A myth, it is known, is immutable: each one of its stories, each minute of its posthumous existence and of its eventful posterity, feeds it. Perhaps for this reason, one afternoon in November 2020, still under the effects of the pandemic, a message on WhatsApp from the beloved journalist Carlos Schmerkin, exiled in France since the 1970s, alerted me: a lost letter from Eva was being auctioned in Paris Peron. The person to contact, if you were interested in the subject, was the beloved Argentine physicist José Eduardo Wesfreid.
But what did a scientist have to do with Evita’s relics? How had he come to know about that letter? I learned that Wesfreid had been born in Bahía Blanca in 1945, that he had studied Mathematics and Physics at the Faculty of Exact Sciences of the University of Buenos Aires. That he had been expelled by the repression of the dictatorship of General Juan Carlos Onganía in the famous Night of the Long Canes, in 1966, when the heralds of darkness swept the extraordinary chimera of their own science. That he had gone into exile at the end of 1976 when the deepest night of the videlista dictatorship devastated the lives and property of Argentines.
His destination was France. There he was able to develop his career from below. By the eighties he was already working as a teacher in Paris and from 1984, he made a sustained career in the famous National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) where in 2011 he managed to be named director of research emeritus. Then, for his work, he was multi-awarded: the Brelot Prize of the Societe Françoise de Physique (1984), the Edmond Brun Prize of the Academy of Sciences (2007), the RAICES Award from the Ministry of Science and Technology of Argentina (2011), and named a Member of the American Physical Society (2013).
All these titles ended in a decoration from the French Senate in 2015. But his connection to national history was not marked only by science. He married Sophie Thonon, a historical lawyer for the relatives of the French disappeared during the Argentine dictatorship, respected and loved by human rights organizations and who, even in times of the pandemic, continues to chair the France-Latin America Association.
The truth is that on November 8, 2020, Wesfreid had sent Daniel Filmus an email where he told him that ten days later there would be a sale of documents from the collection Aristophil, that it was one of the most complete collections of this type of document and that it was in liquidation for fraud. That day it went on sale lot 958 which consisted of 4 sheets (6 and a half pages) handwritten by Evita with notes on her trip to Spain in 1947 and the meetings with Franco and Carmen Polo, his wife.
Both Wesfreid and Thonon used to consult the pages of these documentary offers more out of cultural curiosity than out of interest in their purchase. Finally, on November 19, 2020, the auction of the autograph collection took place in Paris Aristophil in charge of the auction house Aguttes of Paris, in the sales rooms of Drouot. This collection of manuscripts and autographs is the most important in the world and consists of 130,000 documents, which were being dispersed in the form of 300 anticipated sales over 6 years.
In that frame the lot appeared in isolation 958 titled PERÓN Eva (1919-1952) Argentine actress and politician, with description AUTOGRAPH MANUSCRIPT signed “María ED de Perón”, (1947); 6 and a half pages in-4; in Spanish. Account of her official trip to Spain in June 1947, where Eva Perón was received by General Franco. “It was the first time- marks the presentation– “that the wife of the president of Argentina was officially invited alone by a foreign country, and the first time she flew”.
But on the day of the sale, November 19 at 5:00 p.m., no interested party showed up and the lot returned to the auctioneer. It was then that Wesfreid, in a typical Argentinean reaction that hurts that the historical heritage is auctioned off – his fear of him was that this manuscript would be lost forever in uncertain lottery – insisted on bringing an offer that would keep it safe. Thus, on November 20, 2020, I contacted Wesfreid and told him that, at the instruction of Víctor Santa María, the Fundación Octubre was interested in rescuing that letter from Eva. Wesfreid then made an offer on behalf of the October Foundation. How to certify Authenticity of the letter, Evita’s great-niece, then deputy Cristina Álvarez Rodríguez, and other members of the family and experts from the Evita Museum were initially consulted on the basis of the photos provided by the sales house.
It was clear that the sales house was legally the guarantor or responsible for what was stated in the certificate of sale of the property. But, in addition, in France an auctioneer is what is called a justice officer (who took an oath before the courts) which implied a controlled and heavily sanctioned responsibility in the event of a false statement.
Of course, not everything ended there: there were many inconveniences to receive the letter, there were new costs such as the license, export procedures, packaging and mail procedures, in addition the problem of customs clearance procedures arose. On February 8, 2021, the French dispatcher was formally requested to start the export license management procedures, which took several weeks. Wesfreid should have offered himself as security for the operation. Finally, on June 18, 2021, FedEx notified that they had delivered the package. Only on December 7, 2021, the October Foundation concluded the process. They had spent 13 months of work to rescue that piece of the history of Peronism.
Finally, on July 26, 2022, seventy years after the death of the most beloved popular leader in Argentina, in the Eva Perón Space of the Caras y Caretas Cultural Center in Venezuela 330, promoted by the national deputy Gisela Marziotta, was presented the letter and in an emotional act its content was read to the public for the first time in which he manages to describe the climate of reception in Francisco Franco’s Spain, so much in need of that visit from the lady “bearer of the bread”, the lady who He intrigued her because of her beauty, because of her direct way of coming into contact with others, without intermediaries.
The full text of that letter can be read in the space dedicated to Evita in Caras y Caretas. It is touching to know that 75 years have passed since she wrote it and that she was supposed to be lost. From now on, that treasure is in her homeland.