Information about Argentina
Argentina, officially the Argentine Republic is a South American country bordered by Paraguay and Bolivia in the north, Brazil in the Northeast, Uruguay in the east, and Chile in the west and south.
"Argentina" derives from the Latin argentum, which means silver. Legend has it that it was due to the existence of silver on the northern area of a river that Juan Diaz de Solís had named Sweet Sea (Mar Dulce) and the Portuguese had called it Rio da Prata that the country acquired that name.
Second largest country in South America and eighth in the world, Argentina enjoys political and economic stability.
The national official language of Argentina is Spanish (which the Argentines call "Castellano" or Castilian).
Europeans first arrived in the region with the 1502 voyage of Américo Vespucio.
Explored in 1516 by Juan Díaz de Solís, Argentina developed slowly under Spanish colonial rule. Solís, chief pilot of the Spanish navy who landed on the shores of the Plata, named the river Mar Dulce (“Freshwater Sea”) and was killed by native warriors, possibly charrúas.
It was the search for a Southwest passage to Asia and the East Indies that brought Solís’ expeditions to the Río de la Plata.
Spanish colonisation of Argentina took place during the eighteenth and nineteenth century. Ferdinand Magellan arrived in 1520. Italian cosmographer Antonio Pigafetta, Juan Sebastián Elcano, and Esteban Gómez, the person who first sighted the Falklands Islands, among others, were some of the most important members of the Magellan expedition.
Sebastian Cabot (son of Giovanni, also known in England as John Cabot) in 1527 explored the Paraná River as far as its junction with the Paraguay and built two forts. The first one, called Sancti Spiritu, was the first Spanish settlement in present-day Argentina; near its former location lies the town of Santa Fe.
Later, he explored the river Uruguay, and established another fort in the “Banda Oriental”. However, the voyage resulted in a huge failure and a surprise attack by the Indians (timbúes) wiped out his Sancti Spíritus base (also known as Cabot Tower).
In 1536 the Spaniards founded a small settlement consisting of 1300 Europeans, including women. The best part of the settlement’s population was Spaniards, although there was a fair number of Italians, Germans, etc.
Mendoza was initially successful in founding Santa María del Buen Ayre, the first settlement of the present Buenos Aires on the 2nd of February that same year, but lack of food proved fatal and he was attacked by the het (quarandíes) and the chaná. Consequently, native attacks forced abandonment of the settlement.
Meanwhile, Juan de Ayolas sailed up the Paraná River, crossed the Chaco plain to the mountains in order to access the Sierra del Plata, and is believed to have been killed by the Native Americans on his return.
Juan de Salazar, searching for Ayolas built a fort, in 1536, and called it Nuestra Señora de la Asunción in Paraguay. Asunción strengthened as the colonial capital and the centre of conquest and the very few Europeans who had survived the native attacks in Buenos Aires seek refuge in this place.
At the same time, Diego de Rojas founded a city on shores of Dulce river known as Medellín de Soconcho. He was killed afterwards by natives near the frontier of Santiago del Estero and Córdoba.
Soon after, Francisco de Aguirre founded in 1553 the city known as Santiago del Estero. Hence, this city is the most ancient foundation that still remains in present-day Argentina.
On the 6th of July 1573, Jerónimo de Cabrera founded a city named Córdoba de la Nueva Andalucía, where a couple of years later, in 1612, the first University of the South Cone was to be built
Asunción governor sent Juan de Garay on April 1573, on an expedition to the Paraná river, during which he founded the city of Santa Fe in Cayastá. On the 11th of June 1580 he performed the second and definitive foundation of Buenos Aires under the name of “Ciudad de la Santísima Trinidad y Puerto de Santa María de los Buenos Aires".
Political life was reoriented in 1776, when Spain created the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata with Buenos Aires as its capital
Government and Politics
As stated in the 1853 constitution, politics of Argentina takes place in a framework of a federal representative republic.
The United Provinces of the River Plate, (Spanish: Provincias Unidas del Río de la Plata) was the official name of Argentina from 1816 to 1853, the year in which the name República Argentina would start being official.
The political systems allows a high degree of local autonomy for each province, since each province holds all the power that is not delegated to the Nation.
