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date: 11 August 2020

Masculinities, Consumption, and Domesticity during the Perón Era

Summary and Keywords

Supported by a multiclass alliance including the working class and some sectors of industry and the military, Juan Domingo Perón’s government (1946–1955) industrialized the country, modernized and expanded the state, transformed local and national politics, empowered the labor unions, and substantially improved the standard of living. Perón combined a strong nationalistic and anti-oligarchic discourse with concrete material benefits like high wages, the expansion and consolidation of the retirement system, paid vacations, housing subsidies, and full employment that ensured the political support of large sectors of the working population. Like the workers, various other traditionally disenfranchised social sectors took center stage. The very poor became the main beneficiaries of the charities run by first lady Eva Perón; women won the right to vote with a law passed in 1947 and were mobilized and politicized by the Peronist Party; and children were recognized by the government as the true heirs of the new Argentina built by Peronism and thus subject to co-optation and indoctrination. At the same time, internal migrants, attracted by the promises of a better life and industrial employment, left the countryside and small towns in the interior for the cities, propelling a profound process of urbanization. The cultural, social, political, and economic changes that marked the Peronist years had major consequences for gender relations, roles, and identities, transforming the ways of being a man or a woman in mid-twentieth-century Argentina. Those changes profoundly reshaped discursive and symbolic representations of masculinities as well as social and cultural expectations of manhood across different social classes while creating the political, social, and economic conditions that facilitated the transformation of masculinity as a lived, everyday experience.

Keywords: Argentina, Peronism, masculinities, Juan Domingo Perón, social class, consumption, domesticity, descamisado, fashion, gender identities

Working-Class Masculinities

The celebration and exaltation of working-class masculinity during Peronism was closely related to the social, economic, and political empowerment of working men through the extension and consolidation of trade unionism.1 While an old guard of labor leaders was being removed, a new Peronist cohort emerged to guarantee the subordination of the labor unions to the government. In so doing, this cohort fulfilled a new, unprecedented social and political role as legitimate mediators between the workers and the government. Labor activists occupied seats in Congress, intervened actively and directly in state affairs, and even became attachés at Argentine embassies around the world. With Perón in the government, the rate of unionization in most manufacturing industries was between 50 and 70 percent, and workers benefited from a system of collective bargaining that regulated wages and social provisions like sick leave and vacations. With the state on their side, unions gained unprecedented negotiating power with employers.2 The challenge to the status quo extended beyond the shop floor and urban laborers. In enclaves like sugar mill towns, for example, workers began to openly contest exploitative practices unrelated to their work performance, most notably, the harassment of wives and other female members of their families by foremen and owners.3 Visible in the government and empowered in the factory and beyond, the working class also experienced immediate and concrete economic gains. Between 1946 and 1949, higher real wages increased 62 percent. In addition, price ceilings, paid vacations, rent control, and new access to consumer credit profoundly increased workers’ purchasing power. Consequently, the working class enjoyed consumer goods, consumer experiences, and consumer spaces—from household appliances to weekly visits to the movie theater—they had only sporadically or never enjoyed before.4

Thus, when asked how life had changed during Peronism, a port worker responded, “With Perón, we were all machos.”5 For male workers, the new social, political, and economic empowerment was an affirmation of a forceful and uncompromising masculinity. Peronism, for its part, contributed greatly to this idea by connecting the new working-class affluence with manhood. In spite of the continuing entrance of women into the labor market, the Peronist government publicly endorsed women’s domestic roles as wives, mothers, consumers, and housewives and underestimated their identity as wage earners. Thus, the government explicitly and unilaterally linked the new levels of comfort and material prosperity of the working-class family to the figure of the male provider. The government celebrated women as good household administrators and men as those who brought money home. Oral histories reveal, for example, that in contrast to the 1930s, during Peronism, families approved of working-class suitors for their daughters because their high wages would guarantee a comfortable lifestyle. In addition, these working-class men had the trust and respect of local shopkeepers, who extended them generous credit. For the first time, working-class men secured different forms of social esteem—the high opinion of neighbors, the deference of merchants, and the admiration of women—based on the purchasing power of their wages.6 Therefore, the “affluent worker” who was able to securely raise a family, obtain credit, and purchase new gadgets for the home became the archetype of the new collective and individual status of male workers. Furthermore, the figure of the “affluent worker” greatly contributed to the proud embracement of a working-class identity among men.7

Beyond family-oriented forms of consumption, personal forms of consumption like clothing and shoes also signaled a new sense of dignified identity among working-class men. A refined, tidy look had historically been the monopoly of the elites and the middle classes, while images of working men with neglected or improper appearances had been employed to make arguments about their inferiority and undesirability. In the new historical context, a suit and a tie, for example, represented for working-class men access to elegance and pride and even an assertion of a respectable and distinguished working-class identity. Both items of clothing became, in fact, increasingly expected at labor union meetings, suggesting that working-class masculinity was confirmed through the combination of labor activism—in the context of the unparalleled power of labor unions—and a sense of respectability and authority symbolized in the suit and the tie.8 Supporting this view, an American reporter argued that on the streets of Buenos Aires, even the newspaper vendors wore ironed suits, clean shirts, and sometimes even ties.9

