The name Argentina is derived from the Latin argentum (silver). The origin of this name goes back to the first voyages made by the Spanish conquerors to Río de la Plata. The survivors of the shipwrecked expedition mounted by Juan Díaz de Solís found indigenous people in the region who gave them silver objects as presents. The news about the legendary Sierra del Plata – a mountain rich in silver – reached Spain around 1524. Since then, the Spaniards named the river of Solís, Río de la Plata (River of Silver).
|National motto: En Unión y Libertad
(Spanish, "In Union and Liberty")
|Capital||Buenos Aires City|
|Largest City||Buenos Aires City|
|Cabinet Chief||Alberto Fernández|
- % water
2,766,890 km² ¹
- Total (2002)
- Formally declared
May 25, 1810
July 9, 1816
|Time zone||UTC -3|
|National anthem||Oid, Mortales|
|(1) Argentina also claims 1,000,000 km²
of Antarctica, as well as the Falkland (Malvinas) Islands
Table of contents
HistoryMain article: History of Argentina
Europeans first arrived in the region in the early 16th century (the first to see and colonize the land was Spanish seaman Juan Díaz de Solís, in 1516). Subsequent Spanish colonisation of the area led to the colony of Buenos Aires in 1580. Independence from Spain was achieved in 1816, after which a conflict between centralists and federalists developed until a new constitution was proclaimed in 1853.
Argentina was then marked by periods of internal political conflict between conservatives and liberals and between civilian and military factions. In the beginning of 20th century Argentina was one of the leading economies in the world.
After World War II, the country saw the rise of the populist Peronist movement, which to a large extent polarised Argentina. Increasingly bloody military juntas alternated with proscribing democratic governments until 1983, following increasing economic problems, corruption, public revulsion and defeat in the Falklands War.
Since then, four free elections have underscored Argentina's progress in democratic consolidation, albeit with an unprecedented economic implosion at the end of 2001.
PoliticsMain article: Politics of Argentina
The Argentine constitution of 1853, as revised in 1994, mandates a separation of powers into executive, legislative, and judicial brancheses at the national and provincial level. The president and vice president are directly elected to 4-year terms. Both are limited to two consecutive terms; they are allowed to stand for a third term or more after an interval of at least one term. The president appoints cabinet ministers, and the constitution grants him considerable power as both head of state and head of government, including authority to enact laws by presidential decree under conditions of "urgency and necessity" and the line-item veto.
Argentina's parliament is the bicameral National Congress or Congreso Nacional, consisting of a senate (Senado) of 72 seats and a Chamber of Deputies (Cámara de Diputados) of 257 members. Since 2001, senators have been directly elected, with each province, including the Federal Capital, represented by three senators. Senators serve 6-year terms. One-third of the Senate stands for reelection every 2 years. Members of the Chamber of Deputies are directly elected to 4-year terms. Voters elect half the members of the lower house every 2 years. Both houses are elected via a system of proportional representation.
ProvincesMain article: Provinces of Argentina
Argentina consists of 23 provinces (provincias; singular: provincia), and 1 federal district (distrito federal), marked with an asterisk:
- Buenos Aires Province
- Entre Ríos
- La Pampa
- La Rioja
- Río Negro
- San Juan
- San Luis
- Santa Cruz
- Santa Fe
- Santiago del Estero
- Tierra del Fuego - Antarctica & South Atlantic Isles
About 88 percent of Argentina's people live in cities and towns. About 3 million live in Buenos Aires, and roughly 11 million people live Greater Buenos Aires, making it one of the largest cities in the world. Many European immigrants to Argentina settled in the cities. These cities offered jobs, education, and other opportunities that enabled newcomers to enter the middle class. Compared to most Latin American countries today, Argentina has a very large middle class. Many of these middle class people work in industry, own small businesses, or have government or professional jobs. They live in tall modern apartment buildings or bungalows that have small yards or gardens. Wealthy Argentines and business executives live in mansions and luxurious apartments in the cities or in fashionable suburbs.
