Evita As Pure Icon, A Singular Eva Peron Exhibit In Paris

The Argentine embassy in Paris has gathered pictures and objects that piece together the life of Eva Peron, the loved and loathed first lady who became a "mother" to the poor in 1940s.

"Refuge of the humble"
"Refuge of the humble"
María Laura Avignolo

PARIS — Eva Perón, Argentina's near-mythical late first lady, was — and remains — an angel to some and a shameless demagogue to others, loved and hated in similar proportions. Was the woman known as "Evita" a revolutionary or another political myth?

Her life is on now display at the Madame Perón exhibition at the Argentine embassy in Paris.

Sixty-two years after her death, Evita has managed to accomplish something she never set out to do. She has crossed class lines. A new generation of Argentines and French familiar only with the "myth" will be able to access her life, her transformation as an artist and militant and her aesthetic and political mutations.

The exhibition showcases her in spectacular photographs, some seldom seen before, film footage, personal effects, images of trips to Europe and of her life to its painful end.

This is not a critical exhibition but an aesthetic homage, well mounted on black walls by an ardent admirer of Evita. Curator Eduardo Carballido dreamed for six years of an Evita Perón exhibit at Argentina's embassy in Paris. A string of Kirchner-appointed ambassadors rejected the proposal until it was finally approved recently by María del Carmen Squeff.

Included in it are some lesser known pictures of Evita's trip to Europe, with stops that included Portugal, Greece, Madrid, Paris and Monaco. She is seen with the socialist presidential family in Paris, in the Swiss Alps, in Madrid with an irked First Lady Carmen Polo de Franco, at a time when Spain desperately needed economic help. She is pictured in Rome with Monsignor Roncalli, the future Pope John XXIII, who makes her kiss Christ's Crown of Thorns. It was a tour that changed Evita. She absorbed like a sponge everything she saw.

Carballido, the curator, explains his love for Madame Perón. "I am a supporter of Evita first, then a Peronist," he says, referring to the movement that broadly continues to determine Argentina's affairs. "It's because of my mother. When I was six or seven, she told me what happened. She had qualified as a teacher with a top-class diploma, and could not find work. So my mother, who was completely against the Perons, sent her a letter with her gold medal and diploma. Evita sent her back her diploma, the medal and a teacher's appointment, which served her the rest of her life. That is how I came to know and admire her."

Gathering a lifetime

It was no easy task collecting the pictures and items on exhibit, but everyone helped. The Argentine national archives sent photographs. Graphic designer Celeste Diez de los Ríos served a crucial role repairing photos so that giant copies could be made. Carballido donated his letters and everything else about her that he had collected over the years. France sent a copy of the Légion d'honneur presented to Evita. Argentina"s former ambassador in Paris, Archibaldo Lanús, gave Evita's dress and hat, which her secretary had given him as a gift.

One family brought in the Christian Dior perfume she had used, and another donated a French edition of her memoirs, La raison de ma vie. The Evita museum in Buenos Aires asked for insurance sums that were prohibitive. That sparked the idea of creating a replica of the red dress Evita wore in 1945 for a magazine cover shoot. With deft hands and generosity, dressmaker Martina Moscariello made it.

"I find the way she dressed incredible," Moscariello says. "Her hair was just so tightly bound."

Arriving in Madrid in 1947 — Photo: Iberia Airlines

Writer Alicia Dujovne Ortiz, author of a 1995 book on Perón, agreed to provide a video presentation. In her book, she elaborated on her theory of Evita's social revenge following a childhood of humiliations, bereft of paternal affection and recognition. Her mother, who had five children out of wedlock with a local landowner, "raised them all with the help of a sewing machine," Dujovne Ortiz says.

Dujovne Ortiz believes Evita began to seethe inside the day of her father's funeral, when his legitimate wife and children would not let the mistress and her offspring into the family residence. "And Evita keeps this terrible picture inside here, where it burned her memory and justifies all her later desire to attain justice for herself and others," Dujovne Ortiz says.