Appearance and Fashion

Appearance was a central component in the rise of new mid-twentieth-century masculinities, functioning as a means of class and political differentiation with profound cultural and symbolic effects. The social stereotypes of petiteros and divitos popularized by Guillermo Divito, the famous cartoon artist and founder of humor magazine Rico Tipo, are an excellent illustration of the important role of fashion and style in the construction of cultural masculine archetypes in Peronist Argentina. The divito was working class, but rather than being dressed in working clothes or the traditional overall in which workers were commonly depicted, he was formally attired.10 The petitero—named after the Petit Café, a traditional space of socialization in the upper-class neighborhood of Barrio Norte—embodied a form of middle-class masculinity. A perceptive observer of reality, Divito endowed both characters with distinguishable, fixed stylistic attributes. The petiteros wore a straight blue suit jacket that was too short and too tight, gray pants, a tie, moccasins, and slick hair. The divitos, in contrast, wore a brown or blue double-breasted suit jacket that was too long and had very wide lapels; a sash; suspenders; fitted, narrow pants; a flashy handkerchief in the suit pocket or a boutonniere; heeled shoes; and hair drawn back in a ponytail and a quiff.11

With his characters, Divito was making an ironic commentary about the aspirations of middle-class men who unsuccessfully tried to emulate the style of upper-class men and about a form of working-class masculinity inspired by the figure of the compadrito, the turn-of-the-century lower-class flashy urban dandy popularized in tango lyrics. Divito was reproducing a view that internal rural migrants who arrived in Buenos Aires to work had appropriated the compadrito as a model of an urban, modern, showy masculinity they wanted to follow. Thus the character is a metaphor of the transition from a rural to an urban masculinity: a process through which male migrants were adapting themselves to life in the city, enjoying new levels of purchasing power, and contesting stereotypes that portrayed them as tasteless and unrefined. The urban style adopted by the divitos contradicted, for example, common characterizations of the rural migrants from the interior—derogatorily referred to as cabecitas negras, a term that emphasized their dark skin—as wearing the traditional outfits of rural workers that city dwellers considered “backward” or “unmodern.” Yet, urban residents considered that the compadrito aesthetics prevalent among working-class newcomers and sustained by their newly obtained consumer power was an artificial and antiquated strategy of assimilation into city culture.12 In spite of this detrimental view and as confirmation of its popularity, the divito was an effective character in advertisements of the time, marketing a broad range of items intended for men’s consumption, like suits, shirts, and hats.13

Although the Peronist government employed the image of the well-dressed worker as evidence of high wages and improved living conditions and Perón publicly told anecdotes of labor union leaders wearing impeccable suits and silk shirts to meetings with government officials, the Peronist imagery largely focused on more humble symbols. The alpargatas is a good example. The inexpensive rope-soled canvas shoe that was traditionally worn by rural inhabitants came to represent the urban industrial worker, the rural laborer, and the poor, and during Peronism, the Peronist worker. However, the ultimate icon of masculinity and working-class and Peronist identity was the descamisado (shirtless). Although descamisado was applied to both men and women to generally refer to Perón’s followers and was occasionally used as a feminine noun, it fundamentally referred to a masculine stylistic characteristic, an unbuttoned shirt with sleeves rolled up. Consequently, in the official discourse and imagery, the descamisado became the most important representation of working-class men who supported Perón.14 Accounts of the time describe and images show the descamisados as hatless, coatless, and tieless—deprived of the aesthetic signs of men from privileged sectors. For socialists and conservatives, the term resonated with the camicie nere, Benito Mussolini’s paramilitary groups, while anti-Peronists employed descamisado to mock working-class men who walked around downtown without a jacket. This act was a violation of a consuetudinary norm of fashion and, in Buenos Aires, the infringement of a municipal bylaw that made wearing a jacket in public places mandatory.15 In contrast, the figure of the descamisado gave Peronists a name that unintentionally resembled the French sans-culottes, the most powerful icon of republicanism, egalitarianism, and popular political extremism. Most importantly, the descamisado offered Peronists a metaphor of rebellious virility, a symbol of men’s fight for a better life, an assertion of a dignified working-class identity. Furthermore, the descamisado as an icon of the official propaganda did not challenge Peronist representations of the Argentine nation as whitened and Europeanized by massive immigration. At a time in which the Peronist government celebrated the new standard of living of the working population as one of its crucial achievements, the descamisado was also a symbol of class triumph, personal accomplishment, and social change against a recent past of low wages, unemployment, and an undignified life. Because of these meanings, the descamisado was the ultimate emblem of the new empowerment of the male breadwinner.16

