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|ARGENTINA COAT OF ARMS |
Location of Argentina within the Geographic Region of South America
Map of Argentina
Flag Description of Argentina: three equal horizontal bands of light blue (top), white, and light blue; centered in the white band is a radiant yellow sun with a human face known as the Sun of May; the colors represent the clear skies and snow of the Andes; the sun symbol commemorates the appearance of the sun through cloudy skies on 25 May 1810 during the first mass demonstration in favor of independence; the sun features are those of Inti, the Inca god of the sun
Official name República Argentina (Argentine Republic)
Form of government federal republic with two legislative houses (Senate ; Chamber of Deputies )
Head of state and government President: Cristina Fernández de Kirchner
Capital Buenos Aires
Official language Spanish
Official religion none1
Monetary unit peso (ARS)
Population (2013 est.) 41,348,000COLLAPSE
Total area (sq mi) 1,073,520
Total area (sq km) 2,780,400
- Urban: (2009) 92.2%
- Rural: (2009) 7.8%
Life expectancy at birth
- Male: (2012) 73.9 years
- Female: (2012) 80.5 years
Literacy: percentage of population age 15 and over literate
- Male: not available
- Female: not available
GNI per capita (U.S.$) (2011) 9,740
1Roman Catholicism has special status and receives financial support from the state, but it is not an official religion.
- 1 Background of Argentina
- 2 Geography of Argentina
- 3 Demography of Argentina
- 4 Economy of Agentina
- 5 Government and society of Argentina
- 6 Cultural life of Argentina
- 7 History of Argentina
- 8 Argentina in 2014
- 9 Argentina in 2013
- 10 Argentina in 2012
- 11 Argentina in 2011
- 12 Argentina in 2010
- 13 Argentina in 2009
- 14 Argentina in 2008
- 15 Argentina in 2007
- 16 Argentina in 2006
- 17 Argentina in 2005
- 18 Argentina in 2004
- 19 Top 10 Cities Argentina
- 20 Disclaimer
Background of Argentina
Argentines are a fusion of diverse national and ethnic groups, with descendants of Italian and Spanish immigrants predominant. Waves of immigrants from many European countries arrived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Argentina, country of South America, covering most of the southern portion of the continent. The world’s eighth largest country, Argentina occupies an area more extensive than Mexico and the U.S. state of Texas combined. It encompasses immense plains, deserts, tundra, and forests, as well as tall mountains, rivers, and thousands of miles of ocean shoreline. Argentina also claims a portion of Antarctica, as well as several islands in the South Atlantic, including the British-ruled Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas).
Argentina has long played an important role in the continent’s history. Following three centuries of Spanish colonization, Argentina declared independence in 1816, and Argentine nationalists were instrumental in revolutionary movements elsewhere, a fact that prompted 20th-century writer Jorge Luis Borges to observe, “South America’s independence was, to a great extent, an Argentine enterprise.” Torn by strife and occasional war between political factions demanding either central authority (based in Buenos Aires) or provincial autonomy, Argentina tended toward periods of caudillo, or strongman, leadership, most famously under the presidency of Juan Perón. The 1970s ushered in a period of military dictatorship and repression during which thousands of presumed dissidents were “disappeared,” or murdered; this ended in the disastrous Falklands Islands War of 1982, when Argentina invaded the South Atlantic islands it claimed as its own and was defeated by British forces in a short but bloody campaign. Defeat led to the fall of the military regime and the reestablishment of democratic rule, which has since endured despite various economic crises.
The country’s name comes from the Latin word for silver, argentum, and Argentina is indeed a great source of valuable minerals. More important, however, has been Argentina’s production of livestock and cereals, for which it once ranked among the world’s wealthiest nations. Much of this agricultural activity is set in the Pampas, rich grasslands that were once the domain of nomadic Native Americans, followed by rough-riding gauchos, who were in turn forever enshrined in the nation’s romantic literature. As Borges describes them in his story The South, the Pampas stretch endlessly to the horizon, dwarfing the humans within them; traveling from the capital toward Patagonia, the story’s protagonist, Señor Dahlmann, “saw horsemen along dirt roads; he saw gullies and lagoons and ranches; he saw long luminous clouds that resembled marble; and all these things were casual, like dreams of the plain.... The elemental earth was not perturbed either by settlements or other signs of humanity. The country was vast, but at the same time it was intimate and, in some measure, secret. The limitless country sometimes contained only a solitary bull. The solitude was perfect and perhaps hostile, and it might have occurred to Dahlmann that he was traveling into the past and not merely south.”
Despite the romantic lure of the Pampas and of vast, arid Patagonian landscapes, Argentina is a largely urban country. Buenos Aires, the national capital, has sprawled across the eastern Pampas with its ring of modern, bustling suburbs. It is among South America’s most cosmopolitan and crowded cities and is often likened to Paris or Rome for its architectural styles and lively nightlife. Its industries have drawn colonists from Italy, Spain, and numerous other countries, millions of whom immigrated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Greater Buenos Aires is home to about one-third of the Argentine people. Among the country’s other major cities are Mar del Plata, La Plata, and Bahía Blanca on the Atlantic coast and Rosario, San Miguel de Tucumán, Córdoba, and Neuquén in the interior.
Geography of Argentina
Argentina is shaped like an inverted triangle with its base at the top; it is some 880 miles (1,420 km) across at its widest from east to west and stretches 2,360 miles (3,800 km) from the subtropical north to the subantarctic south. The country is bounded by Chile to the south and west, Bolivia and Paraguay to the north, and Brazil, Uruguay, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Its undulating Atlantic coastline stretches some 2,900 miles (4,700 km).
Argentina’s varied geography can be grouped into four major regions: the Andes, the North, the Pampas, and Patagonia. The Andean region extends some 2,300 miles (3,700 km) along the western edge of the country from Bolivia to southern Patagonia, forming most of the natural boundary with Chile. It is commonly subdivided into two parts: the Northwest and the Patagonian Andes, the latter of which is discussed below under Patagonia. The North is commonly described in terms of its two main divisions: the Gran Chaco, or Chaco, comprising the dry lowlands between the Andes and the Paraná River; and Mesopotamia, an area between the Paraná and Uruguay rivers. The centrally located plains, or Pampas, are grasslands subdivided into arid western and more humid eastern parts called, respectively, the Dry Pampa and the Humid Pampa. Patagonia is the cold, parched, windy region that extends some 1,200 miles (1,900 km) south of the Pampas, from the Colorado River to Tierra del Fuego.
This part of the Andes region includes the northern half of the main mountain mass in Argentina and the transitional terrain, or piedmont, merging with the eastern lowlands. The region’s southern border is the upper Colorado River. Within the region the Andean system of north-south–trending mountain ranges varies in elevation from 16,000 to 22,000 feet (4,900 to 6,700 metres) and is interrupted by high plateaus (punas) and basins ranging in elevation from about 10,000 to 13,400 feet (3,000 to 4,080 metres). The mountains gradually decrease in size and elevation southward from Bolivia. South America’s highest mountain, Aconcagua (22,831 feet [6,959 metres]), lies in the Northwest, together with a number of other peaks that reach over 21,000 feet (6,400 metres). Some of these mountains are volcanic in origin.
To the southeast, where the parallel to subparallel ranges become lower and form isolated, compact units trending north-south, the flat valleys between are called bolsones (basins). This southeastern section of the Northwest is often called the Pampean Sierras, a complex that has been compared to the Basin and Range region of the western United States. It is characterized by west-facing escarpments and gentler east-facing backslopes, particularly those of the spectacular Sierra de Córdoba. The Pampean Sierras have variable elevations, beginning at 2,300 feet (700 metres) in the Sierra de Mogotes in the east and rising to 20,500 feet (6,250 metres) in the Sierra de Famatina in the west.
THE GRAN CHACO
The western sector of the North region, the Gran Chaco, extends beyond the international border at the Pilcomayo River into Paraguay, where it is called the Chaco Boreal (“Northern Chaco”) by Argentines. The Argentine sector between the Pilcomayo River and the Bermejo River is known as the Chaco Central. Argentines have named the area southward to latitude 30° S, where the Pampas begin, the Chaco Austral (“Southern Chaco”). The Gran Chaco in Argentina descends in flat steps from west to east, but it is poorly drained and has such a challenging combination of physical conditions that it remains one of the least-inhabited parts of the country. It has a subtropical climate characterized by some of Latin America’s hottest weather, is largely covered by thorny vegetation, and is subject to summer flooding.
East of the Gran Chaco, in a narrow depression 60 to 180 miles (100 to 300 km) wide, lies Mesopotamia, which is bordered to the north by the highlands of southern Brazil. The narrow lowland stretches for 1,000 miles (1,600 km) southward, finally merging with the Pampas south of the Río de la Plata. Its designation as Mesopotamia (Greek: “Between the Rivers”) reflects the fact that its western and eastern borders are two of the region’s major rivers, the Paraná and the Uruguay. The northeastern part, Misiones province, between the Alto (“Upper”) Paraná and Uruguay rivers, is higher in elevation than the rest of Mesopotamia, but there are several small hills in the southern part.
