The name 'Argentina'
Comes from the Latin argentum which means silver. The origin of the name goes back to the voyages made by the first Spanish conquistadores (conquerors) to the Río de la Plata. The shipwrecked survivors of the expedition mounted by Juan Díaz de Solís discovered Indians in the region who presented them with silver objects. The news about the legendary Sierra del Plata, a mountain rich in silver, reached Spain around 1524. From this date the Portuguese named the river of Solís, the Silver River (Río de la Plata). Two years later the Spanish used the same name. Since 1860 the official name of the country has been the República Argentina (Republic of Argentina).
The official Argentine currency is the peso, the value of which is equivalent to one United States dollar and fluctuates along with the latter. There are 2, 5, 10, 50 and 1 00 peso bills and 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 cents and 1 peso coins.
The national language is Spanish. English, French and Italian are quite widely spoken.
The official religion is Roman Catholic, although there is complete freedom of worship for Protestants, Jews, Moslems, Greek Orthodox and Russian Orthodox.
It is republican, representative and federal, as determined by the Constitution. Politically the country is divided into 23 provinces and the federal capital (City of Buenos Aires).
The national president and vice-president, as well as the head of government of the City of Buenos Aires, the provincial governors and the members of the legislative bodies are chosen by the universal, secret and compulsory vote of citizens of either sex above the age of 1 8. Presidential re-election is Aowed for one consecutive 4-year period.
President: Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (2007)
The current population of Argentina is estimated to be some 37 million of which almost half live in the Federal Capital and the province of Buenos Aires. These figures give us a population density of 13.2 inhabitants per square kilometre.
95% of Argentineans are white and principally descendants of Italians and Spaniards. With the massive European immigration the white and Indian half castes became slowly diluted until today these people only amount to 4.5% of the population. The pure indigenous population, the Mapuches, Collas, Tobas, Matacos and Chiriguanos, amount to 0.5% of the population.
Its North-South extension of 3,800 km and its area of 3,761,274 sq. km, gives Argentina a great variety of climates and landscapes.
The Pampas, one of the three largest fertile plains in the world, cover approximately a third of the country’s surface, with a temperate and humid climate.
To the south is Patagonia, an immense and plateau bordered on the west by the southern end of the Andes range. This mountain chain changes according to latitude. In the south it is covered with forests, lakes and glaciers, with a cold and damp climate. In the center the Andes has the highest peaks in the Americas and the Cuyo region, which is known in the local Indian language as "the desert country" and has become nowadays in a fertil productive area.
In the Northwest region, the Andean mountains, the desert plateau of the Funa, the valleys, the gorges, the multicolored hills and the picturesque villages come together to endow the area with vigorous and contrasting physical and cultural features.
In the central region, the Pampa Hills, a feral area of hills, escarpments and waterfalls alternate with valleys and plains with a temperate climate.
The Chaco, in the country's middle north, is a vast wooded plain with marshes and lakes.
To the northeast, bracketed by the big Paraná and Uruguay rivers, is the region known as Mesopotamia. In the north, a subtropical climate and jungle areas, and in the south, temperate weather with plains suitable for farming.
A main feature of Argentina is its farming. Grain and oilseeds are harvested as well as sugarcane, cotton, fruit, "yerba mate" and grapes. Cattle raising is notable for the size of the herds; cows, sheep, horses and pigs are bred. The country’s main industries are those that are derived from agriculture.
As regards mining, there are deposits of metallic minerals (iron, uranium, lead, tungsten, tin, zinc, gold, copper, silver and manganese), non-metallic minerals (clays, ordinary salt, gypsum) and rocks for applications (sands, limestone, pebbles and ground granite). Among fuels, oil, natural gas and coal are produced.
Fisheries are significant: river, lake and maritime fishing, the latter along the country's Atlantic coastline.
Over the last years, tourism has strengthened as one of the main sources of development of the Argentine economy, generating both employment and investments. Likewise, the increase of the receptive tourism income has positioned this activity on the first place within export items.
After the opening up of the Argentine economy and with its newly found place in international markets, different integration agreements among the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay led to the creation of the Southern Cone Common Market (MERCOSUR).
It is seen in all its manifestations, cinema, theater, visual arts, music and literature, with outstanding personalities, many of whom have worldwide recognition.
The Colón Theater is ranked among the top three opera houses in the world with a beautiful architecture and perfect acoustics. Its wide stage allows great sets to be built for large casts. The most famous musicians and ballet-dancers have performed and continue to perform there.