Perón and Political Leadership

Perón performed an accessible ritualized masculinity staged both visually and discursively with the goal of appealing to and co-opting audiences and legitimizing the exercise of power. While Perón was the president of the country and the leader of the most important political movement of the time, he still embodied an approachable and authentic everyman. He was the epitome of the uncommon commoner. Published in the press and official propaganda, images of Perón dressed as a manual worker in overalls conveyed messages of endurance, potency, and skill. These images highlighted resemblance and closeness with the common people and, more specifically, the common men. The most powerful and widespread association between Perón as “Argentina’s first worker,” like the official propaganda called him, and the working class was his image as a descamisado. Perón famously refrained from wearing a suit jacket and a tie as traditional politicians did thus transmitting a message of unpretentiousness and nonconformity. The leader in an unbuttoned shirt with sleeves rolled up that revealed his torso and arms was a spectacle of unmistakable signs of virility. The unrestrained descamisado dress allowed Perón to enact a new uninhibited and dynamic masculinity. Perón greeted and harangued his followers, shook hands, embraced and played with children, operated machinery, drove cars, and rode motorcycles in countless photographic testimonies of his informality and energy.17

Instead of cultivating the image of a caudillo—strongman—or a Latin American macho á la Dominican Republican dictator Rafael Trujillo, Perón embodied a type of unthreatening domestic masculinity. Since the 1946 presidential campaign, the public observed Perón and his wife Eva in countless scenes of everyday domesticity. Photos showed the couple having tea in the simple dining room of the apartment where they resided before he was elected, strolling through the gardens of their vacation residence, or relaxing on a sofa while petting their dogs. In the pictures, Perón always appears as laid-back and content, comfortable in the skin of an ordinary husband at home. Furthermore, he publicly boasted that he was an excellent cook and prepared the couple’s meals on weekends. Perón credited his taste for home life and his aptitude for domestic work to his years as a soldier when he was required to cook and clean. By linking traditionally female chores to his identity as a soldier and arguing that these tasks made him a self-reliant man, Perón took pride in domesticity while averting any emasculating effects.18

The government widely publicized Perón’s private habits and routines, explaining, for example, that he started his workday at dawn, left his office late in the afternoon, cooked and ate simply and frugally, embraced a healthy lifestyle, enjoyed his time at home, and was punctual and orderly. By sharing this information with the public, the government was not only underscoring Perón’s hands-on style of state leadership but also displaying an image of hardworking, disciplined, and home-loving masculinity. Those everyday practices reinforced the image of a man who understood that private and public affairs were connected and felt at ease at the intersection between the political and the domestic realms, a true challenge to traditional models of presidential masculinity. In the early 1950s, for example, when the government launched a campaign to control inflation, reverse a negative trade balance, and increase beef exports, Perón provided copious advice about where to shop for groceries economically and how to cook nutritiously and boost household savings. Similarly, the president declared that when visiting other countries, he would always stop at a local market to see what people were eating because, he asserted, this was the best indication of social well-being. In the same vein, a photo of Perón strolling down a supermarket aisle, learning the advantages of the recently introduced shopping cart, during the grand opening of one of the first self-serve grocery stores in Buenos Aires further suggests an unconventional political style that brought together manhood, the home, and the state.19

Although Perón expressed uncompromising or incensed positions if necessary, he emphasized his attributes as a compassionate and understanding leader. He affirmed that his decisions were always based on principles and moral values over economic or political interests and that he prioritized communication, consensus, and emotions in his leadership style. These were the ways of a doting father who was persuasive instead of coercive, and they represented a distinctive challenge to traditional expectations of aloof manhood and unemotional politics. The imagery of Perón as a devoted father would not have been complete without Eva, the strong, self-sacrificing mother of the workers, “the lady of hope.”20 Yet the image of the father created conflicting meanings. Perón’s identity as a provider—a conferrer of wages and rights and a dispenser of concessions—blurred the egalitarian nature of his other presidential incarnations, most notably the descamisado, and reintroduced issues of hierarchy and control. The typical photo of Perón interacting with children was the most prevalent visual channel to remove authoritarian and domineering connotations from the paternal image and to assert his identity as a benefactor. Cheered by schoolchildren, kissed by a toddler, surrounded by twelve-year-old soccer players, or mobbed by ecstatic boys and girls as he passed out Christmas presents, the image of the childless, always smiling president performing as the father of all Argentines was omnipresent. In these scenes, Perón represented a form of manly authority and political power that was close and keen, reproducing male domestic roles of supporter and protector in the public sphere. Furthermore, in a context in which the Peronist government declared children “the only privileged ones” and promoted legal, educational, and sanitary measures to protect childhood as the basis of a more egalitarian society, Perón’s candid and unceremonious relation with happy children was a perfect allegory of social justice. While other paternalistic populist leaders like Getúlio Vargas, the pai dos pobres (father of the poor), and “Tata” (dad) Lázaro Cárdenas were married with children, Perón had no children, but this may have strengthened his symbolic paternal qualities since the people were his only “children.”21