Moreover, the country is governed by the 1853 constitution as revised in 1860, 1866, 1898, 1949 (derogated in 1957) and finally in 1994.
Although Argentina is not a confessional country, the Catholic Church has always influenced the protocol of the Argentine government. According to the Constitution (2nd article) the Argentine government should support Roman Catholicism and must provide economic and institutional support for the church. What is more, several references to religion are included in such constitution. The 15th article, which summarises the rights of the citizens, includes religious freedom. Hence, it provides for free expression of faith and ideas.
Religion in Argentina
All the inhabitants of the nation are entitled, among other rights, to freely profess their cult. However, the Federal Government strongly supports the Apostolic Roman Catholic religion (see Government and Politics). In fact, officially speaking, this support is economic, since the federal state pays a salary to bishops and cardinals, as well as institutional. The total economic support of the Church by the state amounts to the 10% of the government annual budget. Nevertheless, the Argentine Episcopacy is considering the possibility of forgoing this support.
A study made by members of the Argentine Episcopal Conference revealed that 77% of Argentineans have been baptised a Roman Catholic. However, only 18,5% practise the religion while 35% never go to church.
There has also been a rise in Evangelical movements over the past years. Hence, nowadays in Argentina there are almost as many Evangelists as practising Catholics. Another group that is becoming more and more prominent among Argentineans is the controversial Universal Church if the Kingdom of God, of Brazilian origin.
According to the already mentioned study, 16% of the population aren’t religious people (4% agnostics and atheists). Moreover, 2% are Jewish, 0,6% orthodox Christians, 0,2% spiritualist, 0,2% Islamic. Finally, indigenous communities still have Pre-Columbian beliefs and at the same time they practise the Catholic religion.
Argentina is situated between the Andes, the southern Atlantic Ocean and the Antarctic continent. The country can be roughly divided into three parts: the fertile plains in the centre and north of the country, the area within the Patagonia in the south, and the rugged Andes mountain range along the western border with Chile. The Andes Mountains rise to an elevation of 6,960 meters, in the peak of Mount Aconcagua, the highest point in the Western Hemisphere.
The diversity of the land is one of the country’s most striking features. Mainly fertile plains in the east, mountains and sierras in the central area dominate most of the country’s landscape. Moreover, the Patagonia is a dry, windswept plateau in southern Argentina. The Andes Mountains extend to the west like a huge wall acting as a borderline with Chile. At the edge of this mountain chain the fluvial valleys form oases of culture, which are the only inhabited places, in this sparsely populated area.
Aconcagua is the highest peak, not only in Argentina but also in America. What is more, America’s lowest point can also be found in Argentina: Laguna del Carbón in Santa Cruz, 105 meters below sea level.
In the central area of the country flat fertile plains known as “Pampa” plains can be found. Such plains can be divided into two main regions: Humid Pampa and Western Pampa, which is drier and used mainly for grazing. Furthermore, two mountains known as “De la Ventana” and “Tandilia” are the only unevenness that can be seen in the area. These mountains are the remains of an old mountain chain.
The northern area of the country is the swampy and partly wooded Chaco and Iberá swamps. This region is dotted with subtropical forests and some wetlands, home to a large number of plant and animal species. Northeast in Argentina, the region within Misiones is a humid area surrounded by rivers. Such region is a continuation of the Brazilian central sierra. Moreover, subtropical weather and woodland vegetation are some of the area’s main features.
The Altiplano, where the Andes are at their widest, is a really extensive area of high plateau. Finally, the area within the Paraná River features a unique jungle environment
The term “Mesopotamia” is still applied to the area enclosed by the Paraná and Uruguay rivers. Nevertheless, most geographers agreed such term should not be used any longer since, in fact, they have very little in common.
The Argentine Sea (Mar Argentino) refers to the area of the Atlantic Ocean within the continental shelf off the Argentine mainland. More precisely, it is located in the South Atlantic Ocean off the southeastern coast of Argentina and important fishing resources can be found here. From dunes to cliffs can be seen along the coast of this sea. Moreover, due to the cold current that flows from the Antarctic and the warm one that flows from Brazil, water’s temperature, far from falling steadily with the geographical position, it varies a great deal.