Since the 1930's many rural workers have moved to the big cities to seek work, causing a shortage of housing. Many slums have sprouted in the city outskirts and slum dwellers live in shacks. Most of them can only find part-time work.
Argentina's urban areas have a European look, reflecting the influence of their European settlers. Many towns and cities are built like Spanish cities around a main square called a plaza. A cathedral and important government buildings face the plaza.
- Buenos Aires (Official name: "Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires")
- Santa Fe
- Mar del Plata
- La Plata
GeographyMain article: Geography of Argentina
Argentina can roughly be divided into three parts: the fertile plains of the Pampas in the northern half of the country, the centre of Argentina's agricultural wealth; the flat to rolling plateau of Patagonia in the southern half down to Tierra del Fuego; and the rugged Andes mountain range along the western border with Chile, with the highest point being the Cerro Aconcagua at 6,960 m.
Major rivers include the Paraguay, Bermejo, Colorado, Uruguay and the largest river, the Paraná. The latter two flow together prior to meeting the Atlantic Ocean, forming the estuary of the Rio de la Plata (River of Silver). The Argentine climate is predominantly temperate with extremes ranging from subtropical in the north to arid/sub-Antarctic in far south.
EconomyMain article: Economy of Argentina
Argentina benefits from rich natural resources, a highly literate population, an export-oriented agricultural sector, and a diversified industrial base. However, since the late 1980s the country had piled up huge external debts, inflation had reached 200% per month, and output was plummeting. To combat the economic crisis, the government embarked on a path of trade liberalisation, deregulation, and privatisation. In 1991, it implemented radical monetary reforms which pegged the peso to the US dollar and limited the growth in the monetary base by law to the growth in reserves.
Though initially a success, with inflation dropping and a recovering GDP growth, subsequent economic crises in Mexico, Asia, Russia and Brazil contributed to ever worsening conditions from 1999 onward. The government sponsored tax increases and spending cuts to reduce the budget deficit, which had ballooned to 2.5% of GDP in 1999, though both domestic and foreign investors remained skeptical of the government's ability to pay debts and maintain the peso's fixed exchange rate with the US dollar.
The economic situation worsened still further in 2001 with the widening of spreads on Argentine bonds, massive withdrawals from the banks, and a further decline in consumer and investor confidence. Government efforts to achieve a "zero deficit", to stabilise the stricken banking system, and to restore economic growth proved inadequate in the face of the mounting economic problems. Newly elected president Eduardo Duhalde met with IMF officials to secure an additional $20 billion loan, but immediate action seemed unlikely. The peso's peg to the dollar was abandoned in January 2002, and the peso was floated from the dollar in February.
As of January 2004, the economical situation of the country showed an slight improvement over the past few years, apparently due to the internal growth of 2003. Economic restoration is expected to continue over the next few years with constant, internal growth rates.
DemographicsMain article: Demographics 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. The Patagonian Chubut Valley has a significant Welsh descended population and retains many Welsh placenames and aspects of Welsh culture. Syrian, Lebanese, and other Middle Eastern immigrants number about 500,000, mainly in urban areas. The only official language is Spanish, though immigrants have to an extent retained their original languages.
Argentina's population is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic, which is Argentina's official religion, but it also has the largest Jewish population in Latin America, about 300,000 strong, and is home to one of the largest Islamic mosques in Latin America. Protestant communities are also present. The indigenous population, estimated at 700,000, is concentrated in the provinces of the north, northwest, and south.
CultureMain article: Culture of Argentina
- Religion in Argentina
- Communications in Argentina
- Education in Argentina
- Transportation in Argentina
- Tourism in Argentina
- Military of Argentina
- Foreign relations of Argentina
- List of national parks of Argentina
- Public holidays in Argentina
- Gobierno Electrónico - Official governmental gateway
- Presidencia - Official presidential site (in Spanish)
- Honorable Senado de la Nación - Official senatorial site (in Spanish)
- Honorable Cámara de Diputados de la Nación - Official lower house site (in Spanish)
- Library of Congress Portals on the World - Argentina
- CIA - The World Factbook -- Argentina - CIA's Factbook on Argentina
- Official news agency