Pampa is a Quechua Indian term meaning “flat plain.” As such, it is widely used in southeastern South America from Uruguay, where grass-covered plains commence south of the Brazilian Highlands, to Argentina. In Argentina the Pampas broaden out west of the Río de la Plata to meet the Andean forelands, blending imperceptibly to the north with the Chaco Austral and southern Mesopotamia and extending southward to the Colorado River. The eastern boundary is the Atlantic coast.
The largely flat surface of the Pampas is composed of thick deposits of loess interrupted only by occasional caps of alluvium and volcanic ash. In the southern Pampas the landscape rises gradually to meet the foothills of sierras formed from old sediments and crystalline rocks.
This region consists of an Andean zone (also called Western Patagonia) and the main Patagonian plateau south of the Pampas, which extends to the tip of South America. The surface of Patagonia descends east of the Andes in a series of broad, flat steps extending to the Atlantic coast. Evidently, the region’s gigantic landforms and coastal terraces were created by the same tectonic forces that formed the Andes, and the coastline is cuffed along its entire length as a result. The cliffs are rather low in the north but rise in the south, where they reach heights of more than 150 feet (45 metres). The landscape is cut by eastward-flowing rivers—some of them of glacial origin in the Andes—that have created both broad valleys and steep-walled canyons.
Patagonia includes a region called the Lake District, which is nestled within a series of basins between the Patagonian Andes and the plateau. There are volcanic hills in the central plateau west of the city of Río Gallegos. These hills and the accompanying lava fields have dark soils spotted with lighter-coloured bunchgrass, which creates a leopard-skin effect that intensifies the desolate, windswept appearance of the Patagonian landscape. A peculiar type of rounded gravel called grava patagónica lies on level landforms, including isolated mesas. Glacial ice in the past extended beyond the Andes only in the extreme south, where there are now large moraines.
The largest river basin in the area is that of the Paraguay–Paraná–Río de la Plata system. It drains an area of some 1.2 million square miles (3.2 million square km), which includes northern Argentina, the whole of Paraguay, eastern Bolivia, most of Uruguay, and a large part of Brazil. In Argentina the principal river of this system is the Paraná, formed by the confluence of the Paraguay and Alto Paraná rivers. The Río de la Plata (often called the River Plate) is actually the estuary outlet of the system formed by the confluence of the Paraná and Uruguay rivers; its name, meaning “River of Silver,” was coined in colonial times before explorers found that there was neither a single river nor silver upstream from its mouth. Other tributaries of this system are the Iguazú (Iguaçu), Pilcomayo, Bermejo, Salado, and Carcarañá. Just above its confluence with the Alto Paraná, the Iguazú River plunges over the escarpment of the Brazilian massif, creating Iguazú Falls—one of the world’s most spectacular natural attractions.
Aside from the Paraná’s main tributaries, there are few major rivers in Argentina. Wide rivers flow across the Gran Chaco flatlands, but their shallow nature rarely permits navigation, and never with regularity. Moreover, long-lasting summer floods cover vast areas and leave behind ephemeral swamplands. During winter most rivers and wetlands of the Gran Chaco dry up, the air chills, and the land seems visibly to shrink. Only three of the region’s numerous rivers—the Pilcomayo, Bermejo, and Salado—manage to flow from the Andes to the Paraguay-Paraná system in the east without evaporating en route and forming salt pans (salinas). The region’s largest rivers follow a veritable maze of courses during flood season, however.
In the Northwest the Desaguadero River and its tributaries in the Andes Mountains water the sandy deserts of Mendoza province. The principal tributaries are the Jáchal, Zanjón, San Juan, Mendoza, Tunuyán, and Diamante. In the northern Pampas, Lake Mar Chiquita, the largest lake in Argentina, receives the waters of the Dulce, Primero, and Segundo rivers but has no outlet. Its name, meaning “Little Sea,” refers to the high salt content of its waters.
Rivers that cross Patagonia from west to east diminish in volume as they travel through the arid land. The Colorado and Negro rivers, the largest in the south-central part of the country, produce major floods after seasonal snow and ice melt in the Andes. Farther south the Santa Cruz River flows eastward out of the glacial Lake Argentino in the Andean foothills before reaching the Atlantic.
Soil types in Argentina range from the light-coloured saline formations of the high puna in the Northwest to the dark, humus-rich type found in the Pampas. Golden-brown loess soils of the Gran Chaco are sometimes lighter where salinity is excessive but turn darker toward the east in the Mesopotamian border zone. These give way to soils ranging from rust to deep red colorations in Misiones. Thick, dark soils predominate in the fertile loess grasslands of the Pampas, but lighter brown soils are common in the drier parts of northern Patagonia. Light tan arid soils of varying texture cover the rest of this region. Grayish podzolic types and dark brown forest soils characterize the Andean slopes.
Argentina lies almost entirely within the temperate zone of the Southern Hemisphere, unlike the rest of the continent to the north, which lies within the tropics. Tropical air masses only occasionally invade the provinces of Formosa and Misiones in the extreme north. The southern extremes of Argentina, which extend to latitude 55° S, also have predominantly temperate conditions, rather than the cold continental climate of comparable latitudes in North America. The South American landmass narrows so markedly toward its southern tip that weather patterns are moderated by the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, and average monthly temperatures remain above freezing in the winter. The temperate climate is interrupted by a long, narrow north-south band of semiarid to arid conditions and by tundra and polar conditions in the high Andes and in southern portions of Tierra del Fuego.
Precipitation is moderate to light throughout most of the country, with the driest areas in the far northwest and in the southern part of Patagonia. Most rainfall occurs in the northeast, in the Humid Pampa, Mesopotamia, and the eastern Chaco. Windstorms (pamperos) with thunder, lightning, and hail are common. During winter, stationary fronts bring long rainy periods. Dull, gray days and damp weather characterize this season, especially in the Pampas. Between winter storms, tropical air masses make incursions southward and bring mild relief from the damp cold.
ANDEAN AND SUB-ANDEAN ZONES
Some parts of the Andean Northwest region have an annual average temperature range of more than 36 °F (20 °C), and occasional continental climatic conditions occur. Winter temperatures sometimes fall below freezing on cloudless days and nights.
The high-elevation, cold climatic phenomenon in Argentina is sometimes referred to as tundra climate and, in even colder mountaintop areas, as polar. Generally, the tundra climate occupies the mountain zones where average annual temperatures are below 50 °F (10 °C); in the north this occurs above 11,500 feet (3,500 metres). Moving southward, tundra climate occurs at gradually decreasing elevations until it reaches sea level in southern Tierra del Fuego. The highest Andean peaks have permanent snow and ice cover.
THE RAIN SHADOW ZONE
Argentina is the only place in the Southern Hemisphere with an extensive portion of arid eastern coastline. This is caused by a longitudinal rain shadow zone (created when air masses lose their moisture while passing over high mountains) on the eastern side of the Andes. The zone begins in the Andean Northwest and extends along the eastern slopes of the Andes southward to, but not including, Tierra del Fuego. The rain shadow area has a central arid (desert) core rimmed by semiarid, or steppe, conditions. The steppe areas have about twice the annual precipitation found in the arid zones, but evaporation exceeds precipitation in both zones, which therefore remain treeless. Most of the arid region is subjected to strong winds that carry abrasive sand and dust. This is particularly true in Patagonia, where windblown dust creates a continuous haze that considerably reduces visibility.
THE PAMPEAN ZONE
The Pampas occupy a transitional area between high summer temperatures to the north and cooler summers to the south. Buenos Aires, located on the northern edge of the Pampas, has a climate similar to that of cities in the southeastern United States, with hot, humid summers and cool, mild winters. The range of mean temperatures for summer months (December to February) is about 72–75 °F (22–24 °C), whereas that for winter months (June to August) is about 46–55 °F (8–13 °C). In the Humid Pampa the rainfall varies from 39 inches (990 mm) in the east to 20 inches (500 mm) in areas near the Andes—about the minimum needed for nonirrigated crops. Cold fronts that move northward from Patagonia, chiefly in July, bring occasional frosts and snow to the Pampas and Mesopotamia. In rare instances a dusting of snow covers Buenos Aires itself.
Plant and animal life
Argentina’s fauna and flora vary widely from the country’s mountainous zones to its dry and humid plains and its subpolar regions. In heavily settled regions the makeup of plant and animal life has been profoundly modified.
Vegetation in the Northwest region includes that of the high puna desert, the forested slopes of the Andes, and the subtropical scrub forests of the Pampean Sierras, the latter merging with the deciduous scrub woodlands of the Gran Chaco. Vegetation on the mostly exposed soil of the puna consists of dwarf shrubs and tough grasses, notably bunchgrass; these and other plants in the region are coloured almost as brown as the ground itself. The region is the land of the guanaco and its near relatives, the llama, alpaca, and vicuña.
Forests grow along the eastern border of the puna region southward to the colder Andean zones, covering many slopes in this part of the mountains. The so-called mistol (jujube) forest thrives above 1,650 feet (500 metres), although giant cedars and some other tree species disappear above 3,300 feet (1,000 metres). A subtropical rainforest, composed of laurels, cedars, and other species, is found at elevations of about 4,000 feet (1,200 metres). The tree heights diminish above 7,000 feet (2,100 metres), and the growth becomes more like that of a cloud forest, with myrtles and laurels predominating. Higher still grow the queñoa, small, crooked trees that in places extend to the timberline at 11,500 feet (3,500 metres).
