The History and Geography of Argentina

Important Facts To Know About One of South America's Largest Countries

Silhouette of person holding flag of Argentina on black background
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Argentina, officially called the Argentine Republic, is the largest Spanish-speaking nation in Latin America. It is located in southern South America to the east of Chile. To the west is Uruguay, a small part of Brazil, southern Bolivia, and Paraguay. One of the main differences between Argentina and other South America countries is that it is mainly dominated by a large middle class that's heavily influenced by European culture. In fact, nearly 97% of Argentina's population is of European descent, with Spain and Italy being the most common countries of origin.

Fast Facts: Argentina

  • Official Name: Argentine Republic
  • Capital: Buenos Aires
  • Population: 44,694,198 (2018)
  • Official Language: Spanish
  • Currency: Argentine pesos (ARS)
  • Form of Government: Presidential republic
  • Climate: Mostly temperate; arid in southeast; subantarctic in southwest
  • Total Area: 1,073,518 square miles (2,780,400 square kilometers) 
  • Highest Point: Cerro Aconcagua 22,841 feet (6,962 meters)
  • Lowest Point: Laguna del Carbon 344 feet (105 meters) 

History of Argentina

Argentina saw the first Europeans arrive when Italian explorer and navigator Amerigo Vespucci reached its shores in 1502. Europeans did not establish a permanent settlement in Argentina until 1580 when Spain established a colony in what is present-day Buenos Aires. Throughout the rest of the 1500s and also through the 1600s and 1700s, Spain continued to expand its territorial hold and established the Vice Royalty of Rio de la Plata in 1776. However, on July 9, 1816, after several conflicts, Buenos Aires General José de San Martin (who is now Argentina's national hero) declared independence from Spain. Argentina's first constitution was drafted in 1853 and a national government was established in 1861.

Following its independence, Argentina implemented new agricultural technologies, organizational strategies, and foreign investments to help grow its economy. From 1880 to 1930, it became one of the world's 10 wealthiest nations. Despite its economic success, by the 1930s Argentina was undergoing a period of political instability. The constitutional government was overthrown in 1943. As minister of labor, Juan Domingo Perón took over as the country's political leader.

In 1946, Perón was elected as Argentina's president and established Partido Unico de la Revolucion. Peron was re-elected in 1952 but after government instability, he was exiled in 1955. Through the rest of the 1950s and into the 1960s, military and civilian political administrations worked to deal with economic instability. However, after years of uncertainty, unrest led to a reign of domestic terrorism that ran from the mid-1960s through the 1970s. On March 11, 1973, by means of a general election, Hector Campora became the country's president.

In July of that same year, however, Campora resigned and Perón was re-elected President of Argentina. When Perón died a year later, his wife, Eva Duarte de Perón, was appointed the presidency for a short while but was ousted from office in March 1976. After her removal, Argentina's armed forces took control of the government, executing harsh punishments on those who were considered extremists in what was eventually known as "El Proceso" or the "Dirty War."

Military rule lasted in Argentina until December 10, 1983, at which time another presidential election was held. Raul Alfonsin was elected president for a six-year term. During Alfonsin's time in office, stability returned to Argentina for a short time, but the country was still facing serious economic problems. After Alfonsin left office, the country reverted to instability, which lasted into the early 2000s. In 2003, Nestor Kirchner was elected president and after a rocky start, he was eventually able to restore Argentina's former political and economic strength.

Government of Argentina

Argentina's current government is a federal republic with two legislative bodies. Its executive branch has a chief of state and a head of state. From 2007 to 2011, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was the country's first elected woman to fill both of those roles. The legislative branch is bicameral with a Senate and a Chamber of Deputies, while the judicial branch is made up of a Supreme Court. Argentina is divided into 23 provinces and one autonomous city, Buenos Aires.

Economics, Industry and Land Use in Argentina

Today, one of the most important sectors of Argentina's economy is its industry and approximately one-quarter of the country's workers are employed in manufacturing. Argentina's major industries include chemical and petrochemical, food production, leather, and textiles. Energy production and mineral resources including lead, zinc, copper, tin, silver, and uranium are also important to the economy. Argentina's main agricultural products include wheat, fruit, tea, and livestock.

Geography and Climate of Argentina

Because of Argentina's long length, it is divided into four main regions: the northern subtropical woodlands and swamps; the heavily wooded slopes of the Andes Mountains in the west; the far south, semiarid and cold Patagonian Plateau; and the temperate region surrounding Buenos Aires. Thanks to its mild climate, fertile soils, and proximity to where Argentina's cattle industry began, the Buenos Aires temperate region is the country's most populated.

In addition to these regions, Argentina has many large lakes in the Andes, along with the second largest river system in South America, the Paraguay-Parana-Uruguay, that drains from the northern Chaco region to the Rio de la Plata near Buenos Aires.

Like its terrain, Argentina's climate varies, although most of the country is considered temperate with a small arid portion in the southeast. Argentina's southwestern portion is extremely cold and dry and is consequently considered a sub-Antarctic climate.

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