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Hispanic American Historical Review 87:1

doi 10.1215/00182168-2006-089
Copyright 2007 by Duke University Press

Peronist Consumer Politics and the Problem


of Domesticating Markets in Argentina,
1943 1955
Eduardo Elena
Peronist leaders described the problem of
containing inflation as a battle between good and evil, blending military and
religious imagery. During the initial Sixty-Day Campaign, for instance, Eva
Pern prevailed on women to follow the states lead in stamping out high prices.
Our home, our sacred space [recinto], the altar of our emotions, is in danger,
warned Evita. Over it hovers threateningly the unspeakable machinations
[incalificable maniobra] of speculation and usury.25 The religious overtones of
Evitas statements highlighted the Manichean terms of consumer politics. There
was a strong gothic quality to Peronist moralizing.26

Women were considered crucial in the fight against commerce,


a connection the Peronists shared with other twentieth-century efforts to mobilize
the political power of consumers.27 Shortly after Eva Perns 1946 speech,
the Secretariat of Industry and Commerce took out full-page ads in womens
magazines urging readers, Dont Pay a Cent More.28 From the perspective
of Peronist leaders, women were well suited to the task of ensuring compliance
with price controls because of their presumed command of the purse strings
and daily shopping decisions. Likewise, women were seen as an underused
political resource, and consumption was one way that Peronists moved to win
female Argentines over to their side, along with the extension of voting rights
in 1947.29 Evita accentuated the special spiritual and moral authority women
had over male breadwinners as mothers, wives, and girlfriends. Peronist leaders,
however, avoided presenting consumption as an entirely female sphere of influence,
and the government made overtures to unions, cooperatives, and other
traditionally male bastions of cost-of-living activism. All Argentines, in theory,
could serve as potential weapons in the battle against usurious merchants.

While the
old focus on moral markets remained intact, Pern and Evita shifted emphasis
from the evils of commerce to the patriotic and partisan duties of consumers.
As with many other political initiatives to craft citizen-consumers, Peronist
authorities articulated new connections among the home, marketplace, and
nation. This strategy involved casting a spotlight on womens authority over the
domestic economy and male family members.47

He
criticized in particular the rastacuero behavior of fellow Argentines the custom
of living beyond ones means and publicly displaying the illusion of wealth
and high status, or as Pern put it, the need to give the appearance that we are
more than we are. He argued that people threw money around at restaurants
and stores without checking to see if they were being ripped off. The president
suggested that there were too many loafers (harraganes) and fools (zonzos)
who complained about inflation but spent money recklessly or on needless vices
(such as gambling at the horse track). Using an example that he would repeat
frequently, Pern bemoaned all the perfectly good meat and bread that he saw
dumped in the trash on his way to work in the morning: while postwar Europe
languished in penury, the president noted, many Argentines failed to appreciate
their land of plenty.51

These statements illustrate the ambivalence with which Peronist leaders


viewed mass consumption. It was an integral facet of social justice but also a
potentially corrupting force that threatened the nation and the revolucin justicialista.
Enticed by sudden spending power, popular households could become
obsessed with luxury and satisfying consumerist desires.
Rather than
admitting the governments own responsibility for inflation, Pern created a new persona
the negligent consumer to stand alongside the speculator in
the rogues gallery of the peoples enemies.
Criticisms of unpatriotic consumer behavior played on supporters guilt
and sought to spur them into action. Peronist leaders presented themselves as
tutors who would instruct Argentines in the proper habits of everyday consumption.
Home economics (economa domstica) became a political buzzword, and
several branches of the Peronist regime aimed to inculcate thrift among popular
households. The didactic tone was evident in Perns speeches.
Asserting that
now every Argentine should be his own price inspector, the president gave his
public practical advice on how to shop: when one goes to buy socks, he recommended,
carry a list of price controls in your pocket; offer the store owner the
official price, and if he does not accept, call the police and have him carted off to
Villa Devoto. If every citizen did this, Pern concluded, speculation would be
eliminated in a mere 48 hours.52 Federal agencies published manuals for families
on home economics that applied the techniques of state planning to the household
budget, including estimating and prioritizing daily expenditures. Perns
populist discourse pushed outward at the boundaries of traditional political distinctions
between the public and private.
These efforts paid special notice to women, above all housewives. If women
were seen as instrumental in the crusade against speculators, they were even
more important weapons in reducing wastefulness. It fell upon housewives,
Pern contended, to act as tutelary angels of home economics by ridiculing
the wild spending of the men in their households and honing their skills
at managing family budgets.54 By focusing on the significance of housewives,
state officials highlighted the political importance of women and not only as
maternal agents of reproduction and childrearing. Peronist authorities linked
the activities associated with the household economy shopping, food preparation,
and forms of self-sufficient production (tending gardens, making clothes,
and so on) to the vitality of the national economy as a whole.
In rhetorical
terms at least, housewives were depicted as analogous to state planners, employ-ing
similarly rational techniques to ensure maximum efficiency in the use of
national resources. Propaganda-makers replaced the emphasis on sensual pleasure
and satisfaction associated with advertising depictions of female consumers
with a more somber tone, one that presented consumption as a serious business
of civic duty.
This political role for women, however, had obvious limitations. By equating
women with housewives, Peronist leaders backed a restrictive paradigm
of gender relations in which the home and marketplace were the primary,
legitimate spheres for Argentine women. They helped to propagate a contrast
between the male breadwinner and female homemaker, strengthening a division
of labor depicted in mass culture and to which at least some popular-sector
households aspired.55 There was a clear paternalism to the regimes brand of
consumer politics. Women were presented as loyal agents who would follow
the instructions of the state, and who unlike feckless male wage earners were
assumed to be not only more responsible but perhaps more malleable to partisan
instruction.
The reeducation of female consumers fell mainly under the control of Eva
Pern and her agencies. This dimension of consumer politics grew out of the
social-assistance activities carried out by Evitas branches of the Peronist movement,
the Partido Peronista Femenino and the Fundacin Eva Pern. Neighborhoodlevel unidades bsicas offered women classes on home economics and