Argentina, member of the Antarctic Treaty, has a territorial claim over a portion of Antarctica, delimited by the meridians 25° West and 74° West, since 1943. The Antarctic Peninsula is geologically and geographically part of the Andes and Argentina's claim to the Antarctic Peninsula overlaps with the claims of Chile and the UK.
Economy and Currency of Argentina
The national currency is the Argentine Peso (ARS). Between the years 2003 and 2004 Argentina’s economy grew rapidly. The GDP (Gross Domestic Product) grew by 9 % each year and is estimated to grow by 9% in the year 2005 and by 6,5% in the year 2006.
Due to the remarkable recovery achieved by the country’s economy in the past three years and given that during the third quarter of the year 2005 the GDP grew even more that what have than in 1998, it is wise to claim that the economic crisis is finally over. However, Argentinean society is still suffering the devastating consequences of such crisis.
The poverty rate of Argentina in 2002 was as high as 60 % and unemployment rate was 25%. Nevertheless, during the post-crisis period the poverty rate was reduced to 34% and unemployment was around 10% in 2005 which means the country has just returned to pre-crisis levels.
However severe the 2002 crisis might have been, Argentina is still the country number 34 of the world regarding human development according to the ranking made annually by PNUD.
Statistics reveal that Argentina remains the most economically developed country in Latin America since nominal GDP is 180.000 million dollars approximately. Moreover, the nominal income per capita is 4700 dollars, the fourth highest within the region. Chile, the region’s richest country is in first place followed by Mexico (6700) and Venezuela (4800).
Considering the GDP in par with the purchasing power it is as high as 520,000 million dollars shortening the distance with Mexico’s GDP or Brazil’s. While the income per capita measured in PPP is as high as 13,000 dollars, being Argentina the leading country in Latin America, aside from Puerto Rico.
Demographics in Argentina
A research study made by the University of Buenos Aires revealed that 56% of the country’s population have Amerindians ancestors while the rest of the population (44%) descends from Europeans and only a small group from ethnic minorities. Moreover, such study indicated that 5,6% of the total population has purely Amerindian features.
However, the population of Argentina is primarily white when it comes to physical characteristics such as hair, eyes and skin colour, unlike most other Latin American nations. This unusual feature can also be pointed out in Uruguay and regions from Brazil, which are predominantly white countries too.
Most of the population is made up of descendants of Spanish, Italian and other European settlers (Germans, Russians, Portuguese, Polish, Irish, French and English settlers). Waves of immigrants from European countries arrived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and continued until after the Second World War.
According to the provisional data of INDEC's Complementary Survey of Indigenous Peoples (ECPI) 2004 – 2005 only 318,683 native Indians inhabit the country. Pure indigenous amount to the 0,8% of the total population. Moreover, according to the survey, 2,8% of Argentina’s homes have at least a member who belongs to a native community.
For many years Amerindians descendants have long been discriminated. Argentina has only recently begun to recognise itself as a multicultural, multiracial society, partly as a consequence of the historical revisionism that has occurred lately. Hence, significant formal steps have been taken towards the elimination of racial discrimination.
Society has strongly supported the “mapuche” families from Río Negro and Chubut in their fight against landlords who have been occupying their own land for many years now. Moreover, great improvements have taken place in the “tobas” communities from Chaco regarding education and children now learn in their own language.
Argentina has a large Arabic community from the Middle East, made up mostly of immigrants from Syria, Lebanon and Armenia. Small but growing numbers of people from East Asia has also settled Argentina, mainly in Buenos Aires. The first Asian-Argentines were of Japanese origin; Koreans, and Chinese followed. What is more, there has been an influx of immigrants from neighbouring countries, principally Paraguay, Bolivia and Chile as well as from Perú.
Due to the 2001 economic crisis, a substantial number of Argentineans looking for a better living emigrated to other places. The vast majority of the emigrants settled in Europe, mainly in Spain and Italy. Similar waves of emigration had already occurred before (between 1976 and 1983) as a consequence of the economic and politic crisis that had suffered the country. According to the 2001 census the migration rate during the period 1995-2000 was negative and the same was estimated for the period 2000-2005, which had always been positive until then.
