Social justice includes the right to beauty. Before seeing the bust in homage to the “standard bearer of the humble”, the sloping tile roofs, typical of the Californian chalet, are the marks of Peronist neocolonial architecture that remain in the landscape. The Home Eva Perona long-stay residence for the comprehensive care of the elderly, located on Calle Roble, in the Buenos Aires town of Burzaco, it was inaugurated by Evita on an emblematic date, on October 17, 1948with the name of “Colonel Perón”.
The right to enjoyment —the most disruptive and provocative aspect of Peronism— also included old women and men. The Ministry of Public Works of the Nation will carry out “the enhancement” of the Eva Perón Home. The work will have an investment of 1,218 million pesos and will begin in March 2023.
Although the tiles are deteriorated by the passage of time —it will be 75 years old next year— and the English green wood fights against the softening caused by water, the architecture of the Home, with a land that occupies 32 hectares, exudes a worthy charm even if it’s not at its best. As soon as you enter, the grass, the plants and the trees combine their perfumes. You breathe green air, air with a mixture of lemon verbena, eucalyptus and yuyo. The only music that is heard is the song of the birds, which seems to welcome visitors.
The grandmothers and grandfathers are having lunch; It is a good time to tour the facilities without disturbing them. A brown mongrel dog wags its tail; the other, with a black back, stretches his neck and makes it clear that he is not very happy when his rest is interrupted.
Patricio Baldraco, the architect who coordinates the enhancement, says that what will be done is called a “comprehensive restoration” of the surrounding issues of the building, which have to do with the walls and roofs; but there will also be a complete restoration of the water, gas and electricity lines. The work will include the improvement of the carpentry, glass, blinds and mosquito nets, of the space to be outdoors and the completion of a block that is unfinished: an exterior barbecue area. As the rooms do not have a private bathroom, a bathroom will be added for each room and the sector where the common bathrooms are now will become a living room “so that each one of the blocks can be self-sufficient,” explains Baldraco.
The architect points out that the galleries have many problems because the wood has rotted. “The tiles are going to be dismantled, cleaned and replaced. The ones that are broken are changed. You have to dismantle the roof and reassemble it with the fixed tile”, Baldraco synthesizes part of the work. The rooms were designed to accommodate up to four people, but now there is one person per room.
The Hogar Eva Perón currently has 32 residents, 10 women and 22 men, from 60 to 96 years old. Julio, the oldest of the residents, uses a wheelchair. Natalia Loiacono, the director of the Home, says that it began to be mixed only in 2003 and that the woman is “the one who stays the longest in the bosom of the family because she is the caretaker” and that is why there are always more men than women. On the door of Dionisio Da Silva’s room there is a sign, “please knock before entering”, handwritten, and a Boca shield.
The Decalogue of Old Age
Evita’s permanent concern for the elderly made her write and announce, on August 28, 1948, the “Decalogue of Old Age”a list of rights of the elderly that were later incorporated into the Constitution in 1949: assistance, housing, food, clothing, physical health care, moral health care, recreation, work, tranquility and respect. This decalogue was the prelude to a paradigm shift because it broke with the welfare approach and recognized older people as subjects of rights.
A month and a half after the presentation of the Decalogue, the Coronel Perón Nursing Home was inaugurated, after the Eva Perón Foundation acquired the facilities that belonged to the German Welfare Society. At the time of opening, it had the capacity to accommodate 200 people in three pavilions with bedrooms, in addition to a medical pavilion with a treatment room, offices and 30 beds, a kitchen, a dining room, a cinema-theatre, a library, a hairdresser’s salon, changing rooms and even a chapel. The file of the first resident, who entered on January 18, 1949, is preserved: José Cubero Aranda, 67 years old, a Spanish naturalized Argentine, single, who had no resources and had been a newspaper vendor.
In Nestor Ferioli’s book, The Eva Peron Foundation, the then Hogar Coronel Perón is described: “Of the recreation rooms, the internees prefer those installed in the dormitories where at night they celebrate their after-dinner gathering or play an innocent game of cards. But the main hall also attracts them for larger gatherings, for musical recording auditions, for piano performances with choir accompaniment (because there is always someone who knows how to play and several who love to sing) and sometimes for showings of cinematographic films. It is a gorgeous room. On summer afternoons it captivates with its filtered light and freshness (…) The library is next door. It has more than fifteen hundred volumes, which the elderly consult often, a librarian taking charge of guiding those who need it”.
The right to beauty was a reality in these walls and galleries. Evita wanted her “her households” to be “generously rich.” That they were luxurious, because “a century of miserable asylums cannot be erased except with another century of ‘excessively luxurious’ homes.”
the mirror of old age
Mercedes Contreras, coordinator of the Care Infrastructure Program of the Ministry of Public Works of the Nation, refers to an aspect that is sometimes lost sight of. “Evita spoke of the rights of the elderly when it was not even a debate installed at the international level, she was a pioneer in promoting this type of first-class infrastructure works. Today you can’t find public, state-run places aimed at the elderly that have this level of benefits”, she points out.