Before what's known as her "renunciation" — when she declined to run for vice president — and her cancer and death, Evita was loved and hated in equal measure. Today, Argentine embassy is bringing together myth and the modern context of Evita's political legacy.

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Air Next: How A Crypto Scam Collapsed On A Single Spelling Mistake

It is today a proven fraud, nailed by the French stock market watchdog: Air Next resorted to a full range of dubious practices to raise money but the simplest of errors exposed the scam and limited the damage to investors.

Sky is the crypto limit

Laurence Boisseau

PARIS — Air Next promised to use blockchain technology to revolutionize passenger transport. Should we have read something into its name? In fact, the company was talking a lot of hot air from the start. Air Next turned out to be a scam, with a fake website, false identities, fake criminal records, counterfeited bank certificates, aggressive marketing … real crooks. Thirty-five employees recruited over the summer ranked among its victims, not to mention the few investors who put money in the business.

Maud (not her real name) had always dreamed of working in a start-up. In July, she spotted an ad on Linkedin and was interviewed by videoconference — hardly unusual in the era of COVID and teleworking. She was hired very quickly and signed a permanent work contract. She resigned from her old job, happy to get started on a new adventure.

Others like Maud fell for the bait. At least ten senior managers, coming from major airlines, airports, large French and American corporations, a former police officer … all firmly believed in this project. Some quit their jobs to join; some French expats even made their way back to France.

Share capital of one billion 

The story began last February, when Air Next registered with the Paris Commercial Court. The new company stated it was developing an application that would allow the purchase of airline tickets by using cryptocurrency, at unbeatable prices and with an automatic guarantee in case of cancellation or delay, via a "smart contract" system (a computer protocol that facilitates, verifies and oversees the handling of a contract).

The firm declared a share capital of one billion euros, with offices under construction at 50, Avenue des Champs Elysées, and a president, Philippe Vincent ... which was probably a usurped identity.

Last summer, Air Next started recruiting. The company also wanted to raise money to have the assets on hand to allow passenger compensation. It organized a fundraiser using an ICO, or "Initial Coin Offering", via the issuance of digital tokens, transacted in cryptocurrencies through the blockchain.

While nothing obliged him to do so, the company owner went as far as setting up a file with the AMF, France's stock market regulator which oversees this type of transaction. Seeking the market regulator stamp is optional, but when issued, it gives guarantees to those buying tokens.

screenshot of the typo that revealed the Air Next scam

The infamous typo that brought the Air Next scam down

compta online

Raising Initial Coin Offering 

Then, on Sept. 30, the AMF issued an alert, by way of a press release, on the risks of fraud associated with the ICO, as it suspected some documents to be forgeries. A few hours before that, Air Next had just brought forward by several days the date of its tokens pre-sale.

For employees of the new company, it was a brutal wake-up call. They quickly understood that they had been duped, that they'd bet on the proverbial house of cards. On the investor side, the CEO didn't get beyond an initial fundraising of 150,000 euros. He was hoping to raise millions, but despite his failure, he didn't lose confidence. Challenged by one of his employees on Telegram, he admitted that "many documents provided were false", that "an error cost the life of this project."

What was the "error" he was referring to? A typo in the name of the would-be bank backing the startup. A very small one, at the bottom of the page of the false bank certificate, where the name "Edmond de Rothschild" is misspelled "Edemond".

Finding culprits 

Before the AMF's public alert, websites specializing in crypto-assets had already noted certain inconsistencies. The company had declared a share capital of 1 billion euros, which is an enormous amount. Air Next's CEO also boasted about having discovered bitcoin at a time when only a few geeks knew about cryptocurrency.

Employees and investors filed a complaint. Failing to find the general manager, Julien Leclerc — which might also be a fake name — they started looking for other culprits. They believe that if the Paris Commercial Court hadn't registered the company, no one would have been defrauded.

Beyond the handful of victims, this case is a plea for the implementation of more secure procedures, in an increasingly digital world, particularly following the pandemic. The much touted ICO market is itself a victim, and may find it hard to recover.

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