By Bryan Weiner
When Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner opened her Instagram account on September 29th 2013, she posted 3 very emotional photos of herself and her late husband, Nestor Kirchner. The first of the three photos was a glamorous shot of Cristina with Nestor in the background, winking at her. One of the commentators replied “La Patria se hizo amor. Amor se hizo Patria.” (The homeland created their love. Their love created the homeland). The second photo is of a young, militant Néstor shrugging his shoulders. Cristina captioned it: “Militancia política ´no vine a dejar mis convicciones in la puerta de la Casa Rosada” (Political militancy “I didn’t come to leave my convictions at the door of the Casa Rosada – the seat of government”). The final photo shows Cristina looking longingly at her late husband and is captioned “El amor vence al odio” (Love conquers hate).
On October 27th, 2010, a few years after the end of his presidency, Néstor Kirchner died suddenly and unexpectedly of a heart attack in El Calafate, in the Patagonian province of Santa Cruz, the region where he grew up and rose to political prominence. Cristina was president at the time and there was a great deal of uncertainty as to what would happen to her presidency after the death of her husband. Again, this was based on the assumption that Cristina was nothing without her husband and that she was just filling in for when he could run again for the presidency.
Cristina went through a long period of grieving. She wore nothing but black clothing in all of her public appearances. There was some criticism that this was done to win the sympathy of the Argentine public (which was successful as she easily won the election in October 2011), but when looking at the political love story that was one of the Kirchners’ legacies, it is very apparent that her grief was genuine. On November 18th, 2013, after more than three years of wearing black and after her month of mandatory bed rest from her surgery, she surprised everyone by beginning to make public appearances wearing white. In an editorial in the Economist, it was surmised that she was doing this “to have a fresh start with a government that is less combative and less tragic”.
It is clear that the extremely strong relationship between Cristina and Néstor has been a very important element in both of their presidencies. Sandra Russo’s biography of Cristina, La Presidenta: Historia de una Vida, describes in great detail the strong relationship that Cristina and Néstor had from the beginning. They met when he was student activist in the Federación Universitaria de la Revolución Nacional (FURN or the University Federation for National Revolution). They were 20 and 23 and quickly fell in love while both were involved in student activism (although neither joined the more militant wing of the movement). Six months later they were married. After the coup in 1976, they moved to Néstor’s home province in Patagonia to escape the dirty war. There they began their political careers and started a family.
They were a presidential duo from the beginning, and even though Néstor’s passing was a huge blow to Cristina, she managed to hold her own as a president, despite detractors who doubted her ability. However, the deep love between the two, who were considered and unlikely pair, has deeply resonated in both of their presidencies, and continues to resonate, even now that Cristina has made the decision to stop wearing black. This romance has been a defining element of her presidency and is an interesting reflection on her character. She is a strong, outspoken, and independent female leader of a country with a machista culture, but she has also portrayed herself as the doting, grief-stricken widow. Both seem to be essential elements of her personality and both shape her as a dynamic leader and public figure. She is not tied down by the persona of her late husband nor has she been completely incapacitated by grief over his tragic passing, but she also openly and fully acknowledges how she loves and is inspired by Néstor, and how her vision for Argentina is their vision.