The director of the Home, an institution with a care team made up of 60 workers, maintains that the people who entered and could move have had dairy farms, have made brushes and even had a printing press. The last time the galleries were painted it was done by the residents. “There are many men who have not been able to maintain a family bond; a lot of single people and single women”, Loiacono summarizes the profile of the 32 residents, while walking through the galleries and passing by two murals that remember two very dear residents, such as the mural for Daniel Piñeiro, who died in December 2021, and the mural for Guillermo Pagola. The kinesiology room is like a mini gym, with a treadmill, a bike and a bench with bars to do chest. Residents have adapted fitness classes.
Loiacono began working at the Home in 2013 and became director in 2016. “Working with older people is like seeing yourself in the mirror of what you can become. You rethink your whole life The director admits. For me it is very gratifying for that little bit that you give to the other so that they can be well and not overcrowded. Here we have many people who have been very mistreated by their families. There have been people who came in with a terrible deterioration and the change they make is significant. Many have reconnected with their families; It is not easy to reconnect with a father who has been absent all your life.”
Contreras states that it is about avoiding the institutionalization of the elderly and that this moment arrives once the person has nowhere to go. “Thanks to the public policies promoted by Peronism, coverage for the elderly is very widespread; the possibility of retiring, of accessing a pension, leads to them having a social work. The spaces that the State has, which are not many, are essential for those people who practically do not have a social or family environment, or their own home or pension or retirement coverage,” explains Contreras.
During the pandemic, two grandmothers were referred to the Home because they were overcrowded in a nursing home. The director details that there are five residents in special care, three have dementia and severe cognitive impairment. “Once we had a lady with tremendous dementia. She snapped at the caregivers, sitting in her wheelchair. Her daughter-in-law, who came to see her every day, began to cut off on the recommendation of her therapist, who told her not to come so often because she hurt her, ”Loiacono recalls the family universe of some of the residents. “There are men who have used a lot of violence against their children and those children ask themselves: now do I have to take responsibility, when he mistreated me all my life? It is very complex”analyzes the director.
The memory of Manolo and Amanda
Manuel Garcia Argentina, who is called “Manolo”, worked for 27 years at the Eva Perón Home. This 83-year-old man from Chaco, born in Las Breñas on October 20, 1938, is proud of having done everything in this place that he had not visited for two years due to the pandemic. “First I was a driver, he took all the grandparents to the hospital, he had them treated at the Adrogué hospital; sometimes he acted as a nurse and also took out the medical shifts. All the paperwork was done by me. I must have buried about 60 or 70 grandparents”, he calculates and adds that he also worked for a time in the laundry. “The grandparents’ clothes were washed in very old machines and you had to calculate the water that had to be used. Then we put the clothes in the dryer and at the end we ironed them. What I liked the most was working on the street; what they told me I did. I never protested or said ‘I’m not going to do this’. Sometimes it was my turn to bathe the grandparents. The only thing I didn’t cut was grass”, admits Manolo and even the gray beret smiles.
Amanda Algeria Diaz He entered in 1969 with a contract for three months as a cleaning staff. He was then 19 years old and had a small son. She later worked in the dining room, then as a caregiver and became the coordinator of the caregivers, until she retired, after 46 years, in 2016. “It was beautiful to work here. I remember that when I came in the morning the residents were in the gallery and they always received me”, reveals this 72-year-old woman. “I feel nostalgic when I go back; I put my feet here and so many beautiful memories come back to me, like when my little children came to spend the holidays and the mangers were made. Here it was shared with family. Afterwards we made trips to Córdoba (Río Tercero) on vacation. Once we also went to Colonia (Uruguay) to spend the day”, Amanda reviews some moments in the Home and tells that on December 24 the workers of the Home first celebrated with the grandparents and then went home to spend the holidays.
“Once a grandfather came from Salta, his daughter had brought him, and he didn’t know the grandchildren he had in Burzaco. The grandfather cried and cried and said that he wanted to go back with his daughter, to take him. So we told the social worker because he wanted to go back to his family and he didn’t want to be here. The grandchildren were called and they said: let this old man take it… It’s painful”, confesses Amanda and looks at Manolo and asks him: “What was the name of the grandfather who was crying?”. The two look in the trunk of their memories, full of luminous treasures, but the names do not appear.
Manolo comments that he had a “very bad time” during Víctor Alderete’s time at PAMI. He “he took shifts and couldn’t get them to attend to them. Then he would put them in the ambulance and take them to the guard and that way he could have the grandparents attended to”, says Manolo and complains because he had the grandparents “scattered everywhere, even in the capital”. Suddenly Amanda mentions a resident, Pius Stocco, who was in charge of bringing the wine. “Pío stopped on the way and drank all the wine,” Amanda emphasizes and makes everyone laugh out loud. “Later, over the years, he began to escape and we went to look for him with the truck. Pío was tremendous”, confirms Manolo.