Descamisado is a Spanish word that literally means "without shirt" or "shirtless." The term was originally used as an insult by the elite of Argentina to describe the followers of Juan Peron, who served as president of Argentina from 1946 until 1955, and then again briefly from 1973 to 1974. The term was later reclaimed as a term of pride, with Juan Peron and his wife Eva Peron affectionately referring to their followers as "descamisados." And during his 1945 campaign for president, Juan Peron toured the country on a train that he named "El Descamisado."
However, the first usage of the term in the history of Argentina dates back to the XIX century. Tomas de Iriarte described in his memories a time when he was walking with Carlos Maria de Alvear and found Manuel Dorrego with dirty and broken clothes. Iriarte wrote that "Excusado es decir que esto era estudiado para captarse la multitud, los descamisados". .
By most accounts, the term has its modern origins on October 17, 1945, when thousands of supporters of Juan Peron gathered in front of the Casa Rosada to demand Peron's release from prison. While waiting for Peron on this hot day, many men in the crowd removed their shirts -- hence the term "shirtless." However, there is much debate among scholars in regards to the origins of the label. Some claim that the moniker was applied in reference to the fact that those labeled as such were in fact the working poor, the social class from which Peron drew the greatest amount of his political backing, who were so downtrodden that they could not have afforded to buy shirts. Peron's use of the labor unions as a means of consolidating his power lends credibility to the claim.Jonathan Ablard, Madness in Buenos Aires: Patients, Psychiatrists, and the Argentine State 1880-1983 , 179.Thomas Skidmore and Peter Smith, Modern Latin America , 86-9.
The "descamisados" of Peronism have occasionally been compared to the Sans-culottes of the French Revolution though such a comparison should be made with caution. The sans-culotte, whose identity spans a spectrum of wealth, were for the most part the artisan class;Mark Kishlansky, Patrick Geary, and Patricia O'Brien, Civilization in the West: Since 1555, Vol. 2, 6th Ed , 621. in Peronist Argentina, the descamisados stood at odds with the artisan and other notable classes.Thomas Skidmore, Modern Latin America, 86-9.
Argentine magazine "El Descamisado"
Descamisado listing on Encyclopedia Britannica
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