Last updated on February 24th, 2019
Argentina is South America’s second largest country and its largest Spanish-speaking one. Divided into 23 provinces under a federal system, its geography ranges from glaciers to jungles and from pampas to the majestic Andes Mountains. Enjoy these 63 facts about Argentina that uncover its history, culture, people, economy, famous people and more…
Historical facts about Argentina
1. Argentina’s earliest recorded humans date from the Paleolithic era. Evidence of these ancient people is in the Cave of Hands. Painted around 9,370 years ago, the painting is composed largely of left hands and was made by the Toldense Culture in 7370 B. C.
2. Argentina’s original pre-Colombian indigenous peoples can be divided into three different groups. One group’s people were basic hunter/gatherers. Another’s were advanced hunter/gatherers and were conquered by Chile’s Mapuche. A third group were farmers who made and used their own pottery. The Diaguita group was a trading culture conquered by the Incas around 1480. The earliest llama cattle gauchos groups lived during this pre-Columbian era.
3. The history of Argentina is entangled with that of Europe. Europeans first arrived in the region when Amerigo Vespucci arrived in 1502. Juan Diaz de Solis (1516) and Sebastian Cabot (1526) followed and then Pedro de Mendoza founded the small settlement of Buenos Aires in 1536 but it was abandoned in 1541. For the next 200 years they would establish and either keep or abandon settlements.
4. The Argentine territory was subordinated by the Spanish Empire in favor of the immediate wealth to be found in the gold and silver mines in Peru and Bolivia, so as such it was part of the Viceroyalty of Peru until Spain created the Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata in 1776.
5. Argentina’s Declaration and fight for independence (1810-1818) lead to an extended civil war lasting until 1861. At that time the country reorganized into a federation of provinces and Buenos Aires became its capital.
Flag of Argentina
6. The name Argentina was formally adopted in 1860. It comes from the Latin word argentums (“silver”) and stems from a legend that it was a land of silver mountains. In Spanish the word is “plata” and it was named by the first European explorers of the La Plata Basin. In 1862 Buenos Aires was named the capital city.
7. During the following time of stability and peace, tremendous waves of immigrants from Europe radically reshaped the country’s demographics and culture. By 1913 Argentina was the tenth wealthiest country per capita in the world. The population grew five-fold between 1880 and 1910.
8. With a worldwide economic depression and a military coup d’état (sudden, violent overthrow of an existing government by a small group), Argentina descended into intermittent economic crisis and political instability after 1930 that pushed it back into underdevelopment.
9. After several juntas and military leaders, Minister of Welfare Juan Perón was fired then jailed. His freedom and release was attained by a massive popular demonstration. He won the 1946 presidential election. His wife Eva Perón pushed the Congress to enact women’s suffrage in 1947 and was immensely popular with the people. She died of cancer in 1952. Eight people were crushed to death and 2,000 others injured in her funeral procession.
10. The military rebelled again in 1955 and Perón was forced to flee. Military governments failed to revive the economy and a Perón stand in was elected in 1973, paving the way for his eventual return later that year. He died in 1974 and his wife, who was vice-president, assumed the presidency. She was deposed by the military in 1976 when the “Dirty War” began.
11. While applying harsh measures against the era’s terrorists and anyone suspected of being sympathizers. They restored basic order at a terrible cost. From 1974 to 1983 up to 30,000 people went “missing” in Argentina, most of them killed by the junta. Their attempt to seize the Falkland Islands and subsequent defeat by the British finally discredited them and political rights were restored.
12. Democratic government returned to Argentina in 1983. In 1989 the first Muslim president, Carlos Menem, was elected. In 2001, Argentina had five presidents in one year. In 2007 the wife of the outgoing president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, was elected as the first female president of Argentina.
13. Argentina, like the United States and other countries, is considered a nation of immigrants. Argentines sometimes refer to their country as a “crisol de razas” (crucible of races). More than 6.6 million people immigrated to Argentina during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the majority of them from Spain and Italy. Many French and Germans arrived also. Immigrants from Great Britain were also prevalent; there is a Welsh-speaking part of Argentina that speaks its own Welsh dialect.
14. Spanish is the de facto official language of almost all Argentines. There are several second-languages used widely in Argentina as well. These include English, Italian, Arabic, German and Yiddish.