Southeast of the Andean region described above, xerophytic (drought-tolerant) scrub forests, called monte, and intervening grasslands spread across the Pampean Sierras. Vegetation includes species of mimosa and acacia, and there is a smattering of cactus. Hares, skunks, and small deer abound in this part of the Northwest.
THE GRAN CHACO
The western Gran Chaco has growths of thorn forest dominated by algaroba (carob trees) in the drier and often saline zones. Quebracho trees (a source of tannin) are present, but not to the extent that they are farther east. No plants survive in areas with finer salt at the surface. Coarse bunchgrasses are common in the dry steppe, which also supports dense scrub forests intermixed with prickly pear, barrel, and many other types of cactus.
The vegetation of the Chaco becomes increasingly lush toward the east. The thorn forests are gradually replaced by dense quebracho forests (though of a less-valuable species than those in the west), and there are some pure stands of algaroba. Some 90 miles (150 km) west of the Paraná River, a few massive trees begin to appear. The rich wildlife of the Chaco includes deer, peccaries, monkeys, tapirs, jaguars, pumas, ocelots, armadillos, capybaras, and agoutis. The vast birdlife includes the flightless rheas, which are protected by a refuge in the area. Streams harbour numerous fish species, including piranhas, and snakes and other reptiles abound.
Thin stands of tall wax palms occupy the flood zones of Mesopotamia. Groups of trees and grassy areas form a parklike landscape of noted beauty. Common trees are the quebracho, the urunday, and the guayacán, used for tannin and lumber. Gallery forests growing along rivers become denser and taller in Misiones province. Paraná pines appear at higher elevations. Mesopotamia is a habitat for jaguars, monkeys, deer, tapirs, peccaries, many snake varieties, and numerous birds, notably toucans and hummingbirds, as well as stingless bees.
The principal Pampas vegetation is monte forest in the Dry Pampa and grassland in the Humid Pampa. The boundary between the Dry and Humid Pampas lies approximately along longitude 64° W. Knee-high grasses are found in the most humid areas, whereas to the north, west, and south, where precipitation decreases, tougher grasses give way to the monte of the Dry Pampa. The indigenous, plantlike ombu tree (Phytolacca dioica) is prized for the shade it provides but is of no commercial value. Planted grains, grasses, and trees have replaced much of the original flora.
Since the time of European settlement, vast herds of cattle, as well as horses, have virtually taken over the areas of the landscape not planted in crops, and many native animal populations have dwindled. Flightless rheas still inhabit the Pampas, but guanacos are no longer found there. Both animals are fleet-footed, which is probably why the Indians developed the bola, a device consisting of weights on a short rope thrown to trip the animals. Small deer, introduced hares, and viscacha, a burrowing rodent, are common.
PATAGONIA AND TIERRA DEL FUEGO
Patagonia contains zones of deciduous Andean forests and, east of the Andes, of steppe and desert. The largest area—the steppe region—lies in northern Patagonia between the Colorado River and the port city of Comodoro Rivadavia. This zone represents an extension southward of the monte, which gives way gradually to a xerophytic shrub region without trees except along stream banks. In the extreme west on the Andean border, small stands of araucaria survive, and clumps of wiry grasses are also present. Low scrub vegetation and green grass steppe alternate south of Comodoro Rivadavia to the tip of the continent. Wildlife in the region includes now rare guanacos and rheas, as well as eagles and herons, the Patagonian cavy (mará) and other burrowing rodents, mountain cats and pumas, and various poisonous snakes.
The coniferous and broad-leaved forests of the Patagonian Andes spread into Chile. Antarctic beech and needle-leaved trees mixed with araucaria are common. The Patagonian Andes do not support a flourishing animal life: the smallest known deer, the pudu, dwells there, and wild pigs, introduced by Europeans, have multiplied.
It seems likely that grasses in Tierra del Fuego first covered glaciated zones, but forests advanced after volcanic ash settled there. Antarctic beech is plentiful in the valleys and grows along with cypress on steep slopes. A local phenomenon near the southern tip of the continent is species of parrots and other birds more commonly associated with the tropics than with Patagonia. Penguins and seals frequent coastal areas, especially in the south.
Demography of Argentina
Heavy immigration, particularly from Spain and Italy, has produced in Argentina a people who are almost all of European ancestry. In the colonial period, though, the Spanish explorers and settlers encountered a number of native peoples. Among these were the Diaguita of the Andean Northwest, a town-dwelling agricultural people who were forced into labour after they were conquered. They were divided by the Spanish into small groups and were sent to work in Peru and the Río de la Plata area. In the Mesopotamian region the semiagricultural Guaraní also were forced into labour.
Most other Argentine Indians were hunters and gatherers who fought the Spanish tenaciously but were eventually exterminated or driven away. In the Gran Chaco were the Guaycuruan-speaking peoples, among others. The Araucanian Indians traveled over the mountains from Chile and raided Spanish settlements in the southern Pampas until the Conquest of the Desert in the 1870s. Another Pampas Indian tribe was the Querandí, who inhabited the region of Buenos Aires. In Patagonia the largest group was the Tehuelche, and on Tierra del Fuego the Ona.
Population estimates of the colonial period suggest that by 1810 Argentina had more than 400,000 people. Of these perhaps 30 percent were Indian, their numbers drastically depleted from a pre-Columbian regional population estimated at 300,000. Ten percent of the total were either enslaved Africans or their descendants who had been smuggled into the country through Buenos Aires, and there was a large element of mestizos (European and Indian mixture). European descendants were in the minority.
A great wave of European immigration after the mid-1800s molded the present-day ethnic character of Argentina. The Indians and mestizos were pushed aside (mainly to the Andean provinces) or absorbed, and the blacks and mulattos disappeared, apparently also absorbed into the dominant population. Since that time mestizos from Chile, Bolivia, and Paraguay have grown numerous in bordering regions, but only since the late 20th century has there been substantial immigration from Paraguay and Uruguay into the urban areas of Argentina.
Almost half of the European immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were Italian, and about one-third were Spanish. Substantial numbers also came from France, Poland, Russia, Germany, and Great Britain. In 1869 the foreign-born made up 12 percent of the population; this grew to about one-third by 1914, and in large cities foreigners outnumbered natives by as much as 2 to 1. As immigration slowed later in the 20th century, the proportion of foreign-born Argentines dropped.
The Italian influence on Argentine culture became the most important of any immigrant group, and Italian is still widely spoken in Buenos Aires. Other major foreign influences have come from Spanish and Polish immigrants. Smaller groups have also made notable contributions, however. British capital and management, in particular, built railroads and created the meat-processing industry; the British also left a relatively small but influential community. The Germans established farm settlements and cooperatives; the French contributed their viticultural expertise; and the Japanese invested in business, as did the Syrians and Lebanese.
The children of immigrants were quick to identify themselves as Argentines, so the people were not divided into antagonistic ethnic groups. But Argentine society developed a serious division between the rural interior and the urban coast. Many rural people grew to resent the wealth, political power, and cultural affectations of the porteños, the “people of the port” in the Buenos Aires region, and many porteños looked upon residents of the interior as ignorant peasants. These divisions became deeply rooted in the politics of the country.
Language and religion
Spanish is the national language, although in Argentina it is spoken in several accents and has absorbed many words from other languages, especially Italian. Numerous foreign languages and dialects can be heard, from Basque and Sicilian to Welsh and Gaelic. Toward the end of the 19th century, an underworld language called lunfardo developed in Buenos Aires, composed of words from many languages—among them Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, French, German, and languages from Africa. Lunfardo is now often heard in the lyrics of tango music.
About four-fifths of Argentine people are at least nominally Roman Catholic; the majority of them are nonpracticing. The faith’s influence, however, is strongly reflected in government and society. Protestants make up about 5 percent of the population. Muslims and Jews account for small minorities. The Jewish community of Argentina is the largest in South America.
The varied topography, climate, and natural resources of Argentina shaped the pattern of European settlement. Although modern transportation and industry have partly effaced regional differences, the organization of life in both city and country still follows patterns that were set in early colonial times.
Numerous archaeological sites in the region indicate the presence—before the Spanish invasion—of permanently settled Indians who practiced irrigation and terraced farming in the oasis-like valleys. The Spanish, arriving overland from what are now Peru and Bolivia, initially occupied areas on the lowland plains of the Chaco, distant from hostile indigenous groups; they made their first permanent settlement in 1553 at Santiago del Estero. Not long afterward forts arose in the Northwest at San Miguel de Tucumán (1565), Salta (1582), San Salvador de Jujuy (1593), and San Luis (1594); Córdoba, to the south, was founded in 1573. Meanwhile, the Northwest received colonists from still farther south as Spaniards and Creole settlers from Chile founded the cities of Mendoza and San Juan in the early 1560s.
