Argentines savor politics at Peronist cafes

Fri May 20, 2011 5:13pm EDT
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By Luis Andres Henao

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters Life!) - Dapper in a dinner jacket, a life-sized statue of Gen. Peron has a permanent table at "A Coffee with Peron," one of several theme cafes cashing in on nostalgia for the former president and his wife Evita.

Coffee and politics have long mingled in Buenos Aires' famous corner cafes, but the Peronist bars are drawing a new crowd of politicians, youth activists and curious tourists as the country gears up for a presidential election in October.

"Peron has always been in fashion but now more than ever I see the new generations' passion about him," said Lorenzo Pepe, 83, director of a government-funded institution that preserves Peron artifacts, as he sipped an espresso.

"A Coffee with Peron," which opened late last year, is housed in a restored cottage that used to be home to the strongman leader's butler and Evita's caretaker.

It lies on the site of the former presidential residence in Buenos Aires, which was demolished after Evita's death at the age of 33 to build the national library.

Pepe, who met Juan Domingo Peron during the leader's exile in Spain in the late 1960s, said nostalgia for the heyday of Peron and Evita was rekindled by the recent death of former President Nestor Kirchner, a life-long Peronist.

Besides the statue, Peron's books, handwritten letters and propaganda posters adorn the cafe.

With the glamorous Evita by his side, Peron nationalized railroads and utilities and expanded worker benefits, earning him hero status among many working-class Argentines.   Continued...

<p>Lorenzo Pepe, director of the Juan Peron institute, gestures as he sits next to a statue of former Argentine President Juan Peron at the "Un cafe con Peron" (A coffee with Peron) restaurant in Buenos Aires May 8, 2011. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci</p>