up to the screen. You could see a big “7” in the screen, where they had stitched it back up.
I was the one that tore the screen at the Cine Rialto. That’s the movie theater where they hid Evita’s body.

The story he told, then, was not about making history, but about a close encounter with it. While it is rumored that, after the coup that toppled Perón in 1955, the embalmed body of Evita was hidden behind the screen of the Cine Rialto, it has never been proven. Still, the proximity to legend makes the story powerful, however true or untrue its elements may be. I’m sure that every time the mellizo Pérez tells this anecdote, he can’t but shake from his mind the image of his younger self pulling down the screen to reveal the coffin containing the body of Argentina’s most hated and most beloved woman.


Post a Comment

<< Home