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Argentinians pay tribute to Peron on 60th year of death

BUENOS AIRES -- Argentina paid a rousing tribute to Eva Peron on Thursday, the 60th anniversary of the national icon's premature death, with President Cristina Kirchner hailing her as “eternal.”

A musical on Broadway in New York City, Alan Parker's 1996 film featuring Madonna and the captivating novel by Tomas Eloy Martinez “Santa Evita” (Saint Evita) have all helped to keep Peron's legend alive.

An unrivaled orator who delivered impassioned speeches from the balcony of the Casa Rosada presidential palace, Evita in 1949 secured women's right to vote, earning a legacy comparable to that of Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara.

“She is eternal, unique. But we must draw the lessons of history and know that the path we have chosen, of a country with fewer poor people, means confronting interests,” Kirchner said during a commemoration in Jose C. Paz, a town located 40 kilometers (25 miles) northeast of Buenos Aires.

“We are back because, she, Eva Peron, had vowed to return among her millions of Argentinians and we had to honor her promise to offer a different country,” the president told a crowd estimated by organizers at 100,000.

At a parallel ceremony in La Recoleta cemetery in an exclusive Buenos Aires district, hundreds of people, including many foreigners, congregated around the grave where the glamorous second wife of president Juan Peron, is buried.

“There will never be someone like her,” said 76-year-old Norma Bermudez, a retired nurse who had held a three-day wake in 1952 when Evita, full name Maria Eva Duarte de Peron, died from cancer at the age of 33.

Bermudez said a weeping “human tide” paraded outside Congress while central Buenos Aires was bedecked with carnations, roses and chrysanthemums.

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