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Evita's face on Argentina's new 100-peso bill

From Jose Manuel Rodriguez, CNN
July 27, 2012 -- Updated 0024 GMT (0824 HKT)
Argentine President Cristina Kirchner, left, shows the new 100 pesos bill featuring created by French graphic artist Roger Pfund
Argentine President Cristina Kirchner, left, shows the new 100 pesos bill featuring created by French graphic artist Roger Pfund
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Eva Peron's face will be on new 100-peso bills, Argentina's president says
  • The announcement comes on the eve of a series of events commemorating Peron
  • The former actress was first lady from 1946 until her death in 1952
  • She championed the rights of the poor and pushed for social programs

Buenos Aires (CNN) -- The face of Argentina's most famous first lady is part of a new design for the country's currency.

Eva Peron -- better known by her nickname, Evita -- will be on new 100-peso bills released into circulation in the coming weeks, Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner announced Wednesday.

"It's not that Eva was perfect or a saint, quite the opposite. What made her into something greater, more unforgettable and immortal is that she was a humble woman of the people who had the great luck to meet a man and a people," Fernandez said as she unveiled the new design.

The new design marks the first time a woman will appear on an Argentinian bill in 200 years, she said.

The announcement came on the eve of a series of events Thursday commemorating the 60th anniversary of the death of Peron, who was Argentina's first lady from 1946 until 1952.

As first lady, Maria Eva Duarte de Peron championed the rights of the poor, pushed for more social programs and argued for women's suffrage, drawing criticism from members of Argentina's political establishment and its upper class.

Argentine police officers accused of torture that appears on video

Decades after her death, she continues to spark criticism from opponents and devotion from supporters in the South American country.

She has also captured the interest of people beyond Argentina's borders, many of whom know her story from the 1978 Andrew Lloyd Webber musical "Evita" and its 1996 movie adaptation, which starred Madonna and Antonio Banderas. Singer Ricky Martin is currently performing in a Broadway revival of the show.

In recent years, some have compared Peron with Argentina's current president, who was first lady for four years during the presidency of her late husband Nestor Kirchner, who was president from 2003-2007 and died in 2010.

"Both of them were first ladies. Both of them were accused of influencing the governments of their husbands when they were first ladies. I think both of them are very beloved by humble people and are very popular among them, and also resisted by the most powerful," said Araceli Bellota, a journalist and historian.

Evita's mythological status comes from a combination of factors, historian Felipe Pigna said, dating back to the disappearance of her cadaver during the country's military dictatorship.

"The disappearance of her body, the marked hatred from her enemies, who evidently speak of a person who continues worrying them, someone they are still afraid of even after her death," he said.

In Buenos Aires Thursday, tourists streamed into to a museum commemorating Evita's life, visiting a building that was once a shelter for children run by Peron's foundation.

Some said they were visiting from abroad. Others who grew up in Argentina shared personal recollections of the former first lady.

"I remember when she stopped at the corner by my house handing out toys, and I can attest that we would go and they would give us bicycles, toys, whatever we wanted. And they didn't ask anything of us," said Argentinian Irene Piergiovani.

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