The cities in the Northwest were founded originally to support agriculture (including livestock raising) and trade with the silver mines of the Viceroyalty of Peru, particularly those at Potosí (now in Bolivia). Later, as Buenos Aires developed and the silver mines became less profitable, the country’s orientation switched to the southeast. The Spanish established a trade route between Chile and Buenos Aires that went through Córdoba and Mendoza, both of which thrived. This northward path was chosen in order to avoid the Pampas Indians, and it has remained an important transportation route. Settlement in the 600-mile- (1,000-km-) long rain shadow zone east of the Andes took place in river oases stretching from just south of San Miguel de Tucumán to San Rafael, south of Mendoza.
Rail transportation linked Mendoza to the Pampas in 1885 and sparked the development of viticulture in the Mendoza region. Access to Buenos Aires brought new capital, more settlers, better grape stock, and larger markets. Mendoza and oases such as San Rafael expanded once European immigrants could reach them and fill the labour shortage. Farmers in Tucumán province benefited from their more humid surroundings amid Andean foothills; they responded to the new markets across the Pampas by increasing sugar production, which had begun there during early colonial times. The first direct rail link between Tucumán and the Pampas in 1875 provided access to expanding sugar markets and to more modern machinery. Most of the tens of thousands of workers needed to harvest the crop came to live year-round on the large plantations, making Tucumán the most densely settled province in Argentina.
THE GRAN CHACO
The Gran Chaco has long been considered a frontier region, and the government has often promoted its settlement and development. Agricultural colonies and cities grew first along the Paraná-Paraguay water route and then along railroads built to serve the quebracho industry. Resistencia was founded in 1878, and Formosa in 1879.
The harsh physical conditions of the Gran Chaco explain why its native peoples engaged in only limited agriculture. Early Spanish expeditions aiming to conquer the Chaco came from Santiago del Estero to the west, Santa Fe to the southeast, and Asunción (now the capital of Paraguay) across the Paraguay River to the northeast. None of these succeeded in subduing the determined Indians, however.
Settlement in the Chaco ultimately took place from Santiago del Estero, where irrigated cotton was successfully grown as early as the mid-16th century, and from Santa Fe, where cattle ranchers had purchased enormous acreages on which to raise tough criollo (Creole) cattle, which had survived from earlier expeditions. Ranchers defeated local Indians in 1885 and advanced to the northern frontier of the Argentine Chaco near the Bermejo River. Logging operations followed the ranchers and helped open parts of the Chaco—particularly in the east, where tannin from the quebracho tree met the demand of the Argentine leather industry. At the start of the 20th century, European settlers in the eastern Chaco began raising cotton, a crop that could withstand the long drought period. Small cotton-growing areas spread westward nearly to San Miguel de Tucumán, north to the Paraguayan border at the Pilcomayo River, and east into Mesopotamia.
The northern part of the Mesopotamian region was first settled by Spaniards from Asunción, who in 1588 founded the city of Corrientes near the confluence of the Alto Paraná and Paraguay rivers. In the south settlers from Santa Fe crossed the Paraná River and established what became the city of Paraná. Having founded towns along navigable rivers, the Spanish secured the water route to the Río de la Plata estuary.
When the Spanish first entered the Mesopotamian region, distances between settlements were so great that supply lines were tenuous, and the settlers found it necessary to produce their own subsistence crops. This they accomplished mainly by subjugating the remaining Indians under the encomienda system, which granted settlers the use of Indian labour on lands awarded by the crown. After Indian rebellions were met by Spanish military reprisals, however, many Indians were forced to flee. Finally, in the early 17th century the crown turned to the Jesuits to restore peace and protect the native peoples. Within a century the Jesuits had built numerous reducciones, or mission settlements, in Mesopotamia, which later acquired the name Misiones. Under Jesuit rule northern Mesopotamia became the most important centre of colonization in the eastern part of the continent.
The Territory of Misiones was created in the early 1880s, and Europeans, particularly Germans, began to settle the forested zone in the north. Yerba maté (Ilex paraguariensis; source of the brewed beverage maté), citrus, and vegetables, as well as tung trees, tea, and sugarcane, were grown on small farms. Outside the agricultural zones of Mesopotamia, cattle ranching came to dominate.
The Pampas region was originally inhabited by Indians such as the Querandí, who reportedly did not practice agriculture but were fishers and hunters who used bolas for entangling fleet-footed guanacos and rheas. Fierce attacks by the Querandí forced Spanish settlers in Buenos Aires to flee upriver to Asunción in 1541. After Buenos Aires reemerged in 1580, the Spanish showed less interest in opening up the southern Pampas than in keeping open the northern trade route to Santa Fe, Asunción, and Upper Peru; as a result, estancias (huge cattle ranches) were first established northwest of Buenos Aires.
The estancias became one of the most important institutions in the economy, politics, and culture of Argentina. They began as gigantic tracts of land, often measuring in the hundreds of square miles, that were sold or granted to the Creole descendants of Spanish settlers during the 17th century. Herds of criollo cattle and horses ran half wild on these tracts. To manage the herds the estancia owners (estancieros) hired gauchos, ranch hands who dominated the Pampas until the open ranges disappeared late in the 19th century.
Located on the estancias were widely dispersed ranchos, or simple adobe houses with dooryard gardens, which served as the headquarters of the estancieros. The gauchos were housed in more primitive huts or lean-tos. In addition, there were small pulperías, centrally located inns where marketing, banking, eating and drinking, and other functions took place. Some pulperías grew into villages. Gradually, the estancia region of the Pampas spread west and south of Buenos Aires.
Buenos Aires and Santa Fe survived as small, sparsely populated towns until the mid-19th century. After that time rapid growth in agriculture changed the face of the Pampas. The world market for food products increased, and estancieros modernized their operations to meet the demand. Sheep and breeds of English cattle were imported to replace the criollo; however, the new cattle were unable to live on the Pampas grass and had to be fed with alfalfa. Because gauchos were not numerous or willing enough to cultivate alfalfa, their employers contracted European immigrants as tenant farmers. In addition, the southern frontier of the Pampas was pushed back, so that by 1880 Indian resistance was wiped out north of the Negro River. By 1914 several million European workers had arrived to work ranches and farms. Gradually, small farming and tenant farming operations spread west and south from Santa Fe and Entre Ríos provinces.
The growth of agriculture spurred the growth of cities. Railroads radiating from Buenos Aires penetrated the interior of the Pampas, forming the densest network in the country. By the late 19th century foreign-owned frigoríficos (meat-packing plants for the export of beef and mutton) had been established on the Río de la Plata estuary. Efforts by the government to encourage the growth of manufacturing favoured the port cities, attracting most immigrants as well as many workers from the countryside. Buenos Aires subsequently became one of the most populous and cosmopolitan cities of the world, and the Humid Pampa became the most prosperous industrial and agricultural region of Argentina.
Most approaches to Patagonia from the sea were hampered by inhospitable coastal cliffs and by high tides. With the Pampas Indians acting as a buffer against Europeans to the north, the Patagonian Indians thus remained unmolested until the mid-19th century, when European settlements encroached and warfare erupted. The Indian wars in northern Patagonia and the southern and western Pampas culminated in a campaign known as the Conquest of the Desert, which ended in 1879 with the smashing of the last major Indian resistance. Argentines, Chileans, and Europeans began to colonize Patagonia, with soldiers and financial contributors to the Indian wars receiving large land grants. Argentine settlers proceeded southward from the Pampean port city of Bahía Blanca and from Neuquén in the Andean foothills. Chileans from Punta Arenas settled in Tierra del Fuego. Welsh, Scottish, and English immigrants spread along the coast and inland, with the result that both Welsh and English are still spoken in parts of Patagonia.
The southernmost city in the world, Ushuaia, on Tierra del Fuego, began as a missionary settlement; it can still be reached only by ship or aircraft. About the end of the 19th century, sheep ranching began along the rail line connecting the port of Río Gallegos with coal deposits at Río Turbio. Comodoro Rivadavia became an important oil and natural gas centre, and the Negro River fruit region began to develop in 1886 when the area east of Neuquén was settled by veterans of the Indian wars and by others.
The population of Argentina has increased 20-fold since 1869, when 1.8 million people were recorded there by the first census. Population growth was rapid through the early part of the 20th century, but it declined thereafter as both the birth rate and immigration began to drop off; the proportion of young people also declined. Argentina’s rates of birth and population growth are now among South America’s lowest. The nation’s population density is also among the continent’s lowest, although certain areas are quite heavily populated, including the Humid Pampa, Mesopotamia, and parts of the eastern Northwest. The population is growing faster in urban areas—especially Buenos Aires—than in the rest of the country. Nearly nine-tenths of the people live in urban areas, about a third in greater Buenos Aires alone.
Economy of Agentina
Argentina’s economy, which is one of the more powerful in the region, is dependent on services and manufacturing, although agribusiness and ranching dominated the economy for much of the 19th and 20th centuries. Argentina still produces more grain than any other country in Latin America and is second in cattle raising only to Brazil, and its receipts from tourism are second in the region only to those of Mexico. Its gross national product (GNP), GNP per capita, and value added from manufacturing are also among the highest in the region. However, the country has withstood a number of economic downturns, including periods of high inflation and unemployment during the late 20th century and a major financial crisis in the early 21st century.
