There are about 300,000 Argentines living in the United States. The reasons for their migration are truly diverse, but they have brought with them culture, gastronomy, habits, accents, and memories. Part of this common heritage that unites all generations of Argentines—inside and outside the country—is the presence of a woman who has become the living legend of her country’s media industry: Mirtha Legrand, the hostess who refuses to disappear.
A legend with clear convictions
Rosa María Juana Martínez Suárez was born in Villa Cañás on February 11, 1927, and began her career as an actress in 1940. The figures are impressive: almost 95 years of life and 81 years of career.
After a brilliant career in Argentine cinema—of which she is one of its great divas—the actress ventured into television in 1968 as hostess of a show called Almorzando con las Estrellas, which later became Almorzando con Mirtha Legrand, from which La Noche de Mirtha was born.
Her permanence on the air since those years has also brought her closer to and clashes with the different governments of the nation, having numerous controversial episodes in her history.
She was even censored by the Peronist regime under María Estela Martínez de Perón. Legrand remained on the air during the tyranny of Jorge Rafael Videla, but has clarified, “I never supported the military dictatorship.”
“I worked during that time, like all of Argentina, but I never helped. I have never met a military person in my life other than my brother-in-law, so I want them to put an end to this,” she said in reference to the infamies about her complicity with the regime.
I knew of Mirtha Legrand’s existence in 2016, when I was living in Mexico. At that time there was a scandal about the complacent words of some TV hosts towards the economic policy of Enrique Peña Nieto’s government. Among the many videos that came out making fun of that situation, one circulated in which they compared the complacent Mexicans with Mirtha Legrand’s severe criticism of the socialist Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who by that time had already established in Argentina an empire of corruption and cynicism.
“I don’t like the way she leads the country. The country has no freedom, do you know what the country has? Fear! I notice it at my table. I am just a TV hostess who has importance and weight, and I notice it. People don’t dare to give their opinion. They look at each other, they smile, but nobody gives their opinion (…) I believe that what we are living is a dictatorship. They take judges out, they put them in when they think of it, when the night comes. This is completely abnormal”, said Legrand in 2015.
I found the courage of this woman to speak out against a regime that was already using its media apparatus to attack her admirable.
“She is a dictator,” the hostess continued in her remembered intervention. “This is going to bring me a lot of trouble. Don’t panic in the production. What are they going to do to me? Are they going to take me off television? Are they going to put me in jail? I pay all my taxes, and I pay huge amounts religiously, so I am a free citizen and I can give my opinion”, she concluded.
After openly supporting Mauricio Macri’s candidacy, the hostess quickly became a critic of his precarious leadership.
“I believe that you do not see reality,” she told Macri and his wife during a televised dinner from the Presidential Quinta de Olivos in March 2017. “I listen to the people. They don’t talk to you (…) I watch TV, I read the newspapers, I am aware of everything. I should be your advisor. You would not make many of the mistakes you make”, she said to the president.
Mirtha Legrand’s journalistic essence is as undeniable as her artistic vein. She is a woman with a bearing worthy of royalty and legends, but with intellect and critical thinking on a par with the great journalists of her country.
With firm conservative convictions, she has managed to get personalities from all ideological spectrum to sit at her table. She has vehemently debated with those who oppose her, always respecting differences while promoting respect for her own positions.
Mrs. Legrand entered confinement in March 2020, as she belonged to the highest risk group for COVID-19 due to her advanced age. Since then, her talented and beautiful granddaughter, Juana Viale, has continued her grandmother’s television legacy.
However, Argentina was calling for her return. Since retiring to comply with her strict confinement, Legrand has made only three television appearances.
The first one was a year ago, to do a Christmas program with her granddaughter and her daughter, Marcela Tinayre. Later, in August of this year, he returned momentarily to cover for Viale, as she was in quarantine.
She gradually returned to public events but did not return to her legendary program.
The thesis that Legrand would stay in retirement so that her granddaughter would continue in the program was getting stronger, and this possibility gained strength when the hostess had to be hospitalized two months ago due to a coronary condition, for which she had to have two stents placed.
From that moment on, and given the advanced age of the actress, her followers resigned ourselves to the fact that the time had come to let her rest. However, she reappeared publicly during the premiere of House of Gucci to announce that she would return to her program and close the current cycle.
She returned on Sunday, December 19, in a program where she showed that after the coronary surgery she is in renewed spirits and with her intellectual capacity intact.
The program was the leader in audience, proving that Legrand’s validity is indisputable.
“She is back, and she is back”, said Legrand when she returned to her throne, while the classic song Emperatriz, the program’s theme song composed for her, was playing.
The hostess made it clear that she is not retiring yet, and recalled that her neurologist recommended her to keep working.
Mirtha Legrand is an exemplary woman in many ways. One of those people I would love to talk to. A lady in the full meaning of the word, who shows us day by day that work is a blessing, when it is lived as a passion and not as a punishment.
We are talking about a woman who can be loved or hated, but never ignored.
Long live the Empress, Mirtha Legrand!