distributed propaganda on household thrift. The Fundacin Eva Pern went


one step further and opened a chain of approximately 200 proveedurias (retail
stores modeled on union cooperatives) that sold subsidized food and household
goods.56 In addition to economic motives, the courting of female consumers
responded to internal partisan politics. Historians have argued that from the late
1940s onward, Perns regime sought to offset the influence of organized labor
by reaching out to women, children, the poor, and other unorganized sectors.57
Officials did not ignore male consumers or union members entirely in their
reeducation efforts; antispeculation speeches were reprinted in union newspapers,
and handbooks on home economics were written in gender-neutral terms
with illustrations of both husbands and wives.58 But legions of thrifty and loyal
female consumers would provide an alternative ally to the predominately male
unions demanding higher wages. This distinction may explain why Peronist
authorities focused mainly on consumer education and forging patron-client
relationships. Pern and Evitas regime was less interested in building independent
consumer-rights organizations than in molding the consciousness of shoppers
at the household level through controllable partisan channels.59
Peronist
leaders continued to employ a moral-economic discourse, even as material conditions
and state policies changed. In a 1953 speech, Pern compared recent
profiteering by retailers to a national disease: [W]e have to extirpate this cancer
or the cancer will extirpate us (a metaphor made all the more potent in
light of Evitas own fatal cancer). He reminded audiences as well of the need for
disciplined spending, chastising the public for being too comfortable and lacking
character when it came to shopping.

The
Peronist drive to domesticate markets sheds light on some central contradictions
of populist politics in Argentina: between growing popular participation
and mounting authoritarianism, between expanding the political role of women
and reinforcing restrictive gender norms, between emphasizing the states
responsibility to protect consumer well-being and calling on citizens to restrain
household consumption.

Dirigentes peronistas describieron el problema de contener la inflacin como


una batalla entre el bien y el mal, mezcla imgenes religiosas y militares.
Durante la campaa inicial de sesenta das, por ejemplo, Eva Pern
prevaleci sobre la mujer que sigan el ejemplo del Estado en acabar con los
altos precios. "Nuestra casa, nuestro espacio sagrado [recinto], el altar de
nuestras emociones, est en peligro", advirti Evita. "Ms sita
threateningly las maquinaciones indecibles [incalificable maniobra] de la
especulacin y la usura."Los matices religiosos de las declaraciones de Evita
destacan los trminos maniqueas de la poltica de consumidores. Hubo una
fuerte calidad gtica peronista moralizing.
Las mujeres fueron consideradas cruciales en la lucha contra el comercio,
una conexin a los peronistas compartieron con otros esfuerzos del siglo XX
para movilizar el poder poltico de consumers. poco despus de la
intervencin de Eva Pern 1946, la Secretara de industria y comercio llev a
cabo anuncios de pgina completa en revistas femeninas instando a los
lectores, "no pagar un centavo ms." Desde la perspectiva de dirigentes

