Country Guide


Just a few of the more important phases in Argentina's historical development.

The long and varied history of Argentina can be witnessed throughout the country and has left its imprint on the landscape, the people and the architecture. To go to Argentina without at least a brief knowledge of what these rolling lands have witnessed is to miss out on a great part of the journey.

Below are a few of the most important passages that forged Argentina and the people we know today:

Native peoples

They estimate that the Amerindians arrived to what is now Argentina around 10,000 B.C. and slowly spread southwards. Consisting mainly of nomadic hunter/gatherers the early history of the area is relatively sedate with most of the tribes getting along with one another.

The Spanish

The arrival of the Spanish to Argentina and South America caused probably the biggest upheaval in the continents’ history. Along with the Portuguese, the Spanish forged throughout the continent in search of gold. From the period there are umpteen stories of citadels of gold, Eldorado probably being the most famous. Unfortunately, on the whole, they were disappointed with what they found and, with the exception of Potosi in Bolivia, the famed reserves of gold and silver were not discovered this far south.

Argentina, or what was the area at that point, was no different. The names from the era reflect well what these new settlers were after with names such as “Rio de la Plata” (the river of silver) and the eventual name of "Argentina" itself from the word “Argentum”.

While they were fairly brutal rulers (as were most colonial powers) the Spanish did put in place a series of cities and towns all over South America and Argentina that remind of their presence.

At the end of their reign in the Americas, the Spanish did not go lightly and, in a series of running battles, they were slowly pushed into the sea and back to European shores.

The Jesuits

Like the Spanish, the Jesuits also had a great impact on South America and Argentina. Their aim on departing Europe was to grow the power of the Jesuit order in the world, as they felt themselves being pushed from Europe by Catholicism. They proceeded to convert many of the indigenous tribes to their faith.

Quite a constructive order, they, with the help of their new converts, constructed missionaries across the whole of Argentina and South America….the most famous area of which is the province of Misiones in the north of Argentina.

Independence and after

At the start of the 1800s the Spanish, defending their European borders from Napoleon, were finally expulsed from South America en masse. The 25th May 1810 marks the national independence.

It took Argentina another 60 years or so to finally come together as a unified whole and to elect their first president, Bartolome Mitre. While he had ambitions of unifying Argentina with infrastructure and construction, his term was more occupied with the Paraguayan War that raged for five years.

His successor, Faustino Sarmiento was the true unifier of Argentina and his term in power heralded the golden age of Argentine history and a period of influx from Europe. In the period of 30 years or so from 1865, Buenos Aires boomed with the slums around the port growing at a rapid pace.

The recent history of Argentina has been fairly mixed, with the most famous figures being the rise of Juan Peron in the 40s wife his wife, Eva Peron, or Evita. She was a very influential figure in the state of the poor and the empowerment of women in Argentina. Having captured the hearts of the nation, she tragically died at the young age of 33. Today she is revered by many, as a saint.

From 1976 to 1983 Argentina’s history took a turn for the worse. With the general, Jorge Videla, in command, the state went on a rampage of torture, rape and persecution in their hunt for leftist opposition. After a misjudged attempt to rally public feeling by invading the Malvinas Islands (the Falklands) he was finally put out of power.

Today, the name that most Argentines mutter is that of the Kirchners. Nestor came to power after the worst economic crisis it had ever faced and was hailed as a hero, reducing the national debt to the IMF in one fell swoop, reducing government corruption and moving Argentina away from alignment with America.

His wife, Cristina, having inherited a peaceful and happy country, has not has such an easy ride and her tenure has been marked with accusations of corruption, insider trading and many other demeanors. The final twist in the tail is, as Cristina is ending her tenure, it was predicted that her husband was, once again, going to run for the presidency but, on the 27th October 2010 he passed away.

Who knows where Argentina and its history will move next...

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