Ortega Peña stood out in politics for having been elected national deputy for the province of Buenos Aires in the elections of March 11, 1973 and declaring: “the spilled blood will not be negotiated.” He alluded to the escape of the political prisoners from the Rawson prison that had happened a year earlier. A good number of militants had not been able to board the plane that would take them into exile, which is why they took the Trelew airport to agree on the conditions of their surrender. However, they were secretly executed seven days later, which is why the event is known as the Trelew Massacre. He also gained prominence for running the magazine Peronist Militancy for Liberation along with Eduardo Luis Duhalde, a publication that was later censored by Juan Domingo Perón in mid-1974. The magazine expressed the thought of the alternative current within revolutionary Peronism, which showed more critical positions than other sectors of the movement towards the Peronist governments, showing the path that the “leftization” of the party should follow. A large part of its members carried out a resignification of the Peronist tradition through the so-called “national Marxism” and historical revisionism.
The inquiries about the past carried out by Ortega Peña highlighted him within the cluster of intellectuals and political leaders that circulated in society around the 1970s. Many of his ideas can be found in the texts about the Argentine past that he published together with Eduardo Luis Duhalde in the 1960s: Dorrego’s murder, Felipe Varela against the British Empireeither, Baring Brothers and Argentine political history, Facundo and the mountains, among others. It is probable that Ortega Peña tried to follow the discolo historiographical path that David Peña, his grandfather, had begun towards the beginning of the 20th century with his Juan Facundo Quiroga (1906). There, the professor of the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters presented a version different from that of Domingo Faustino Sarmiento about caudillos such as Facundo Quiroga, presenting him as a charismatic leader of great cultural level who sought to establish a constitutional order for the United Provinces of the Rio de la Silver.
Unlike his grandfather, Ortega Peña adhered to historical revisionism, a historiographical trend that sought to change the constructions of the past made by the “official history” for others that, in addition to vindicating the caudillos, had anti-imperialist and anti-liberal positions. This historiography also had stories that maintained Hispanic and Catholic positions, but could be attributed to other authors, closer to right-wing thought, such as Carlos Ibarguren or the Irazusta brothers. In the case of Ortega Peña, his stories were close to the political and thematic positions addressed by authors such as Raul Scalabrini Ortiz – a nationalist author who wrote several works on Argentina’s economic, political and cultural dependence on England – and John William Cook. With his stories, he also tried to give rise to leaders less studied by revisionism, as was the case with Quiroga, which is why he earned a prominent place within that historiographic current.
Holding positions that sought to unravel the political and economic subjugation of Argentina with foreign powers and place the caudillos as part of the national identity, Ortega Peña took office as director of the Ravignani Institute around 1973, continuing his mandate until the last day of his death in 1974.
His assassination was framed in the disputes that the different Peronist tendencies had in Perón’s third term. Towards January 1974, the president convened a meeting with the aim of disciplining the deputies of the Peronist Youth, since a large number of them disagreed with a proposal to reform the Penal Code that modified the penalties for some crimes, mainly those that referred to the kidnappings of people. There, Perón sought to impose his authority, inviting those who did not agree with the political course of the government to resign from their political post. A large number of the deputies who represented the Peronist Youth resigned. However, Ortega Peña refused to do so. He had not only taken a critical position, but also challenged the political strength of Perón and the sectors closest to him.
Based on his position, shortly after the president died, Ortega Peña was gunned down at the intersection of Arenales and Cerrito streets in the city of Buenos Aires. A Ford Fairlane that was advancing at high speed stopped to allow the exit of three men armed with machine guns who emptied their magazines against the political leader and Elena Villagra, his wife.
by Gonzálo García Rubio, historian