15. In Argentina’s Corrientes province, Guarani is the widely spoken indigenous language that is included with Spanish as an official language. It is also one of the most widely spoken indigenous tongues in the world. Guarani words found in the English language include tapioca and jaguar. Quechua was the Inca Empire language in Peru and it is still spoken in northwest Argentina as well as by 10 million people throughout South America. Quechua words found in the English language include pampa, condor, gaucho, quinine, and llama.
16. Argentina’s population is highly urbanized; 92% of its people live in its cities. The residents of its ten largest metropolitan areas account for half the country’s total population. With 13 million people living in Buenos Aires and its greater metropolitan area, it is one of the world’s largest urban areas.
17. Education is valued in Argentina and the nation’s literacy rate is around 98%. There are free public schools and expensive private ones where students wear uniforms. Pupil school students wear a white lab coat over their clothes so they look alike. There are no public school buses in Argentina; students provide their own transportation to school. They must also buy their own books and uniforms.
18. It is traditional to travel home after lunch daily to take a siesta (an afternoon rest or nap.) Many schools and businesses close down during these nap times and people throughout the country relax. There are even some few hotels in Buenos Aires that rent rooms just for siestas.
19. Important values to Argentines are family, education, personal relationships and prosperity. People in rural areas tend to be more traditional and conservative while urban Argentines tend to be progressive, outgoing and cosmopolitan. Honoring friendship and respecting elders are important values throughout the country.
20. Argentine families tend to be smaller than in other countries, with on average only two children. Divorce was formerly illegal in Argentina; since legalization, there has been a rise in single-parent households. Gay marriage was legalized in 2010.
21. Multicultural Argentina has significant European influences. Not only are the cities full of people of European descent, but there is a conscious imitation of European styles in fashion, design, and architecture influenced largely by Spanish, Italian and other immigrants such as the French, German, and those from Great Britain. Buenos Aires is the center of the country in every way but geography. Many sections look quite European in architecture.
22. “Fashion model syndrome” is prevalent in Argentina. It is known for its cosmetic surgery tourism and it is estimated that one in 30 Argentines has had a cosmetic surgery procedure of some kind in order to improve their appearance. This extreme focus on personal beauty has led to the rise of anorexia (a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss) in the population, making Argentina the country with the second highest rate of the affliction in the world, after number one Japan. More than 30 percent of the population has reported some form of eating disorder, and the number of men with the problem is on the rise.
23. One of the most well-known pieces of Argentine culture is the Latin dance known as the tango. This dance originated in Buenos Aires’ slaughterhouse district in the late 1800s and combines African rhythms with Milonga music for a sensual dance. Originally performed by the prostitutes from local brothels, the dance was originally disdained by those in high society. Gradually as affluent young people came visiting the ghettos looking for adventure, they embraced the dance and the tango eventually found its way into popularity in the mainstream that it today enjoys.
24. Pato is Argentina’s national sport. Pato is the Spanish work for “duck” and this sport originally was played by gauchos on horseback on the early 1600s with live ducks in baskets. It was the predecessor to horseball. Football (soccer) is the most popular sport in the nation. France and Argentina’s men’s national team are the only ones to have won the international triplet: Confederations Cup, World Cup and the Olympic Gold Medal. They have also won 14 Copas Américas and six Pan American Gold Medals. Heroic players are Lionel Messi, Alfredo Di Stéfano and Diego Maradona. Other popular sports in Argentina are basketball, rugby, boxing and auto racing.
25. Argentina’s women’s field hockey team (Las Leonas) is one of the most successful in the world. They have four Olympic medals, two World Cups, seven Champions Trophies and a World League win. Argentine Luciana Aymar is recognized as the best female player ever in the history of women’s field hockey and is an eight time recipient of the FIH Player of the Year Award, the only woman to achieve this.
26. Confiterias play an important role in the social, cultural and business life of their communities. These little cafés abound in Buenos Aires and other cities and some are up to 150 years old. The tango, billiards, cards and dominoes may be experienced at the local confiteria. Their menus may be as unique as their personal décor. Each provides a glimpse of the cultural life of the city. Over 70 of them are considered historical monuments.