In the 60 years after the founding of the farming colony at Esperanza in 1856, the base of Argentine agriculture shifted from livestock to crops. The spread of wheat, corn (maize), and flax cultivation roughly conformed to that of the estancia region of the Pampas. Although agriculture there did not become as intensive as it did in North America, soils were good and land was abundant. Argentine industry became important when mostly foreign-dominated manufacturers began exporting processed foods. The growth trend continued well into the 20th century as Argentina became one of the most prosperous countries in Latin America. Meat and grain were exported to expanding markets in Europe in exchange for fuel and manufactured products.
In the early decades of the 20th century, Argentina became the world’s leading exporter of corn, flax, and meat. However, the Great Depression of the 1930s considerably damaged the Argentine economy by reducing foreign trade. Between 1930 and 1980 Argentina fell from being one of the wealthiest countries in the world to ranking with the less-developed nations. In response to the Great Depression, successive governments from the 1930s to the ’70s pursued a strategy of import substitution designed to transform Argentina into a country self-sufficient in industry as well as agriculture. This was accomplished mainly by imposing high tariffs on imports and thereby sheltering Argentine textile, leather, and home-appliance manufacturers from foreign competition. The government’s encouragement of industrial growth, however, diverted investment from agriculture, and agricultural production fell dramatically. Fruits, vegetables, oilseed crops such as soybeans and sunflowers, and industrial crops such as sugarcane and cotton increased their share of total agricultural production at the expense of the dominant grain crops. Overall, however, Argentina remained one of the world’s major agricultural producers.
By 1960 manufacturing contributed more to the country’s wealth than did agriculture. Argentina had become largely self-sufficient in consumer goods, but it depended more than ever before on imported fuel and heavy machinery. In response the government invested heavily in such basic industries as petroleum, natural gas, steel, petrochemicals, and transport; it also invited investment by foreign companies. By the mid-1970s Argentina was producing most of its own oil, steel, and automobiles and was also exporting a number of manufactured products. Manufacturing became the largest single component of the gross domestic product (GDP). The country had also become self-sufficient in fuel.
The era of import substitution ended in 1976 when the Argentine government lowered import barriers, liberalized restrictions on foreign borrowing, and supported the peso (the Argentine currency) against foreign currencies. At the same time, growing government spending, large wage raises, and inefficient production created a chronic inflation that rose through the 1980s, when it briefly exceeded an annual rate of 1,000 percent. Successive regimes tried to control inflation through wage and price controls, cuts in public spending, and restriction of the money supply. With the peso quickly losing value to inflation, a new peso was introduced in 1983 (with 10,000 old pesos exchanged for each new peso), only to be replaced by the austral in 1985, which was in turn replaced by another new peso in 1992.
The measures enacted in 1976 also produced a huge foreign debt by the late 1980s, which became equivalent to three-fourths of the GNP. In terms of percentage of GDP, the country’s agricultural and industrial sectors were similar to those of developed countries, but they were considerably less efficient. And, despite a high standard of living by South American standards, Argentina had a foreign debt ratio comparable to that of less-developed countries.
In the early 1990s the government enacted a program of economic austerity, reined in inflation by making the peso equal in value to the U.S. dollar, and privatized numerous state-run companies, using part of the proceeds from their sale to reduce the national debt. The resulting influx of foreign capital and increased industrial productivity helped to revitalize the economy. In 1995, however, a sudden devaluation of the Mexican peso threatened the economies of many Latin American nations. Argentines feared that investors who had lost money in Mexico would also lose confidence in the Argentine financial system. To avert that threat, the government quickly adopted further austerity measures. However, a sustained recession at the turn of the 21st century culminated in a financial crisis in which the government—led by a quick succession of presidents and presidential resignations—defaulted on its foreign debt and again devalued the Argentine peso. By the middle of the first decade of the 21st century, however, the country’s economy had recovered; there was considerable GNP growth, renewed foreign investment, and a significant drop in the unemployment rate.
Agriculture, forestry, and fishing
Argentina is one of the world’s major exporters of soybeans and wheat, as well as meat. It is also one of the largest producers of wool and wine, but most of its wine is consumed domestically. Although agriculture is an important source of export earnings, it now accounts for a small percentage of the overall GDP, and it employs only a tiny portion of the nation’s workforce.
Wheat is Argentina’s largest crop in harvested land area, and it is the main crop in the cattle-raising southern Pampas of Buenos Aires and La Pampa provinces. Wheat and corn (maize) dominate in the north. Planting of corn and wheat began simultaneously in the northern Pampas. By the end of World War II, however, foreign competition had cut Argentine corn production in half, and production has increased only gradually since then. About half of the corn produced is used for livestock feed. The total area of the Pampas planted in sorghum and soybeans has grown since 1960 to rank just behind that of wheat and corn. These crops also serve primarily as livestock feed and are valuable for export. Another crop of the northern Pampas is flax.
More than nine-tenths of the country’s grapes are planted in the Northwest provinces of Mendoza and San Juan; most of the crop is used for wine making. Table grapes are a specialty in La Rioja. The warmer northern provinces of Tucumán, Salta, and Jujuy make up the sugarcane-growing region of Argentina. The sugarcane provinces also have citrus orchards, which were introduced as a safeguard against the volatility of the sugar market. Tobacco is also grown in Salta and Jujuy. The best area for cotton growing lies mainly west of the Paraná River, between the Bermejo and Dulce rivers. Most of the crop is used by the Argentine textile industry.
In Mesopotamia maté is the most important product of Misiones province, although since 1940 farmers have increasingly cultivated tea, tung trees (from which tung oil is derived), and citrus crops. Farther south in Mesopotamia, the truck-farming area supporting Buenos Aires, oranges, grapefruit, mandarins, and numerous vegetables are grown. The Negro River irrigation district in Patagonia has become one of Argentina’s major fruit-producing regions, particularly for apples and pears.
The Pampas are the traditional source of beef cattle, the country’s most valuable export commodity. Estancieros have proved quick to adapt to changing markets, switching breeds and supplementing alfalfa feed with grain sorghum in order to produce leaner meat. Most of Argentina’s hogs are raised in the Pampas, principally for domestic consumption. The cool, moist area of the southeastern Pampas, between Buenos Aires and the city of Mar del Plata, is an important dairy and sheep-raising district. Corrientes and Entre Ríos remain important cattle-raising provinces, ranking just behind those of the Pampas. Chaco province began as grazing ground for criollo cattle, but modern breeds have been susceptible to disease there, so the Chaco cattle economy has remained underdeveloped. Patagonia has at least half of the country’s sheep, most of which are sheared for their wool. For a period during the 1990s, Argentine beef was banned from importation into the European Union, the United States, and other nations because of the incidence of foot-and-mouth disease. Exports subsequently resumed but were subject to periodic bans. Most of the beef produced in Argentina is now eaten locally.
The forestry industry does not supply all of Argentina’s needs. Most of the harvest is used for lumber, with smaller amounts for firewood and charcoal. In Mesopotamia the Paraná pine is harvested for its timber; there are also plantations of poplar and willow. The Northwest highlands produce pine and cedar, used for pulp and industry. The red quebracho of the Chaco region is valuable for its tannin, and the white quebracho is used for lumber and charcoal. Scattered stands of algaroba (carob) provide local firewood and cabinet wood in the Pampas.
The fishing industry is comparatively small, owing in part to the overwhelming preference among Argentines for beef in their diet. Most coastal and deep-sea fishing is done in the Buenos Aires area, from the Río de la Plata to the Gulf of San Matías; the major ports are Mar del Plata and Bahía Blanca. Hake, squid, and shrimp make up a large part of the catch, about three-quarters of which is frozen or processed into oil and fish meal for export.
Resources and power
Argentine industry is well served by the country’s abundance of energy resources. By the late 20th century the country was self-sufficient in fossil fuels and hydroelectric generation, and it had become a petroleum exporter. Oil deposits are concentrated mainly in the Northwest and in Patagonia. The basin around the Patagonian port of Comodoro Rivadavia is estimated to hold some two-thirds of the country’s onshore reserves. Other deposits are located in Jujuy and Salta provinces, in Mendoza and Neuquén provinces, and at the tip of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. The main natural gas fields are also in the Northwest, near Campo Durán (Salta province) and Mendoza, and in Patagonia, near Neuquén and Comodoro Rivadavia. Prior to the development of these fields in the 1980s, Argentina had imported gas from Bolivia. Coal deposits are found in southern Patagonia. Until 2000 some coal was mined there, but that activity has ceased; Argentina’s needs are met by imports.
With the exception of oil and natural gas, exploitable mineral reserves are generally small and widely scattered. Deposits of iron ore, uranium, lead, zinc, silver, copper, manganese, and tungsten are worked. A wide range of nonmetallic minerals is found throughout the country. Salt deposits are located on the western and southwestern edges of the Pampas, and materials such as clay, limestone, granite, and marble supply the construction industries.
