Argentina – Quick facts
Situated in the southern half of South America, the Argentine Republic is the second largest country in the continent and the largest Spanish speaking country in the world. It shares land borders with Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay, Brazil and Uruguay, and has a south Atlantic coastline. Argentina claims sovereignty over part of Antarctica, South Georgia, the Falkland Islands and the South Sandwich Islands. The capital is Buenos Aires.
The Incan Empire extended into the northwest, and Spanish colonisation occurred in the 1500s. After battles for independence and civil war, Argentina became a federation in 1861 and relative peace and stability followed.
By the 1900s, Argentina’s economy had become one of the most successful in the world. The Great Depression in 1930s, and a coup, caused it to recede into political instability and economic decline. In 1946, the populist, Juan Peron, became leader, nationalised much of the industry and began a programme of suppression. For years Argentina was in turmoil, with various military coups, juntas and state terrorism. Democracy returned in the 1980s but was haunted by Peronist policies. A conservative leader was finally democratically elected in 2015. Today, Argentina is a federal constitutional republic and representative democracy. It is a federation of twenty-three provinces and one autonomous city, Buenos Aires.
A regional power, and developing economy, it remains a country with vast amounts of unrealised economic potential, particularly with its wealth of mineral resources. Manufacturing is a significant component of industrial Argentina. Much of it is derived from its agricultural past, such as tobacco, food processing and leather. Other industries include automotive, steel, plastics, textiles, glass and the important wine industry. Tourism is a growth area. Argentina’s print media industry is very highly developed.
Argentinians refer to the country as “cristol de razas” (melting pot), as it is so distinctly a country of immigrants. So many ethnic strata make up the population, from the indigenous peoples to colonisers from Spain, slaves brought from Africa and then massive immigration waves from Europe, especially from Italy and Spain. The number of immigrants 1850-1950, was second only to the USA. Today, Syrians, Lebanese, Chinese, Koreans and Japanese have added to the national diversity of Argentina. 92% of the population lives in or around cities.
The culture of Argentina is depicted in the variety of its food and cuisine. Famous for its beef, Argentina has the highest consumption of red meat in the world. It is renowned for rich and varied architectural styles, a wealth of great literature, classical and traditional music and a thriving film industry. Buenos Aires is one of the great theatre capitals of the world and Argentina is known worldwide for the tango. Soccer is hugely important, but the national sport is pato.
On the world stage, Argentina is a member of the United Nations, G20, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States and is a candidate for OECD.