Domestic Masculinities and Fatherhood

Innovative in the political and public realm, the representations of domestic masculinity associated with the presidential figure summoned by the government echoed broad social and cultural changes. Mid-twentieth-century Argentina experienced the rise of domestic masculinities defined by craftsmanship performed by men at home. Do-it-yourself projects, including home construction and remodeling, furniture building, and toy making, became popular in those years, boosted by magazines like Mecánica Popular and Hobby. Although the idea of “workshop men” and a common male identity related to manual work transcended class differences, do-it-yourself projects had different meanings for middle- and working-class men. Middle-class men saw their house workshop mainly as a space for hobbies and a distinctive masculine place within the household—away from wife and children—where they could enjoy themselves and their time at home. Furthermore, middle-class men considered their projects as a reaffirmation of a male identity anchored in manual skills and control over one’s work. For working-class men, in contrast, the workshop was a productive workplace, a sign of economic progress, and a potential path to upward social mobility as they could aspire to turn their projects into a source of additional income or even professional independence.22

Another redefinition of masculinity occurred with the emergence of a new model of modern fatherhood that began to gain popularity in the media and, especially, among urban middle-class men. This new model of fatherhood challenged traditional views of the father as distant, authoritarian, absent from home, and quite unconcerned about the children’s upbringing—which was delegated to the mother, particularly in regard to day-to-day concerns and activities. In 1954, famous pediatrician Florencio Escardó published Anatomía de la familia, where he innovatively suggested that fathers should become guides and protectors of their children and refrain from physical punishment. Escardó did not challenge the customary division of labor between fathers and mothers but advocated for the quality rather than the quantity of time and attention fathers should devote to their children and for the use of respect and compassion in the interactions of fathers with their children. Equally important, Escardó argued that fathers were key in helping their sons and daughters to achieve social integration and emotional balance, and thus they should perform their paternal role with dedication and responsibility. The authority of the father in the family remained unquestioned, but the source of that authority changed. Men should prioritize affection, companionship, and understanding over fear and severity. Magazines like Nuestros Hijos, first published in 1954, popularized these ideas, especially among an urban middle-class readership. To avoid any signs of potential weakness and connect fatherhood with an assertion of masculinity, the magazine emphasized that men should not forget that parenting was as important as providing for the family. And like a paid job, parenting required knowledge, training, and time.23

Social acceptance of new ideas of male domesticity and fatherhood required separating them from any indication of emasculation. This was particularly important in a historical context in which anxieties about manliness and the debilitation of male authority were circulating broadly in popular culture. Disseminated in the press, these discourses focused on the tensions that a high purchasing power, a better standard of living, and the increasing presence of women in the labor market, particularly in the tertiary sector, caused in gender relations. While the Peronist government praised women as the “guardian angels of the domestic economy,” the mid-twentieth-century image of the overindulgent and spendthrift housewife, labeled la callejera, was ubiquitous in the media. The term, which also referred to a streetwalker or a homeless woman, implicitly suggested the dangers faced by women who rejected domesticity as well as the stigma attached to doing so. Equally importantly, the callejera represented the reversal of gendered consumer stereotypes that had been popular in earlier decades when the press identified the married man as a big spender who splurged on leisure activities with friends—a continuation of his days as a bachelor.24

The mid-twentieth-century male counterpart of the callejera was the husband who spent more time at the sports club, the bar, or the café than he did at home and caused women to write to counselors in women’s magazines complaining about loneliness and seclusion while men had fun. But the “absent husband” was not the only counterpart to the callejera. In the popular imagination, the “domestic husband,” a hardworking man who, in addition to being the economic provider, took on all types of domestic chores, was the prevalent complement to the wife who spent more time shopping for clothes than at home. A challenge to established gender conventions, the stereotypical domestic husband was a traditional breadwinner who also cooked, cleaned, ironed, and mopped for the whole family. Although this character became omnipresent in advertising campaigns and was the main subject of numerous editorials, investigative reports, comics, and a popular daily radio show, he was more fictional than real. The mid-twentieth-century press frequently reported that men disliked household tasks and rarely helped their wives, even with small and easy chores. According to the media, women alone were responsible for housework, and mothers instructed only their daughters in household responsibilities from a very young age while refraining from doing the same with their sons. For their part, female labor activists constantly complained about the “double burden” on women working both at the factory and at home and criticized men for giving no assistance with household chores. But the figure of the domestic husband occupied a prominent place in the social imaginary even though he was unusual among real men because he perfectly embodied the reversal of gender expectations and the consequent anxieties that surfaced when women left home to shop for themselves or to work.25