A significant amount of electrical power in Argentina is generated through hydroelectric stations, the total capacity of which has increased exponentially since the early 1970s. The huge Yacyretá dam on the lower Paraná River, brought on line in 1994–98, gave the nation a surplus of generating capacity. Argentina, with several nuclear plants, is one of Latin America’s main producers of nuclear power.
Manufacturing Manufacturing, which accounts for about one-fifth of GDP and nearly one-sixth of the workforce, is a mainstay of the Argentine economy. A large sector of the country’s industry is involved with the processing of agricultural products.
AGRIBUSINESS Beef initiated industrialization in Argentina. The success of beef came as refrigeration techniques were perfected to allow, after 1876, for the storage and shipment of fresh meat. By the late 1920s frigoríficos (meat-packing plants) were located in various parts of the country, several of them in the Buenos Aires area. Later shipments proceeded from La Plata, Rosario, and Bahía Blanca. Frigoríficos at the ports of Patagonia came to serve the sheep ranches of that region.
The growth of beef production in Argentina gave rise to a host of associated industries, including those producing tinned beef, meat extracts, tallow, hides, and leather. Argentina has been a consistent world leader in the export of hides. Leather processing occurs locally, and fine leather clothing can be obtained at retail outlets in the cities. The Chaco region supplies the necessary tannin, of which it is a major world producer.
The Argentine grain-milling industry has grown in cities along the Río de la Plata littoral, where huge storage silos were built. Grain became a significant export as production increased in the late 20th century. Wheat flour is also produced in the silo areas for local consumption, and food industries based on wheat flour and pastas have developed at the same sites. Smaller but similar activities have emerged in the interior of Argentina wherever grain has been produced. Textile production in Argentina also developed on the basis of agricultural products, namely, wool and cotton. It is concentrated in the cities of the Pampas, where the largest markets and labour pools are located.
The Argentine sugar industry of the Northwest is centred mainly in San Miguel de Tucumán, but a few mills also operate in Salta and San Salvador de Jujuy. These mills fulfill domestic demand. Mendoza in the same region is the nation’s centre for olive and olive oil production, as well as for wine bottling. Argentina exports wine to other South American countries and to Europe and North America, on the basis of a steadily improving reputation among consumers.
OIL, STEEL, AND MOTOR VEHICLES Argentina’s refining industry has grown along the coast in Buenos Aires and nearby cities, supplied by crude oil taken there by tankers and pipelines from Comodoro Rivadavia and Venezuela. The refining industry has also found a base in the petroleum fields north and south of Mendoza, where petrochemical plants have been built.
The steel industry in Argentina began in the 1940s and grew slowly during the following decades. The Zapla works in Jujuy, the integrated San Nicolás de los Arroyos mill between Rosario and Buenos Aires, and the mill in Rosario produce most of the nation’s steel but fall short of supplying domestic demand.
A developing automobile industry provides a market for Argentine steel producers. Production had stagnated for decades, and in the 1980s it was still common to see 1960s-era cars on the streets of Buenos Aires; in the 1990s, however, foreign investment and the construction of modern assembly plants revitalized this sector. There is a developing aircraft industry at Córdoba.
Finance and trade
The economic sector that includes finance, insurance, real estate, and business services accounts for one-fifth of GDP and employs about one-twelfth of the workforce. The central bank issues currency, sets interest and exchange rates, and regulates the money supply by deciding the amount of reserve cash that banks must hold. The peso is the monetary unit.
Prior to the establishment in the 1990s of the Southern Common Market (Mercado Común del Sur; Mercosur) with Brazil, Uruguay, and Paraguay, Argentine trade was mainly oriented toward Europe and the United States. Brazil is now Argentina’s most important trading partner, representing about one-fourth of all foreign trade, followed by the countries of the European Union, the United States, Chile, Japan, and Uruguay.
In the 19th century Argentine beef and grain helped feed Britain’s rapidly rising urban population, and until 1945 Britain was Argentina’s main trading partner. The United States then assumed greater importance, particularly as an importer of Argentine goods. Britain’s share declined and virtually disappeared for a time after the Falkland Islands War of 1982.
Argentina generally has had a favourable balance of trade, although it has occasionally experienced years with trade deficits since the Mercosur pact was enacted. The country’s major exports are still agricultural products, notably grain; also important are petroleum, machinery and transport equipment, and chemicals. About half of its imports, by value, are machinery and transport equipment. Chemical products and consumer goods are significant as well.
More than three-fifths of the Argentine GDP and a comparable portion of the labour force are based on services, including retail trade, hotels, restaurants, trucking and other transportation, government, education, health care, and various other business and social services. Retail and wholesale commerce alone account for about one-seventh of GDP, and business services account for a slightly lesser portion.
Tourism is growing in importance, and international visitors contribute large amounts of foreign exchange to the Argentine economy. The number of foreign tourist arrivals approached five million per year in the late 1990s; one-fourth of visitors were from Uruguay, followed by hundreds of thousands each from Chile, Brazil, the United States, and Paraguay. Major tourist sites include Iguazú Falls and the former Jesuit missions in Misiones province, as well as the ski resorts of San Carlos de Bariloche in the Lake District. Adventure travelers are drawn to Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. Buenos Aires is often called the Paris of South America because of its European flair, its nightlife, and its many educational institutions, museums, monuments, and theatres, including the historic Colón Theatre.
Labour and taxation
Argentina possesses a large and literate workforce. However, a sizable number of Argentine workers were unemployed at the turn of the 21st century. Strong labour laws were enacted during the Perón era, when unions wielded great power over the Argentine economy, but successive governments have attempted to reform or repeal some of the Peronist strictures. More than nine-tenths of Argentina’s 1,100 labour unions are represented by the General Confederation of Labour (Confederación General de Trabajo), a Peronist organization. Dissident trade union confederations include the Argentine Workers’ Movement (Movimiento de Trabajadores Argentinos).
Women constitute more than one-third of the labour force, and about two-fifths of women labourers are employed as household servants. The number of women employed is increasing, which reflects both the necessity of two incomes to support families and an increase in the number of women heading households. Women tend to hold lower-paying jobs and to receive less pay than their male counterparts.
Taxes contribute the great bulk of government revenue. In addition to income tax, the principal federal taxes include wealth tax, value-added tax, and excise taxes on specific commodities and luxury goods. Additional taxes are levied by local and provincial governments.
Transportation and telecommunications
During the Spanish colonial period there were three principal overland transportation routes. The most important led from Buenos Aires to the wealthy mining centre in Upper Peru (now Bolivia) via the northwestern route through Córdoba, Santiago del Estero, San Miguel de Tucumán, and San Salvador de Jujuy. A second route linked Buenos Aires with Chile westward through Villa María, San Luis, and Mendoza. The third route extended north from Buenos Aires to Santa Fe and Corrientes. These and less-important side roads were used by mule drivers, horsemen, huge two-wheeled oxcarts called carretas, and stagecoaches drawn by teams of six to eight horses.
The system was transformed not by modernizing the roads but rather by rapidly building rail lines during the period just after 1857. British and other foreign capital funded rail networks that radiated from Buenos Aires. Rail construction continued from that time into the 20th century, and the country developed the most extensive rail system in Latin America. After the railways expanded, the nation built up its road network. Argentina’s roadway mileage is now outranked in Latin America only by Brazil and Mexico; nearly one-third of the roads are paved. The largest share of surface freight is now carried by road, with lesser amounts carried by river and railroad.
Small ships that carry passengers and freight have served the coastal cities from Buenos Aires to Río Gallegos since the end of the 19th century. The ocean shipping fleet is not well developed, however, considering Argentina’s extensive export trade. Airlines link all regions of the country. Every major city has an airport, and even small, remote centres such as Ushuaia in southern Patagonia have reliable air service. Nearly all the largest cities have international airports, the most important being Ezeiza outside Buenos Aires. The country’s main air transport company, Aerolíneas Argentinas, was founded by the government in 1950 to handle domestic and international traffic. It was sold to a consortium headed by Spain’s national carrier, Iberia, in 1992 and unsuccessfully restructured in the late 1990s. The airlines returned to state control in 2008.
In November 2000 the telecommunications industry was deregulated in an attempt to open the market to competition, improve the speed and breadth of services, and lower costs. Argentina was experiencing a boom in Internet start-up companies, which the infrastructure was inadequate to support. By 2000 fewer than 10 percent of the people owned personal computers, and less had Internet access, but the numbers for both were growing rapidly. The two extant regional telecommunications companies, Telecom and Telefónica, in 1989–90 had replaced the state-owned Entel company, which was notorious for decade-long waits for installations. The system subsequently was modernized, with extensive fibre-optic lines installed throughout most of the market and service made available to remote locations. Cellular service was expanding as well, approaching the rate of traditional landline service.
Government and society of Argentina
Argentina is a federal union of 23 provincias and a federal capital district, the city of Buenos Aires. Federalism came to Argentina only after a long struggle between proponents of a central government and supporters of provincial interests. The constitution of 1853 was modeled on that of the United States. The constitution promulgated in 1994 provides for consecutive presidential terms (which had not been allowed previously), but few other changes distinguish it from the 1853 document; in its largely original form, the constitution has sustained Argentina with at least a nominal form of republican, representative, and federal government.
