The CGT (Confederación General del Trabajo, the umbrella trade union movement) headquarters are on Azopardo, on the block behind the Engineering Faculty on the not very interesting side of Paseo Colón. The building was opened in 1950 and doesn’t appear to have changed much since. The movement itself played a vital role in Peronism and at its height represented more than 6 million workers and 2,500 unions.
Following Evita’s death on 26th July 1952, her body was quickly embalmed and displayed in public in the Ministry of Labour building (which currently features 2 enormous murals of her) for the grieving nation to pay their respects (more than 2,000 people needed treatment for injuries sustained in the rush of trying to get closer to the body). In August the body was moved to her old office in the CGT building, where it was kept under lock and key and only visiting dignitaries and ambassadors were allowed to visit. I was told that Dr Pedro Ara held the only key and even Perón had to ask permission to see the body.
Kept here whilst plans were being made for the construction of a huge monument in her memory, plans changed in December 1955 when Perón was overthrown by a military coup and fled into exile. It was made illegal to possess any image of the Peróns, or to even say their names and Evita’s body was taken from the office by the incoming regime and disappeared without a trace. 16 years later it was revealed that the body had been buried under an assumed name in Milan. Initially taken to Spain to be with Perón once again, her body made it back to Argentina in 1975 after Perón’s return and subsequent death.
The office today is a small shrine to the woman and the legend, the walls are adorned with images of her and newspaper clippings of the important events surrounding her life.
Entrance to the office is free, simply turn up at the CGT building between 11am and 5pm and ask to see the offices. You’ll be taken up by a delightful gentleman called Alfonso, who is a sprightly 82 years old and talks affectionately of the times, as a 20 year-old, he stood in the Plaza de Mayo shouting Evita’s name as she stood on the balcony of the Casa Rosada.
It’s a fascinating place to visit as there aren’t many rooms in Argentina that have held so much history over the years. As a museum it’s very small, and there’s very little to see beyond the newspaper clippings on the wall, but it’s brought to life by the guide who answers any questions you might have.
First published on my Buenos Aires Local Tours blog