peronistas, las mujeres fueron adaptadas a la tarea de garantizar el


cumplimiento de los controles de precios debido a su presunto comando de
las cadenas de monedero y decisiones de compras cotidianas. Asimismo, las
mujeres fueron vistas como un recurso poltico subutilizado y consumo fue
de una manera que peronistas se trasladaron a conquistar mujeres
argentinos a su lado, junto con la extensin del derecho de voto en 1947.
Evita acenta la mujer especial autoridad espiritual y moral sobre sostn
masculino como madres, esposas y novias. . Dirigentes peronistas, sin
embargo, evitados presentar el consumo como una esfera de influencia
totalmente femenina y las oberturas de Gobierno hizo a sindicatos,
cooperativas y otros bastiones tradicionalmente masculinas de activismo de
costo de la vida. Todos los argentinos, en teora, podran servir como
potenciales armas en la batalla contra los comerciantes usurero.
Mientras el viejo enfoque en mercados morales permaneci intacto, Pern y
Evita cambi nfasis de los males del comercio a los deberes patriticos y
partidistas de los consumidores. Como con muchas otras iniciativas polticas
para embarcaciones "ciudadanos-consumidores," las autoridades peronistas
articulan nuevas conexiones entre la casa, el mercado y la nacin. Esta
estrategia participan fundicin autoridad femenina con un foco sobre la
economa domstica y el macho members familiar
En particular critic el comportamiento de "rastacuero" de colegas
argentinos: la costumbre de vivir ms all de los medios y mostrar
pblicamente la ilusin de riqueza y de alto estatus, o como Pern decirlo, la
necesidad de "dar la apariencia de que somos ms de lo que somos."
Argument que personas arrojaron dinero en restaurantes y tiendas sin
comprobar si se rasg. El Presidente sugiri que haba demasiados
"mocasines" (harraganes) y "tontos" (zonzos) que se quejaron de inflacin
pero gastaron dinero imprudentemente o en vicios innecesarios (como
juegos de azar en la pista de caballos).
Utilizando un ejemplo que l quera repetir con frecuencia, Pern lament
todos los perfectamente buena carne y pan que vio arrojada a la basura en
su camino al trabajo por la maana: mientras Europa posguerra languideci
en la miseria, seal el Presidente, muchos argentinos se ha podido apreciar
sus tierras de plenty.
Estas declaraciones demuestran la ambivalencia con que dirigentes
peronistas considera consumo masivo. Era una faceta integral de justicia
social sino tambin una fuerza potencialmente corruptor que amenaza a la
nacin y la "revolucin justicialista". Tentados por repentino gasto de
hogares de poder, populares podra convertirse en obsesionado con lujo y
deseos de satisfaccin consumista.
En lugar de admitir la responsabilidad del Gobierno por la inflacin, Pern
cre un nuevo personaje: el consumidor negligente a presentarse junto
con el especulador en la Galera de ' pcaros de enemigos del pueblo.
Crticas del comportamiento del consumidor antipatriotas toc en

culpabilidad supporters' y trat de estimular a la accin. Dirigentes


peronistas presentaron como tutores que podran instruir a los argentinos en
los hbitos adecuados de consumo diario. "Economa domstica" (economa
domstica) se convirti en una moda poltica, y varias ramas del rgimen
peronista pretenden inculcar el ahorro entre las familias populares. El tono
didctico era evidente en los discursos de Pern.
Afirmando que ahora "Cada argentino debe ser su propio inspector de
precio", el Presidente dio su pblico consejos prcticos sobre cmo comprar:
cuando uno va a comprar calcetines, recomend, lleve una lista de controles
de precios en el bolsillo; ofrecen al propietario de la tienda el precio oficial y
si l no acepta, llamar a la polica y le quirrgicamente frente a Villa Devoto.
Si cada ciudadano hizo esto, Pern lleg a la conclusin, la especulacin se
eliminarn en un mero 48 hours. agencias federales publicado manuales
para las familias de economa domstica que aplican las tcnicas de
planificacin estatal en el presupuesto domstico, incluida la estimacin y
priorizacin de los gastos diarios. Discurso populista de Pern empuj hacia
afuera en los lmites de las distinciones polticas tradicionales entre pblico
y privado.