Executive power resides in the office of the president, who is elected with a vice president to a four-year term (only two terms can be consecutive). The president is commander in chief of the armed forces and appoints all civil, military, and federal judicial officers, as well as the chief of the Cabinet of Ministers, the body that oversees the general administration of the country. The Argentine legislature, or National Congress, consists of two houses: a 72-seat Senate and a 257-seat Chamber of Deputies. The Senate, whose members are elected to six-year terms, consists of three representatives from each province and the federal capital. The Chamber of Deputies, whose members are elected to four-year terms, is apportioned according to population.
Provincial and local government
Each province has its own government, with executive, legislative, and judicial branches similar to those of the federal government. The provinces retain all power not specifically reserved to the federal government in the constitution. Local government was nullified in 1966 and restored in 1973, only to be taken over again in 1976 by the military dictatorship. With the restoration of constitutional government in 1983, the provinces and municipalities once more exercised the authority of local government. Municipal governments vary in structure, but many towns and cities have elected mayors. The executive (jefe de gobierno) of Buenos Aires is directly elected to a four-year term and is eligible for immediate reelection.
The Argentine judicial system is divided into federal and provincial courts. The nine federal Supreme Court judges are appointed by the president with approval of the Senate. Lower federal court judges are nominated by a Council of Magistrates and chosen by the president. Reforms begun in the 1990s addressed long-standing problems of inefficiency, corruption, and unfilled vacancies. There are federal courts of appeal in Buenos Aires and other large cities. The provincial justice system includes supreme courts, appellate courts, courts of first instance, and justices of the peace.
The judiciary has been criticized as inefficient and open to political influence, despite recent reforms. Among the persistent problems cited are arbitrary arrests, lengthy pretrial detentions, and harsh prison conditions. However, cases involving human rights abuses have received increasing attention since the 1980s. The government has designated a prisons ombudsman since 1993 to monitor conditions and recommend prison reforms.
The national prison system is directed by the Ministry of Justice. There are also separate provincial prisons. The number of prisoners in Argentina increased greatly in the 1990s, from roughly 21,000 to nearly 40,000, or to as many as 58,000 by some estimates. The rate of incarceration also increased rapidly. Pretrial detainees account for more than half of the prison population.
The political party system in Argentina has been volatile, particularly since the mid-20th century, with numerous parties forming, taking part in elections, and disbanding as new factions evolve. Among the major parties are the Radical Civic Union (Unión Cívica Radical; UCR), a centrist party with moderate leftist leanings; the Justicialist Party (Partido Justicialista; PJ), more commonly known as the Peronist party (for its founder, former president Juan Perón), traditionally nationalist and pro-labour but supportive of neoliberal economic policies during the 1990s (it split into two factions before the 2005 elections: the Front for Victory [Frente para la Victoria; FPV] and the Federal Peronists); the Front for a Country in Solidarity (Frente del País Solidario; Frepaso), a moderate leftist grouping of dissident Peronists; and the Union of the Democratic Centre (Unión del Centro Democrático; UCD, or UCéDé), a traditional liberal party. The PJ has controlled the government most of the time since civilian rule was restored in the early 1980s, notably under President Carlos Menem in the 1990s. Frepaso was founded in 1994 from the left-wing Broad Front, the Christian Democratic Party, and other groups; three years later it formed an alliance with the UCR and in 1999–2001 held the government.
The national electoral code provides that 30 percent of candidates proposed by political parties for elected office must be women. About one-fourth of the members of the Chamber of Deputies are women, but the Senate remains overwhelmingly male. Voting is compulsory for citizens aged 18 to 70. Beginning in 2013 those aged 16 and 17 were granted the option of voting.
Women’s rights have been established through a series of legislative acts guaranteeing the right to vote, to work and to receive equal pay for equal work, and to stand on equal footing in a marriage, including in the authority over children. In 1985 the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women was ratified, and in 1991 the Coordinating Council for Public Policies on Women was established to ensure its fulfillment. Departments of women’s affairs operate within many federal and local agencies and in such institutions as labour unions.
The military has traditionally been a factor in Argentina’s political life, and the country has experienced several periods of military rule, including 1976–83. Since then, however, annual military spending has fallen to only a tiny fraction of GDP. Of the roughly 70,000 active military personnel in the army, navy, and air force, some three-fifths of the total are in the army. The Coast Guard provides security and rescue services, and there is also an 18,000-member paramilitary Gendarmería Nacional under the direction of the Ministry of the Interior, deployable for both national and international security functions. Argentina has sent troops to UN missions in Cyprus, Iraq and Kuwait, and Serbia and Montenegro (Yugoslavia) and has provided observers in a number of other locations as well. Argentina also has a federal police force that is controlled by the president through the minister of the interior.
Health and welfare
An extensive system of hospitals and clinics in Argentina is run by national, provincial, and local authorities as well as by private organizations. The cost of medical care is covered by a comprehensive array of occupational insurance plans. Public health and sanitation standards are particularly high in developed places but can drop off considerably in some of the undeveloped areas. Diseases such as smallpox, cholera, yellow fever, and tuberculosis have been brought under control or eliminated. Average life expectancy at birth exceeds 75 years, higher than that in many South American countries.
Argentina’s social welfare services were developed on a large scale during the first presidency (1946–55) of Juan Perón. A social security system was set up to provide extensive benefits for all workers. Housing, however, has become a problem in cities because of the movement of workers from rural areas, especially during periods of economic difficulty. These workers have congregated on the outskirts of urban zones—and more recently on vacant land in the inner cities—and assembled dwellings from corrugated iron and scraps of wood, cardboard, and other scavenged materials. The resulting shantytown communities, called villas miserias, lack amenities such as public utilities and paved roads.
The quality and style of housing in Argentina vary considerably according to location and economic status. Many of the residents of Buenos Aires and other large cities live in high-rise apartments; those in the suburbs reside in ranch-style concrete homes with tile roofs. However, poorer families often inhabit substandard housing in tenements or shantytowns. More than two-fifths of homes in the city of Buenos Aires are rented. Apartments and condominiums account for three-fourths of homes in the capital but only about one-eighth of those in the surrounding suburbs. At least one-fifth of Argentines occupy substandard housing, lacking indoor plumbing (drinking water or toilets) or having either dirt floors or temporary flooring. The government classifies about half of the substandard homes as shacks or shanties. In many, more than three people are crowded into each room.
Argentina has one of the more educated populations in Latin America, which is reflected in its large number of schools and a nearly universal literacy rate. Primary education is compulsory and free; secondary and higher education is offered in free public schools and in private schools subsidized by the state. Higher education in Argentina was seriously hampered by the censorship and other strictures of the military government of 1976–83, but efforts to restore the system began after a civilian government was returned to power. The National University of Córdoba, founded in 1613, is the nation’s oldest university, and the University of Buenos Aires, founded in 1821, is its largest. Other major national universities are at Mendoza, La Plata, Rosario, and San Miguel de Tucumán. The National Technical University is located at Buenos Aires.
Cultural life of Argentina
Almost all Argentines are descendants of immigrants from Europe, and Argentine culture is a lively blend of European customs and Latin American innovations. Whereas earlier generations of intellectuals, writers, composers, filmmakers, and visual artists looked to European models, the country has developed artistic forms that are uniquely Argentine—most famously the tango, the sexually charged dance of the Buenos Aires dockside district, as well as the dense, metaphysical stories of Jorge Luis Borges, which evoke the back alleys of the capital and the vast Pampas alike. The tensions between those two milieus are important in Argentine thought, for, although most Argentines are urban and look to porteños, or residents of Buenos Aires, as arbiters of taste and trends, the interior has given to all Argentines their symbol of national identity, the gaucho, who occupies a position in South American lore similar to that of the cowboy in the United States. Scorned in his heyday of the 18th and 19th centuries as a drinker and vagabond, this mestizo ranch hand rode the open rangeland of the huge estancias in pursuit of wild horses and criollo cattle. Eventually Argentines came to see him as a character whose solitary life taught him self-reliance, courage, indifference to hardship, and love of the land—traits that represented the ideal of their national character as set out in the national epic poem El gaucho Martin Fierro (1872) by José Hernández, in Ricardo Güiraldes’s fictional classic Don Segunda Sombra (1926), and in works by Domingo Faustino Sarmiento and Benito Lynch.
Daily life and social customs
Daily life in Argentina’s cities is much as it is in those of southern Europe: businesses and shops open early, close for a long break at midday, and stay open into the evening; social life takes place both in the streets and in lively bars and nightclubs; and meals are an opportunity for convivial exchanges. New and Old World cultures meet in the Argentine diet, where breakfast is generally a serving of three sweet rolls (medialunas) and coffee in the French fashion, and supper is taken, in the Spanish tradition, after 9:00 pm, often featuring Italian dishes. The New World asserts itself in the Argentine passion for beef cooked on the grill (parrilla), which is overwhelmingly preferred to other meats and fish. Argentina consumes more beef per capita than any other nation except Uruguay, twice the amount per capita as the United States. Buenos Aires is renowned for its steakhouses (asados criollos, but nearly every culinary tradition is represented in one or more of the city’s restaurants. Maté, the native tealike beverage brewed from yerba maté leaves, is popular in the countryside and is drunk from a gourd through a strainer; it is either sipped individually or shared in an important social ritual. Argentina is one of the largest wine producers in the world, and its varietal red wines are highly prized by connoisseurs, though most production goes toward supplying high domestic consumption.