Culture of Argentina
During the twentieth century, Argentinean poetry and narrative bloomed overcoming the realistic and mannerism inheritance of the previous century. As for poetry, during the nineteenth century some of the best-known personalities were Guido Spano and Leopoldo Lugones. However, poetry became highly original and truly creative during the twentieth century, being Jorge Luis Borges, Leopoldo Marechal, Ricardo Molinari, Alfonsina Storni, Arturo Capdevila, Enrique Banchs, Baldomero Fernández Moreno and Norah Lange vitally important figures.
A similar evolution occurred regarding the narrative, being Eduardo Mallea, Julio Cortazar, Manuel Mújica, Ernesto Sábato, Néstor Sánchez and Adolfo Bioy Casares important authors of the international vanguard movement.
Literature: Literature in Argentina has always been subject to heavy European influence, especially from Spain. Argentine literature went through a process by which became fiercely nationalist first and finally resulted in the consolidation of leading personalities.
Art: Pre-Columbian art can only be found in the “diaguitas” culture, specially in the “calchaquís” ceramics, located in Tucumán and Santiago del Estero, since, after the colonisation, art was also subject to profound European influence.
Architecture: Buenos Aires and other cities show a mixture of architectural styles imported from Europe. The architecture of Argentina can be said to start at the beginning of the Spanish colonisation, though Italian influence increased during the late eighteenth century, when French neo-classic models were reproduced. After the second half of the twentieth century, Argentina began to search for identity in terms of architecture.
Music: Argentina is believed to be a highly developed country when it comes to music. The country boasts a considerable number of well-known personalities such as Mercedes Sosa, who achieved remarkable success together with Brazilians Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso.
Due to the country’s ethnic diversity it is hardly surprising that a wide variety of genres can be found in Argentina regarding music.
LA BOCA NEIGHBOURHOOD
TANGO IN BUENOS AIRES
Cinema: Argentina was one of the first countries to enter the film world. During the twentieth century, the Argentinean cinema production became one of the most important ones within the Spanish-speaking world.
In 1897 the French Eugenio Py shot the first Argentine film, a documentary known as “La bandera de Argentina” and it was followed by other documentary such as “Viaje a Buenos Aires” in 1900 and “La revista de la escuadra argentina” in 1901. During the early twentieth century several Argentine artists continued experimenting the possibilities of the new invention, making news shorts and documentaries. Eduardo Cardini, for example, shot “Escenas Callejeras” in 1901 and Mario Gallo made “El fusilamiento de Dorrego” in 1908, the first film to developed a plot.
The Argentine history and literature provided the themes of the first years of filmmaking. One of the first successes of the national cinema was Nobleza Gaucha of 1915, inspired in Martín Fierro, gaucho poems by José Hernández.
The incorporation of sound had a great impact. With successful films such as “Tango” (1931), directed by Luis Maglia Barth, “El alma del bandoneón” (1935) and “Prisioneros en la tierra” (1939) by Mario Soffici, “La muchacha de a bordo” directed by Manuel Romero in 1936 and “La vuelta al nido” by Leopoldo Torres in 1938, argentinian cinema reached maturity. Moreover, actors such as Libertad Lamarque, Tita Merello, Pepe Arias, Luis Sandrini y Niní Marshall began to gain widespread popularity.
In 1940 began a decline of the Argentine movie industry. As Argentine cinema steadily lost viewership, foreign product from the United States gained a large foothold in the Argentine market. Some of the most importante films of that period are: “Historia de una noche” (1941) and “La dama duende” (1945) both directed by Luis Saslavasky, “Malambo”(1945) directed by Lucas Demare and Hugo Fregonese, “Pelota de trapo” (1948) and “Crimen de Oribe”(1950) by Torres Ríos and, finally, “Las aguas bajas turbias”(1952) by Hugo del Carril.
Since 1957 a new generation of film directors succeeded in joining the technical ability with aesthetic refinement that finally took Argentine films to international film festivals. The first wave of such directors was made up of directors such as Leopoldo Torre-Nilsson, Fernando Ayala, David Jose Kohon, Simon Feldman, and Fernando Solanas. A second generation that achieved a cinematographic style were José Martínez Suárez, Manuel Antin, and Leonardo Favio.
During the 80’s, producers such as María Luisa Bemberg with “Camila” (1984) and José Luis Punzo with “La Historia Oficial” came in for special praise, especially from international critics.