“Dangerous” Masculinities

Anxieties over male roles were not only related to images of domesticity but also concomitant with growing fears of violent masculinities. Anti-Peronists commonly characterized Peronist men as aggressive, insolent, and uncontrollable and denounced these groups as mobs that attacked innocent people and vandalized property. In these accounts, Peronists were called “hordes” that threatened men and women alike, disrupted norms of civility in public spaces, and tainted everyday life and social interactions in the cities. Opponents of the government further distinguished between “real workers,” whom they considered respectful and dignified, and Perón’s followers, who were depicted as violent and threatening. Communist publications, for example, referred to the “thugs” and “delinquents” that supported Perón as the “malevaje peronista,” linking Peronists to the malevo, a popular term describing a traditional main character of tango lyrics, an evil, rebellious, and violent ruffian.26 In line with these allegations of antisocial behavior, anti-Peronists compared Peronist men to animals. Radical congressman Ernesto Sanmartino, for example, coined the term “aluvión zoológico” (zoological avalanche) to stress the wild, barbaric conduct of Peronists.27

In the early 1950s, anxieties over the invasion of inner cities by groups of violent men were evident in the obsession of the popular press with the patota, a street gang of members identified as young, working class, and recent migrants from the provinces, and who lived on the city’s outskirts. In the media characterizations, the patota had also a racial component as its members were frequently depicted as dark-skinned men or cabecitas negras. The patoteros insulted pedestrians; upset strollers in the parks; beat men; molested women; wrecked public and private property; mistreated passengers in trains, subways, and buses; and in some instances, stole and raped.28 The Peronist government declared that the police forces were actively working to eliminate the patotas. Newspapers, for its part, stressed the difference between the patota and the harmless barra, a group of well-behaved workers or young men who gathered at bars, corners, and soccer fields to enjoy a good time. The press also distinguished between the current gangs and the nineteenth-century patotas of “well-to-do boys” who raided poor neighborhoods looking for a vulnerable lower-class girl to harass or an exhausted worker to beat. In the 1950s, the media depicted men from the outskirts as inverting these roles and bringing back to the inner cities the disorder and aggression that elite men had inflicted on working-class neighborhoods with impunity for decades. One year after Perón was overthrown, anti-Peronists accused the deposed government of having aided and abetted the patotas. They further asserted that, with Perón removed, these men continued to claim they were affiliated with the Peronist Party when they were arrested in the belief that this would give them carte blanche as it had happened in the recent past.29

While the patota posed a threat to women, the Peronist government maintained that gay men were an even more serious danger to society and family in general and to men in particular. Characterized as amorales, gay men began to be publicly harassed by the police in the final years of the Peronist government, yet an incipient form of homophobia was clear early on when, in 1946, the city of Buenos Aires with Domingo Mercante as governor passed a law that prohibited gay people from exercising the right to vote. In 1951, the Bustillo Code of military justice was amended to explicitly prohibit gay men from joining the military and to punish homosexuality in the armed forces.30

Between 1954 and 1955—framed by the rising confrontation between the Catholic Church and the Peronist government and among mutual accusations of immorality—the police forces massively and continuously raided spaces of gay socialization in Buenos Aires. The press, for its part, reported copiously about it, even including photos of the detainees. Same sex was not illegal, but in 1949, the city of Buenos Aires approved the infamous 2do H, a subsection in a municipal edict that mandated the detention of a person of any sex “who publicly incited or offered sexual acts.” This became the tool employed by the police to pursue and arrest both sex workers and gay men or men profiled as gay. The government and the press circulated the image of gay men as sexual predators who targeted and forced young, innocent men into same-sex practices and prostitution. As such, gay men represented a menace to gender roles, masculinity, and the family that had to be repressed actively. Gay men were commonly depicted as an affront to the morality and social norms that the government was working hard to protect. Their defense was the goal that the government cited when it legalized prostitution in 1954. The Peronist government maintained that the lack of legal brothels had, on the one hand, provoked the rise of the patota and the growing numbers of sexual assaults and rapes of women and, on the other, incited men to engage in same-sex encounters. With its policies, discourses, and persecution, the Peronist government not only stereotyped gay men as a dangerous social threat but also turned them into a more visible and identifiable social group than ever in the past.31

Discussion of the Literature

In the last few years, cultural historians interested in cinema, the family, sexuality, and consumption during Peronism have begun to address the construction of masculinities, but there is much to explore about masculinities and Peronism in particular and about masculinities in Argentine history more generally.32 In a way, masculinity’s ubiquity has contributed to making it indistinguishable as an object of historical inquiry in its own right. Masculinity as a historical problem pervades nation-building and modernization projects, the control of populations and sexualities, popular culture, the conceptualization and materialization of the welfare state, and the construction of individual and collective identities, just to name a few of the most distinctive topics of modern Argentine historiography.33