Most Argentines observe the Roman Catholic calendar of holidays, including Christmas and Easter. San Martin Day (August 17), Venticinco de Mayo (May 25, the anniversary of the revolution of 1810), and Nueve de Julio (July 9, Independence Day) are among the principal national holidays. Regional festivals include the Fiesta del Milagros (“Miracle Festival”) in Salta, commemorating the salvation of the city from an earthquake in September 1692, the celebration on July 6 of the founding of Córdoba, and the wine festival in Mendoza in March.
The fine arts of Argentina historically found their inspiration in Europe, particularly in France and Spain, but the turbulence and complexity of Argentine national life—and of Latin America in general—have also found expression in the arts. In literature the Modernismo movement of the late 19th century and the Ultraísmo of the early 20th were both influenced by the French Symbolist and Parnassian poets. By composing verses of unconventional metre and by using unusual imagery and symbolism, such poets as Leopoldo Lugones and Jorge Luis Borges hoped to draw attention to the beauty of the Spanish language. Borges went on to become one of the most innovative fiction writers of Latin America. He prepared the way for experimental works of the later 20th century, such as the antinovel Rayuela (1963; Hopscotch) by the Argentine novelist Julio Cortázar. Adolfo Bioy Casares, a colleague of Borges, is particularly well known for his stories. Also notable is Ernesto Sábato, author of the fictional work El túnel (1948; Eng. trans. The Outsider) and chair of the commission that produced Nunca más (1984; “Never Again!”), a shocking report on human rights abuses in Argentina. The novelist and screenwriter Manuel Puig is best known for his El beso de la mujer araña (1976; Kiss of the Spider Woman), a denunciation of sexual and political repression. Contemporary Argentine writers such as Alicia Partnoy and Luisa Valenzuela are well known within the country. Buenos Aires hosts an annual book fair highlighting the work of these and other authors, as well as a separate fair for children’s books; Argentina remains the largest market in Spanish-speaking Latin America for trade books.
Composers of the early 20th century such as Alberto Williams and Carlos López Buchardo contributed to a nationalist revival in music by adapting folk and gaucho themes to classical forms. A generation later Alberto Ginastera and Juan Carlos Paz experimented with musical forms that were current throughout Europe and the Americas. Painters and sculptors studied in Italy and France and took the academic, Impressionist, and Cubist styles back to Argentina. Later artists were inspired by Mexican murals and by abstract and Pop art in the United States.
One of Argentina’s great cultural hybrids is the tango, a music style and dance that emerged from the poor immigrant quarters of Buenos Aires toward the end of the 19th century and quickly became famous around the world as a symbol of Argentine culture. Influenced by the Spanish tango and possibly the Argentine milonga, it was originally a high-spirited local phenomenon, but, after it was popularized by romantic singers such as Carlos Gardel, it became an elegant ballroom form characterized by romantic and melancholy tunes. By the end of the 20th century, the tango had lost some of its appeal among the nation’s youth, who generally preferred dancing to rock and pop music in local discotheques; nevertheless, it has remained popular among the older generation and foreigners and has continued to evolve under the influence of such artists as Astor Piazzolla and Roberto Fripo.
Argentine cinema dates from the 1930s; notable among the works of the later 20th century is La historia oficial (1985; “The Official Version”), a drama regarding the extralegal adoption of children born to prisoners who were murdered during the “Dirty War” of 1976–83. Argentine film has experienced a renaissance since the 1990s, with the critical and commercial success of such productions as Enrique Gabriel-Lipschutz’s Huella borrada (1999; “Erased Footprints”), Diego Arsuaga’s El último tren (2002; “The Last Train”), Maria Teresa Constantini’s Sin intervalo (2002; “Nonstop”), and Juan José Jusid’s Apasionados (2002; “The Lovers”). Carlos Saura’s Tango (1998) and Marcelo Pineyro’s Cenizas del paraíso (1997; “Ashes from Paradise”) are among several broadly distributed Argentine films to have been nominated for Academy Awards or other international honours.
Buenos Aires is home to the National Library, founded in 1810 and holding more than two million volumes, and to a host of specialized libraries as well. Museums of fine arts, natural history, decorative arts, ethnology and archaeology, and national history are also located there. Schools of fine arts in Buenos Aires offer instruction in visual arts, theatre, dance, and music. Provincial museums tend to focus on local arts, history, and sciences; in Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the Western Hemisphere, the Museo del Fin del Mundo (Museum of the End of the World) concentrates on history and natural sciences. In La Plata the university’s Natural History Museum contains fine examples of the rich fossil record of Patagonia, which helped inspire naturalist Charles Darwin.
Sports and recreation
Argentina’s worldwide preeminence on the polo field reflects the nation’s divided social base, the hardiness of its horses, and the skills of its riders. Steeped in the gaucho tradition and having the open fields of the Pampas on which to practice, a ranch hand with the necessary talent can attain high renown and modest wealth at either polo or horse racing. Both the wealthy and the urban middle classes attend exclusive sporting clubs offering tennis, yachting, or power boating. Rugby football is played in several private schools. There are excellent hiking and fishing areas in the Lake District of the Patagonian Andes, where San Carlos de Bariloche attracts crowds of skiers during the winter. In the summer months bathers pack the beaches at resorts such as Mar del Plata, though the waters of the Río de la Plata itself, once available to all comers, are polluted and have been declared unsafe for swimming.
The most popular sport among the Argentine working class is football (soccer), introduced by the British (as was polo) in the 19th century. Professional football offers players of even the poorest backgrounds a chance at wealth and fame; as inspiration they look to such national football stars as Diego Maradona, who was perhaps the world’s leading player in the 1980s and ’90s. Argentine teams are generally among the best internationally and are often contenders for the World Cup.
A peculiarly Argentine game dating perhaps to the 17th century is pato (“duck”), which is played on an open field between two teams of four horsemen each. The riders attempt to carry a leather ball (originally a duck trapped in a basket) by its large handles and throw it through the opposing team’s goal, which is a large hoop on a post.
A majority of Argentines enjoy viewing televised sporting events as well as dramas, game shows, and other television programs, including North American comedies dubbed into Spanish. Telenovelas (soap operas) made in Argentina and other Latin American countries are particularly popular, and many locally produced serials are exported throughout the region. Movies, many of which originate in the United States or Europe, are also viewed avidly. Increasing numbers of Argentines have bought personal computers and begun accessing the Internet.
Media and publishing The mass media in Argentina are well advanced among Latin American nations. In Buenos Aires the largest newspapers are published, and many have electronic editions on the Internet. The largest daily circulation is claimed by Clarín; two other large-circulation dailies, La Nación and La Prensa, founded in 1870 and 1869, respectively, have high reputations in the Spanish-speaking world as well as among the international press. Página/12, a more recent addition, provides thorough independent coverage of Argentine politics and cultural affairs. The English-language daily Buenos Aires Herald is also widely available throughout the republic. Foreign-language papers are common in the capital. Buenos Aires is a centre of publishing in South America.
The majority of radio and television stations are privately operated, although national and provincial governments operate some 15 television stations. Throughout the country’s postwar history the broadcast media and press have periodically become agents of state propaganda, only to be returned to some independence by succeeding administrations.
History of Argentina
The Spanish arrived in 1516 and ruled the country for 300 years. In 1806, a British force overpowered Spanish military in Buenos Aires and attacked the Malvinas Islands, also called the Falkland Islands. Local residents recaptured the capital, but never regained control of the islands. These events led to the loosening of Spain's grip on Argentina.
In 1810, Napoleon's forces conquered all major Spanish cities in Spain and the Argentine people were empowered to take control of their country. They gained independence in 1816.
In 1946, Juan Perón became president due to his popularity with the working class. His wife, Eva, known as Evita, formed a foundation and gave out cash and benefits to the poor. When she died of cancer in 1952, the people were very sad. She was a symbol of hope to all the poor in Argentina. Juan Perón was forced out of office after he tried to increase his powers. Even after he left office, his followers continued to fight for political power.
After many violent years and near civil war, Perón was re-elected president and his new wife, Isabel, became vice president. He died suddenly and Isabel became president and soon the country's economy fell apart.
The military took control of the country in 1976, and a period of violence called the "dirty war" ensued, during which as many as 20,000-30,000 revolutionaries or sympathizers were killed.
In 1982, the president of Argentina, General Leopoldo Galtieri invaded the Falkland Islands off the coast in the Atlantic Ocean thinking the British wouldn't put up a fight. Galtieri miscalculated and British forces won an easy victory. After the defeat, the country moved toward democracy and civilian rule.
The following discussion focuses on events in Argentina from the time of European settlement. For events in a regional context, see Latin America, history of. Events that affected northwestern Argentina prior to the 16th century are described in pre-Columbian civilizations: Andean civilization.--->>>>>Read More.<<<<
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