Estos esfuerzos pagan aviso especial a las mujeres, sobre todo amas de
casa. Si las mujeres fueron vistas como instrumental en la cruzada contra
los especuladores, eran "armas" ms importantes en la reduccin del
despilfarro. Cay a amas de casa, Pern sostena, para actuar como
"ngeles tutelares de economa domstica" por ridiculizar el gasto salvaje
de los hombres en sus hogares y perfeccionar sus habilidades en el manejo
de la familia budgets. centrndose en la importancia de amas de casa,
Estado funcionarios destacaron la importancia poltica de las mujeres y
no slo como agentes maternos de reproduccin y crianza. Autoridades
peronistas vinculados a las actividades asociadas a la economa familiar,
compras, preparacin de alimentos y formas de produccin autosuficiente
(cuidar jardines, haciendo ropa y as sucesivamente) a la vitalidad de la
economa nacional en su conjunto.
Al menos, en trminos retricos amas de casa fueron representados como
anlogo a los planificadores del Estado, ing emplean tcnicas igualmente
racional para garantizar la mxima eficiencia en el uso de los recursos
nacionales. Los creadores de la propaganda reemplaz el nfasis de placer
sensual y satisfaccin asociado con las representaciones de los
consumidores femeninas con un tono ms sombro, uno que presenta el
consumo como un negocio serio del deber cvico de publicidad.
Este papel poltico de la mujer, sin embargo, tuvo limitaciones obvias. Al
equiparar las mujeres amas de casa, dirigentes peronistas respaldado un
paradigma restrictivo de las relaciones de gnero en el que el hogar y el
mercado eran las esferas principales, legtimas para las mujeres argentinas.
Ayudaron a propagar un contraste entre el sostn masculino y femenino

ama de casa, fortalecer una divisin del trabajo representada en la cultura


de masas y que al menos algunos aspired. popular sector hogares exista un
claro paternalismo marca del rgimen de la poltica de consumidores. Las
mujeres se presentaron como agentes leales que seguira las instrucciones
del Estado, y que a diferencia de los asalariados masculinos engendren se
supone que no slo ms responsable pero quizs ms maleable para
instruccin partidista.
La reeducacin de los consumidores femeninos cay principalmente bajo el
control de Eva Pern y sus organismos. Esta dimensin de la poltica de
consumo creci fuera de las actividades de asistencia social llevada a cabo
por ramas de Evita del movimiento peronista, el Partido Peronista Femenino
y la Fundacin Eva Pern. Nivel de barrio unidades bsicas ofrecen mujeres
clases de economa domstica y propaganda distribuida en ahorro
domstico. La Fundacin Eva Pern fue un paso ms all y abri una cadena
de aproximadamente 200 proveedurias (tiendas modeladas sobre Unin
cooperativas) que venden alimentos subvencionados y bienes domsticos
adems de motivos econmicos, cortejando a los consumidores femeninos
respondi a la poltica partidista interna. Los historiadores han argumentado
que desde la dcada de 1940 adelante, rgimen de Pern intent
compensar la influencia de trabajo organizado por llegar a las mujeres, los
nios, los pobres y otros sectores organizados

Los funcionarios no ignorar los consumidores masculinos o miembros de la


Unin completamente en sus esfuerzos de reeducacin; antispeculation
discursos fueron reimpresas en peridicos de Unin y manuales sobre
economa domstica fueron escritas en trminos neutrales con ilustraciones
de maridos y wives. pero legiones de consumidores femeninas ahorrativo y
leales proporcionara a un aliado alternativo a la predominantemente
masculinas sindicatos exigiendo salarios ms altos. Esta distincin puede
explicar por qu las autoridades peronistas se centraron principalmente en
la educacin del consumidor y forjar relaciones de patrn cliente. Rgimen
de Pern y de Evita fue que menos interesado en la construccin de
organizaciones independientes de derechos del consumidor que en la
conciencia de compradores a nivel domstico a travs de canales partidistas
controlables de moldeo por moldeo por la conciencia de compradores a
nivel domstico a travs de channels. partidista controlable
Dirigentes peronistas siguieron empleando un discurso moral y econmico,
incluso cuando las condiciones materiales y polticas de estado cambian. En
un discurso de 1953 Pern compar la reciente especulacin por los
comerciantes para una enfermedad nacional: "e [W] tienen que extirpar
este cncer o extirpar el cncer nos" (una metfora hizo todos los ms
potentes de luz de Evita propia fatales cncer). Record pblico as como de
la necesidad de disciplina del gasto, regaando al pblico por ser
"demasiado cmodo y carente de carcter" cuando vena de compras.

La unidad peronista de domesticar los mercados arroja luz sobre algunas


contradicciones centrales de la poltica populista en Argentina: entre la
creciente participacin popular y montaje de autoritarismo, entre ampliando
el papel poltico de la mujer y reforzar las normas restrictivas de gnero,
entre haciendo hincapi en la responsabilidad del Estado para proteger el
bienestar del consumidor y pidiendo a los ciudadanos para frenar el
consumo de los hogares.