Yet the problematization of masculinities as a central topic of this historiography is still pending. A good example is the study of the “modernization of patriarchy”—which has been crucial since the late nineteenth century and in which Peronism played a fundamental role—involving the state promotion of the nuclear family with men as breadwinners and women as mothers. Critical for the modernization of patriarchy was the creation and consolidation of a heteronormative, domesticated, productive, and nationalist masculinity and the rise of the hegemonic masculinity of the family man.34 The historiographies of Argentina and of Peronism in particular have arrived at this argument by studying the role of women and the historical construction of femininity, motherhood, and the family without an equivalent interrogation of masculinity and fatherhood or of manhood as a social, political, and cultural construct. There is a copious and exciting body of literature about women and femininity during Peronism, including women’s roles as housewives, mothers, workers, consumers, nurses, and beauty queens; women’s contributions to politics with the rise of the Women’s Peronist Party and the first women legislators; and the many ways in which Eva Perón redefined womanhood in mid-twentieth-century Argentina and even beyond. A combination of social, cultural, and political histories of women and gender analyses, this literature is strong and growing.35

In contrast, manhood and male identity has been largely taken for granted rather than questioned. For example, the latest new histories of Peronism that are particularly relevant for the analysis of masculinities—like the history of the relation between soccer and Peronism, the rise of new political cadres in the Peronist Party, the organization of Peronism in the provinces and the ascent of provincial leaders, and the emergence of diplomatic worker attachés or of Peronist intellectuals—have for the most part omitted an examination of men as gendered subjects.36 Similarly, there is nothing comparable, in quantity and content, to the gender analyses applied to understanding the historical significance of Eva Perón—as a political and social leader, as an icon of pop culture, or as a fashion trendsetter—available for Juan Domingo Perón.37 Interestingly, one of the areas in which the study of masculinities has been more important in Latin American historiography is labor history, yet historians of Peronism have relegated the study of gender identities and gender roles in their works on labor unions and male workers in Peronist Argentina.38 As a consequence, there is tremendous fertile ground to rethink the history of Peronism once more by asking questions about masculinities, and in so doing, to reconceptualize not only labor history but also social, cultural, and political histories.

Primary Sources

In Buenos Aires, Argentina, different archives have a diversity of materials including official documents, pamphlets, bulletins, audio recordings, films, objects, propagandistic materials, print sources, unpublished writings, magazines, and newspaper collections of significance for those interested in Peronism in general and masculinities in particular. Worth mentioning are the Biblioteca del Congreso de la Nación that houses the Colección Perón, the Instituto Juan Domingo Perón, and the Museo Evita that, in addition to its archive and library, offers an interesting collection of historical artifacts. The Hemeroteca at the Biblioteca Nacional has one of the most important collections of newspapers and magazines from the 1940s and 1950s. The Archivo General de la Nación (AGN), which is mostly devoted to nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century materials, has in its Fondo Documental de la Secretaría Técnica de la Presidencia Perón an impressive collection of mostly letters from citizens to the Peronist government with suggestions about government and policy and, in many cases, complete files with the communications from state officials. The AGN also has film and photographic materials of the Peronist years.

In the United States, the Hoover Institution on War, Peace, and Revolution Archives and Library at Stanford University has an important collection of personal papers, including Perón’s but also those of some of the most relevant figures in the Peronist government. The Columbia Center for Oral History and the Special Collections houses interviews with more than one hundred prominent male and female political figures, both Peronists and anti-Peronists (also available at the Memoria Abierta oral archives in Buenos Aires). Finally, Rutgers University is home of the collection of Latin Americanist Robert Alexander—a pioneering scholar of Peronism who lived in Argentina while Perón was in power—that includes personal correspondence, state documents, unpublished political writings, and hundreds of interviews with different relevant Peronist figures.

Further Reading

Acha, Omar. Crónica de la Argentina peronista. Sexo, inconsciente e ideología, 1945–1955. Buenos Aires: Prometeo, 2014.Find this resource:

Acha, Omar, and Pablo Ben. “Amorales, patoteros, chongos y pitucos. La homosexualidad masculina durante el primer peronismo (Buenos Aires, 1943–1955).” Trabajos y Comunicaciones 30–31 (2004–2005), 217–261.Find this resource:

Archetti, Eduardo. Masculinities: Football, Polo and the Tango in Argentina. New York: Berg, 1999.Find this resource:

Bao, Daniel. “Invertidos Sexuales, Tortilleras, and Maricas Machos: The Construction of Homosexuality in Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1900–1950.” Journal of Homosexuality 24, no. 3–4 (1993): 183–219.Find this resource:

Ben, Pablo. “Plebeian Masculinity and Sexual Comedy in Buenos Aires, 1880–1930.” Journal of the History of Sexuality 16, no. 3 (2007): 436–458.Find this resource:

Kampwirth, Karen, ed. Gender and Populism in Latin America: Passionate Politics. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2010.Find this resource:

Maristany, José, and Jorge Peralta, eds. Cuerpos minados. Masculinidades en Argentina. La Plata: Editorial de la Universidad de La Plata, 2017.Find this resource:

Milanesio, Natalia. “Gender and Generation: The University Reform Movement in Argentina, 1918.” Journal of Social History 39, no. 2 (2005): 505–529.Find this resource:

Milanesio, Natalia. “A Man Like You: Juan Domingo Perón and the Politics of Attraction in Mid-Twentieth Century Argentina.” Gender and History 26, no. 1 (2014): 84–194.Find this resource:

Milanesio, Natalia. “Redefining Men’s Sexuality, Resignifying Male Bodies: The Argentine Law of Anti-Venereal Prophylaxis, 1936.” Gender and History 27, no. 2 (2005): 463–491.Find this resource:

Milanesio, Natalia. Workers Go Shopping in Argentina: The Rise of Popular Consumer Culture. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2013.Find this resource:

Pérez, Inés. “Masculine Ways of Being at Home: Hobbies, Do-It-Yourself, and Home Improvement in Argentina (1940–1970).” Gender and History 27, no. 3 (2015): 812–827.Find this resource:

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(1.) This particularly affected men, as only 27 percent of working women were employed in the industrial sector in the late 1940s. Zulema Recchini de Lattes, La participación económica femenina en la Argentina desde la segunda posguerra hasta 1970 (Buenos Aires: CENEP, 1980), 38.

(2.) Daniel James, Resistance and Integration: Peronism and the Argentine Working Class, 1946–1976 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 7–12.

(3.) Florencia Gutiérrez, “Desigualdad social, masculinidad y cualificación en el sindicalismo azucarero, Tucumán, 1944–1949,” Anuario IEHS 28 (2013): 59–75.

(5.) James, Resistance and Integration, 29.

(6.) Milanesio, Workers Go Shopping in Argentina, 207.

(7.) I borrow the concept of “affluent worker” from John Goldthorpe et al., The Affluent Worker in the Class Structure (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1969).

(8.) Milanesio, Workers Go Shopping in Argentina, 142–143.

(9.) “El obrero tiene en la Argentina comida barata y buenos jornales,” Democracia, April 9, 1947, 5.

(10.) Natalia Milanesio, “Descamisados, divitos y mucamas: La vestimenta como expresión de estereotipos y preocupaciones de clase durante el peronismo,” in Pasado de moda. Expresiones culturales y consumo en la Argentina, ed. Susan Hallstead and Regina Root (Buenos Aires: Ampersand, 2017), 188–200.

(11.) Ernesto Goldar, Buenos Aires: Vida cotidiana en la década del 50 (Buenos Aires: Plus Ultra, 1980), 50–60.

(12.) Julio Mafud, Argentina desde adentro (Buenos Aires: Américalee, 1971), 183.

(13.) Milanesio, Workers Go Shopping in Argentina, 99–100.

(14.) Marcela Gené, Un mundo feliz. Imágenes de los trabajadores en el primer peronismo (1946–1955) (Buenos Aires: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2005), 6583.

(15.) Juan Pérez, Radiografías de una dictadura (por Argentino Cantinflas) (Buenos Aires: La Vanguardia, 1946), 32; Félix Luna, El 45 (Buenos Aires: Jorge Alvarez, 1969), 513.

(16.) Natalia Milanesio, “Peronists and Cabecitas: Stereotypes and Anxieties at the Peak of Social Change,” in The New Cultural History of Peronism: Power and Identity in Mid-Twentieth Century Argentina, ed. Matthew Karush and Oscar Chamosa (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010), 53–84. On racial ideas during Peronismo, see Eduardo Elena, “Argentina in Black and White: Race, Peronism, and the Color of Politics, 1940s to the Present,” in Rethinking Race in Modern Argentina, ed. Eduardo Elena and Paulina Alberto (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016), 184–209.

(18.) Torcuato Luca de Tena, ed., Yo, Juan Domingo Perón. Relato autobiográfico (Barcelona: Planeta, 1976), 98. For illustrative selections of photos, see Documentos de Siete Días Ilustrados, July 1974 and Samuel Amaral and Horacio Botalla, Imágenes del peronismo. Fotografías/Photographs, 1945–1955 (Buenos Aires: Editorial de la Universidad Nacional de Tres de Febrero, 2010).

(19.) Milanesio, “A Man Like You,” 96.

(20.) J. M. Taylor, Eva Perón: The Myths of a Woman (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), 72–77.

(21.) Milanesio, “A Man Like You,” 94–98.

(23.) Cosse, Isabella. Pareja, sexualidad y familia en los años sesenta (Buenos Aires: Siglo Veintiuno, 2010), 177–183.

(24.) Natalia Milanesio, “The Guardian Angels of the Domestic Economy: Housewives’ Responsible Consumption in Peronist Argentina,” Journal of Women’s History 18, no. 3 (2006): 91–117.

