The West End and Broadway production of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's iconic musical Evita is now playing at Fuengirola's Salon Varietés theatre. Until 25 October, the theatre's major production for this season, directed by Peter Mitchell, tells the story of the early life of the Argentine political figure Eva Perón, the second wife of President Juan Perón.
In the summer of 1947, Eva Perón came to Spain on an official visit and is said to have left the country as another woman, probably as she is shown in the musical.
The trip lasted 18 days. On 7 June, Eva Perón arrived in Madrid where the following day she gave a speech, dressed in a fur coat in front of half a million people gathered in the Plaza de Oriente, near the Royal Palace. After Madrid, Eva visited Barcelona and other smaller cities across the country. Three of them were in Andalucía.
Eva Perón stayed in this region for five days. She had almost the same routine every day: meeting civil and military authorities; visiting a Cathedral or an important factory; a short sightseeing tour; attending gala dinners; and greeting people mostly from a open-topped car.
The first stopover on Evita's Andalusian tour was Granada. She arrived at Armilla aerodrome on the afternoon of Sunday 15 June. It was the last day of the Corpus Fair in which Evita managed to participate. It's said that in Granada Eva's brother, Juan Duarte, who officially accompanied her during the visit, managed to flaunt his fame as a womaniser. The incident happened in Sacromonte where local gypsies invited the guests for a party.
In Granada Eva Perón visited the tombs of Spanish monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella in the Capilla Real de Granada as well as the Palacio de Generalife and even the munitions factory in El Fargue.
On Monday 16 June Evita arrived in the capital of Andalucía, Seville. The Provincial Labour Delegation had declared a public holiday to facilitate the massive influx of people to welcome the first lady of their beloved Argentina. The people of Seville turned out en masse to catch a glimpse of Evita. The road from Tablada airport was lined with cars and thousands of Sevillians greeted her enthusiastically during the entire procession. In Seville Eva Perón stayed at the iconic Hotel Alfonso XIII. The journey from the hotel to the City Hall was described by journalists as the apotheosis of the visit.
The balconies were brightly decorated, young people dressed in flamenco costumes released doves into the sky. The Argentinian First Lady was honoured by soldiers at the gates to the City Hall.
Evita was impressive and she did not stop offering words of thanks to the people of Seville for their warm welcome. She promised to pass on their greetings to President Perón. That ceremony finished with a huge firework display. According to the chronicles of that time, the Andalusian capital was "euphoric" over Evita's visit.
For Huelva, Wednesday 18 June was undoubtedly a very special day. At around 7.30pm Evita arrived by car preceded by an escort of motorcyclists. Huelva prepared the same type of welcoming as Seville - with bright costumes, enthusiastic speeches, flags and anthems.
In Huelva Eva Perón was especially elegant. A reporter wrote: "Mrs Perón wore a printed suit of natural silk and a hat made with lilac and white flowers; she wore black shoes, earrings and a gold brooch."
She was accompanied by a very special escort of numerous horsemen who carried young women dressed in Andalusian costumes. The red carpet that covered the pier led to a Navy speedboat which took the honoured guest to Punta del Sebo and the monument to Christopher Columbus.
Evita's Andalusian trip ended on 19 June. An Iberia plane with the Argentinian First Lady on board headed to Santiago de Compostela where Eva still had five more days of entertainment from the Franco authorities.
After visiting Spain, Eva Perón continued her European tour to Italy, France, Switzerland. The trip to Great Britain was cancelled as the royal family refused to receive her.
Some say that the trip to Spain changed Eva Perón. According to the opinion of journalist Ángeles Blanco, who wrote the 2019 book Los Dos Viajes de Evita (The Two Trips of Evita): "She came to Spain as Eva Perón and 18 days later left as Evita."