27. National holidays include the National Folklore Festival of Cosquin (since 1961) in January; the Buenos Aires Tango Festival (since 1999) organized by the Ministry of Culture between February and March annually; the Encuentro y Fiesta Nacional de Colectividades (Communities Meeting and National Celebration – since 1985) in Rosario celebrating the diversity of customs in the immigrant communities in Argentina; OktoberFest Argentina (since 1964) — acclaimed as the third most important OctoberFest site after Munich and Blumenau, Brazil; and Christmas (including Christmas Eve, Holy Innocents Day and Epiphany). Argentina also celebrates El Carneval del Pais (like Mardi gras) two weeks prior to Lent annually.
28. An Argentine scholar began Argentina’s Friendship Day in the early 1970s in recognition of the connection he felt to everyone on earth after the Apollo 11 moon landing. It is an official holiday and a time of great celebrations of friendships with people having dinners or parties or calling friends after work. In 2005, demand on mobile phone service was so great because of the holiday the networks went down.
Facts about Argentinian food and cuisines
29. Beef is a major staple of the Argentine diet. It is famous worldwide for its tenderness and flavor. Entertaining on the weekend with an “asado” (a barbeque) is a favorite pastime. On the asado there is typically beef, pork ribs, sausages and/or lamb. Argentina is the largest consumers of red meat in the world.
30. Maté tea is Argentina’s national drink. It is a tea made from the young leaves of the Yerba Mate, a Brazilian holly. It is sipped through a metal straw called the “bombilla”.
31. Other popular beef dishes include empanadas (baked or deep-fried pastry pockets stuffed with meat and other ingredients and Carbonada (beef stew) served in a hollowed out pumpkin shell. A winter stew is locro (with corn, meat, leans, bacon, onion, and potatoes served in a gourd).
32. Typical desserts include factures (pastries), pancakes, and cakes filled with dulce de leche (a milk caramel filling/candy); a shortbread cookie called alfajores sandwiched together with fruit paste, dulce de leche or chocolate; and fried cakes called tortas fritas.
33. Argentina’s vineyards have been producing wine since the 16th century. Argentine wine is considered some of the world’s finest. There are around 1,800 wineries in the country presently. Argentina is the world’s fifth leading wine producer.
Iguazú Falls and National Parks
34. One of the world’s true scenic wonders, Iguazú Falls is located in Argentina on its border with Brazil and is composed of some 275 waterfalls, forming a semicircle of 1.9 miles (3 kilometers) of waterfalls. Some of them are as tall as 262 feet (80 meters) and are truly amazing.
35. The town of Puerto Iguazú is located near the confluence of the Iguazú and Paraná rivers. The town is the closest to the falls and contains hotels and restaurants to accommodate tourists who come to see them. It looks across the rivers to Brazil and Paraguay.
36. The Iguazú National Park was created in 1934 and includes the southernmost subtropical rainforest in the South American continent. Some of the main falls included in the park are the Devil’s Gorge, Two Sisters, San Martin, Three Musketeers, and Adán and Eva. It is Argentina’s biggest tourist attraction.
37. The Iguazú National Park has as its goal to preserve one of the world’s richest natural environments, with more than 2,000 species of flora and 400 species of birds with countless insects including a wide diversity of butterflies. This park is also home to many endangered species including ocelots, jaguars, giant anteaters, tapirs, jungle eagles, howler monkeys, coati, large toucans, broad-snouted caimans (vacarés overos) and several bird species.
38. Iguazú Falls and its national park are one of 30 in Argentina. Perito Moreno Glacier in Patagonia, a glacier that is actually growing instead of shrinking, is another national park and is the world’s third largest reserve of fresh water. Other Argentine national parks include: Laguna Blanca; Lanin; Los Alerces; Los Glaciareas, Baritú, Nahuel Huapi; and Tierra del Fuego.
Interesting facts about Argentina
39. Argentina is the top tourist destination in South America and Buenos Aires is the continent’s most visited city.
40. Argentina’s most populated areas enjoy a generally temperate climate but the country as a whole has an exceptional climate diversity. It ranges from subtropical in its northern reaches to sub polar in the extreme south.
41. Argentina is classified as a high-income economy and its Human Development Index rating of “very high” is the highest in Latin America. It has the second largest economy in South America.
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