(25.) “Los maridos y las tareas domésticas,” Para Ti, February 13, 1951, 39; “Ha pasado un día en la vida de una obrera,” Nuestras Mujeres, July 1, 1948, 13–14.

(26.) Milanesio, “Peronists and Cabecitas,” 70–71.

(27.) Ernesto Sanmartino, La verdad sobre la situación argentina (Montevideo:, 1951), 152.

(28.) Pedro Casazza, El patotero y la ley de profilaxis social (Buenos Aires:, 1952).

(29.) Milanesio, “Peronists and Cabecitas,” 72.

(30.) Osvaldo Bazán, Historia de la homosexualidad en la Argentina. De la conquista de América al siglo XXI (Buenos Aires: Marea, 2004), 255.

(32.) In addition to the works cited throughout this article, see, for example, Matthew Karush, Culture of Class: Radio and Cinema in the Making of a Divided Argentina, 1920–1946 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012); Omar Acha, “Masculinidad futbolística, política y homoerotismo en el cine durante el peronismo,” in Generando el peronismo. Estudios de cultura, política y género (1946–1955), ed. Karina Inés Ramacciotti and Adriana María Valobra (Buenos Aires: Proyecto Editorial, 2004), 123–169; Inés Pérez, El hogar tecnificado. Familias, género y vida cotidiana, 1940–1970 (Buenos Aires: Biblos, 2012).

(33.) This is a characteristic of Latin American historiography more broadly. Most studies of masculinities in Latin America have come from fields other than history, largely from anthropology. See, for example, the classic Matthew Gutmann, ed., Changing Men and Masculinities in Latin America (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003) and Matthew Gutmann and Mara Viveros Vigoya, “Masculinities in Latin America,” in Handbook of Studies on Men and Masculinities, ed. Michael Kimmel, Jeff Hearn, and R. W. Connell (London: SAGE, 2005), 114–128.

(34.) Ulrike Strasser and Heidi Tinsman, “It’s a Man’s World? World History Meets the History of Masculinity, in Latin American Studies, for Instance,” Journal of World History 21, no. 1 (2010): 75–96.

(35.) See, for example, Gregory Hammond, The Women’s Suffrage Movement and Feminism in Argentina from Roca to Perón (Albuquerque: New Mexico Press, 2011); Mirta Zaida Lobato, ed., Cuando las mujeres reinaban. Belleza, virtud y poder en la Argentina del siglo XX (Buenos Aires: Biblos, 2005); Adriana María Valobra, Del hogar a las urnas. Recorridos de la ciudadanía política femenina Argentina, 1946–1955 (Rosario: Prohistoria, 2010); Carolina Barry, Evita Capitana. El Partido Peronista Femenino (Buenos Aires: EDUNTREF, 2009); Daniel James, Doña María’s Story: Life, History, Memory, and Political Identity (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2000); Mirta Zaida Lobato, La vida en las fábricas. Trabajo, protesta y política en una comunidad obrera, Berisso (1904–1970) (Buenos Aires: Prometeo, 2001).

(36.) For example, Raanan Rein and Claudio Panella, eds., La segunda línea. Liderazgo peronista (Buenos Aires: Pueblo Heredero/Universidad Nacional de Tres de Febrer, 2014); Raanan Rein, ed., La cancha peronista. Fútbol y política (1946–1955) (Buenos Aires: UNSAM Edita, 2015); Flavia Fiorucci, Intelectuales y peronismo, 1945–1955 (Buenos Aires: Biblos, 2011); Julio César Melon Pirro and Nicolás Quiroga, eds., El peronismo y sus partidos. Tradiciones y prácticas políticas entre 1946 y 1976 (Rosario: Prohistoria, 2014); Darío Macor and César Tcach, La invención del peronismo en el interior del país, 2 vols. (Santa Fe: Universidad Nacional del Litoral, 2003); Ernesto Semán, Ambassadors of the Working Class: Argentina’s International Labor Activists and Cold War Democracy in the Americas (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017).

(37.) For a classic examination of Eva Perón’s iconic power, see Taylor, Eva Perón. For more recent interpretations, see Beatriz Sarlo, La pasión y la excepción (Buenos Aires: Siglo XXI, 2003); Paola Cortés Rocca and Martín Kohan, Imágenes de vida, relatos de muerte. Eva Perón: cuerpo y política (Rosario: Beatriz Viterbo, 1998); Susana Rosano, Rostros y máscaras de Eva Perón. Imaginario populista y representación (Rosario: Beatriz Viterbo, 2006).

(38.) See, for example, Thomas Miller Klubock, Contested Communities: Class, Gender, and Politics in Chile’s El Teniente Copper Mine, 1904–1951 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998); Heidi Tinsman, Partners in Conflict: The Politics of Gender, Sexuality, and Labor in the Chilean Agrarian Reform, 1950–1973 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002); Lara Putnam, The Company They Kept: Migrants and the Politics of Gender in Caribbean Costa Rica, 1870–1960 (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2002).