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A surprising amount of worldwide household names hail from Argentina. From football to television, and even to religion, Argentina has a habit of turning out famous people that command international attention. We check out the stories behind some of the most famous names to come out of this South American country.
Eva Peron might be more well known abroad as Evita, owing probably in large part to the 1996 musical film of the same name where the protagonist is played by Madonna. Evita’s story is a rags to riches tale: a country girl comes to the big city of Buenos Aires to make it as an actress, meets a handsome powerful man, (the future president Juan Peron), falls in love and goes on to become Argentina’s First Lady. She was also a champion of workers’ and women’s rights, and died tragically at the age of 33 from breast cancer, after which her body went on a mysterious odyssey before being returned to Argentina to rest in Buenos Aires’s famous Recoleta cemetery.
Argentina’s most famous footballer that everybody loves to hate is Diego Maradona. Although he is often cited as one of the best football players of all time, Maradona is perhaps more famous for his controversial professional and personal life. He played for a number of teams in Italy, Spain and Argentina, as well as for the Argentine national team, and made history for handling the ball in the 1986 World Cup, nicknamed the “Hand of God”, and then went on to win the game by scoring a goal which was deemed the “goal of the century” bu FIFA voters. Following his football career, Maradona has been mired in scandals of addiction, adultery, battery, and dubious political leanings. Certainly an interesting character.
On the other side of the football coin, we have Lionel Messi. While Maradona was a loud and controversial character, Messi is adored by all for being a boy-next-door type, who is often seen cooking asados with him family and known for his loyalty to his wife and children. He plays for Barcelona and the Argentine national team, but has been having a rough time in his international matches of late, and at one point vowed to quit international football after failing to take home the title for Argentina in the 2014 World Cup and the Copa America in 2015 and 2016.
One could be forgiven for thinking that Ricardo Darin is perhaps the only actor in Argentina, given how much he proliferates in Argentine cinema. He comes from a long line of actors and made his theatre debut at the age of ten alongside his parents. Darin has starred in an amazing number of what are considered to be some of Argentina’s best films, including the cult classic Nueve Reinas, the Oscar-winning movie El Secreto de sus Ojos, and the black comedy Relatos Salvajes.
Viggo Mortensen of Lord of the Rings fame may not technically be Argentine, but he did live in Argentina for a number of years as a child, and speaks fluent porteno Spanish, something which may surprise many of his fans. Mortensen is a hot shot Hollywood actor, but he is also a musician, poet, photographer, painter and writer. In true Argentine fashion, he has many diverse interests, making him as much of an Argentine as anyone who was actually born here.
Everybody’s favourite pope, at least in Argentina and among liberal circles worldwide, is Pope Francis. Hailing from Buenos Aires, 81-year old Jorge Mario Bergoglio is the 266th pope of the Catholic Church. Pope Francis can claim the title for lots of firsts – he is the first Jesuit pope, the first pope from the Americas and Latin America, and the first pope from outside Europe since the 8th century. Pope Francis is known for his progressive views, and some people might be surprised to learn that at one point before beginning his religious career he actually worked as a nightclub bouncer.
Máxima Zorreguieta Cerruti is the current queen of the Netherlands. She was born in Buenos Aires in 1971 and has the unfortunate legacy of being the daughter of the Secretary of Agriculture for the last military dictatorship that ended in 1983, killing 30,000 Argentines. This caused controversy for Maxima when her parents refused to come to both her wedding and swearing in as queen so as not to cause offense for human rights crimes committed by the dictatorship.