In Buenos Aires there are about 90 theaters and 100 cinemas, with a large variety of shows. Among the key centers of culture are the General San Martin, Recoleta and Borges cultural centers.
Painting and sculpture have a key role in cultural life. The country's principal cities have prestigious art galleries. There is popular and folklore music and special mention should be made of the urban music typical of the River Plate area: the tango. Its idol, Carlos Gardel, was turned into a legend by millions of fans. Its lyrics and unmistakable beat make the tango a specifically Buenos Aires phenomenon, yet it continues to triumph abroad.
Five Nobel awards, in diverse fields, have been won by Argentine men: in physiology and medicine, B. Houssay (1947) and C. Milstein (1984); in chemistry, L.E Leloir (1970), while C. de Saavedra Lamas (1936) and A. Pérez Esquivel (1980) received the peace award.
The Argentine gaucho should be specially mentioned as described in "Martin Fierro" by the Buenos Aires Province poet José Hernández. Argentines have inherited from the gauchos a strong personality, the love of freedom and a permanent quest for justice. It is thus understandable that, though originally from the pampas, the gaucho is everywhere in this land.
Farms / estancias
The entire Argentine territory is dotted with farming establishments known as estancias, many of them over 200 years old. Some have farmhouses, called cascos, which are gorgeous mansions in the English or French style, luxuriously furnished and very comfortable. Others, on the other hand, preserve the old and austere colonial style.
A number of farm owners have opened their establishments to the public, transforming them into small and exclusive top-notch hotels. The estancias offer guests a range of activities that turn their stay into an attractive experience: horse riding, fishing, birdwatching, polo, golf, etc. as well as diverse farming activities, such as cattle roundups, milking, cattle branding, sheep marking and shearing, or watching gauchos breaking in horses or displaying their riding abilities, as well as enjoying their guitar playing and folklore dances.
The high mountain peaks, snow-covered mountains and hills are ideal for mountain climbing and trekking. Lesser heights are used for hang gliding and paragliding.
Lakes, natural and artificial, offer canoeing and windsurfing. The Mendoza, Diamante, Atuel, San Juan, Limay, Manso, Hua Hum and Melinquina rivers, rafting and kayaking.
At the Barreal plain, El Leoncito, there's sailcarting, a kind of windsurfing on land using tricycles with sails.
Horseback riding and mountain biking are organized in various parts of the country and allow access to nature's more out-of-the-way landscapes.
Ski in The Andes
The Catedral (San Carlos de Bariloche, Rio Negro) and Chapelco (San Martin de los Andes, Neuquén) are international winter sports centers. In Neuquén Province the Bayo and Caviahue peaks, are modern winter sports resorts.
Near the town of Esquel (Chubut) is La Hoya, with great ski slopes. Cross- country skiing is popular at numerous winter sports centers in Tierra del Fuego Province.
In Mendoza Province, Vallecitos, Los Penitentes and the famed Las Leflas valley are ski resorts with the most modern facilities. The season starts in June and ends in September with a great inflow of skiers and amateurs from around the world.
Meat and wine have given the country an excellent reputation. The local cuisine is varied and tasty. The Northwest region has its own specialties: empanadas, tamales, humita, carbonada and locro.
In addition, however, the strong immigration flows that populated the country explain the existence of delicious international cuisine: Italian, Spanish, French, German, Smiss, English, Chilean, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Arab, Jewish, Basque, Scandinavian, Greek, Dutch, Hungarian, Russian.
The new Argentine cuisine, created by top-ranking chefs and encouraged by demanding gourmets, is up to international standards, competing with the best in the world.
One of the great obsessions of Argentines is soccer. The City of Buenos Aires has 17 stadiums, many of them seating more than 40,000 spectators.
"Pato" is a genuine local sport, and Argentine polo has acquired an international reputation due to the dexterity of its players, considered the best in the world.
In recent years other sports have won thousands of young people over. There are more than 1,500 tennis courts in Buenos Aires and neighboring areas; in field hockey and roller skate hockey, Argentina’s teams have won major victories abroad. In rugby, the 1% national team, the Pumas, has shown its mettle in diverse world championships. Ski has been boosted by the construction of new winter-sports centers with very good slopes and modern ski-lifts. Volleyball and basketball teams also compete at international level.
Water sports are also practiced in our country. sailing, power-boating, rafting and canoeing. Argentina's big game hunting is famous. Dorado and salmon fishing attracts numerous visitors. And the list goes on to include car-racing, boxing, golf, trekking, mountain climbing, mountain biking and hang gliding, as well as the beach sports practiced along the Atlantic coast.