Argentina history & society

Before the arrival of the Spanish, nomadic tribes including the Yamana, the Querandi and the Gurani inhabited Argentina.  The Spanish arrived in 1536 and as they searched for gold and silver, ran into the Querandi tribe.  Tension between the two parties ended with an attack, driving the Spanish back to modern day Paraguay.  The Spanish did not return until 1580 and then founded Buenos Aires.

Buenos Aires became the new capital of the Rio de la Plata.  The Spanish controlled the area but their trade restrictions led to a revolt by the locals and concluded with a declaration of independence in 1816.

Argentina developed but not peacefully.  A rift formed between the Unitarists of the capital and the Federalists (those outside the capital) until Civil war broke out – a bloody period of Argentina’s history.

Stability returned to Argentina in the form of Juan Manuel de Rosas, who came to power in 1829.  He applied his own brand of Federalism to the Unitarist principals and centralised control of the nation from Buenos Aires.  However his leadership policies were implemented through a strong military and the infamous Mazorca (secret police).  Rosas was removed from power in 1852.

Modern history of Argentina
The new Unitarist government opened the country up to foreign investment, trade and immigration, and Europeans poured in to fill roles in commerce and craft.  Argentina was on the road to becoming one of the wealthiest nations in the world.

The wealth was concentrated in the hands of just a few, widening the gap between rich and poor.  There was also mass migration from the rural areas that widened the gap further.  Juan Domingo Peron came to power in 1946, introducing policies that would ease pressure on the working classes.  He was popular, but also known to abuse his power and he was ousted in a coup in 1955.  He returned to power in 1973 but died a year later.  The country fell into a turbulent period of history that did not end until 1976 when the military again took over.

The new regime kicked off the Process of National Reorganisation.  It was a violent process, silencing all forms of opposition from left-wing guerrillas to intellectuals to writers to doctors.

The British island of The Falklands was invaded under the power of General Roberto Viola in 1981, apparently to divert attention from economic issues and general discontent.  However British troops took back the island after only 74 days.

Successive presidents have done their best to resolve past issues and steer Argentina through the economic troubles of 2001.

Culture and society of Argentina

Argentina’s cultural roots are mainly European and this is reflected in the country’s architecture, music, literature and lifestyle.  There are plenty of festivals, cinemas, theatres and concerts. Buenos Aires alone has over 100 cinemas and 90 theatres.  Painting and sculpture are also important and works are showcased in the many art galleries in the main cities.  Music-wise, the country is home to the world-famous tango, especially in Buenos Aires.  The style and rhythm varies depending on the region.

In terms of food some of the typical Argentinean fares includes asado (barbeque), empanadas (a pie or pastry with various stuffing), tamales (chicken or other meat wrapped in cornhusks), humita (grated corn, sweet peppers and tomatoes wrapped in the green leaves of corn) and locro (dish of meat, potato, pumpkin, corn and sweet pepper).  These days migration has brought all the flavours of the world to Argentina and you’ll find European, Asian, Middle Eastern and all sorts of other food.  Steak is a biggie on the Argentine menu, as is wine, which is locally grown and produced.

The official religion of Argentina is the Apostolic Roman Catholic, but there is complete religious freedom. Other religions practised, to a lesser degree, are Protestantism, Judaism, Islamism, and the Greek and Russian Orthodox among others.

*The Small Print
We’ve tried to make this destination guide as accurate as possible but please double check the essentials like visas, health and safety, airport information etc with the relevant authorities before you travel.  STA Travel takes no responsibility for loss, injury or inconvenience caused as a result of this guide.  All prices listed are in the currency of the destination, unless otherwise stated.

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