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Origin of the name Argentina It comes from the Latin term "argentum", which means silver. The origin of this name goes back to the first voyages made by the Spanish conquerors to the Río de la Plata. The survivors of the shipwrecked expedition mounted by Juan Díaz de Solís found indigenous people in the region who gave them silver objects as presents. The news about the legendary Sierra del Plata - a mountain rich in silver - reached Spain around 1524. As from this date, the Portuguese named the river of Solís, Río de la Plata (River of Silver). Two years later the Spanish used the same name. The National Constitution adopted in 1853 included the name "República Argentina" (Argentine Republic) among the official names to designate the government and the country’s territory.


Click on each link below to learn more about the symbols.
  • Capital - Buenos Aires
  • National Bird - 
  • National Flag
  • National Anthem
  • Coat of Arms  
  • National Flower -  
  • Independence Day - July 9, 1816
  • National Motto - En unión y libertad
    (English: In Union and Liberty)


Argentina consists of 23 States and a Federal District

mapa-politico-argentina.jpg (112303 bytes)   argprovinciasv.jpg (16455 bytes)
(Click on map to see it in detail)


Argentina is divided into 23 provincias (provinces) and a distrito federal (federal district).

District Federal - Buenos Aires  
Province Capital City
2) CATAMARCA San Fernando del Valle de Catamarca
3) CHACO Resistencia
4) CHUBUT Rawson
5) CORDOBA Córdoba
6) CORRIENTES Corrientes
7) ENTRE RIOS Paraná
8) FORMOSA Formosa
9) JUJUY San Salvador de Jujuy
10) LA PAMPA Santa Rosa
11) LA RIOJA La Rioja
12) MENDOZA Mendoza
13) MISIONES Posadas
14) NEUQUEN Neuquén
15) RIO NEGRO Viedma
16) SALTA Salta
17) SAN JUAN San Juan
18) SAN LUIS San Luis
19) SANTA CRUZ Río Gallegos
20) SANTA FE Santa Fé
21) SANTIAGO DEL ESTERO Santiago del Estero
23) TUCUMAN San Miguel de Tucumán


Spanish is the official language and is spoken by the great majority of Argentinians.  English, French and Italian are, in lesser or greater degree, widespread languages within the country.
Argentina History

Human habitation of the Americas is generally accepted to have begun 30,000 years ago. Ancestors of the Amerindians reached southern South America around 10,000BC. One of the oldest and most impressive archaeological sites in Argentina is Cueva de las Manos in Patagonia where cave paintings, mostly of left hands, date from 7370 BC.

The Pampas was later inhabited by the Querandi, who were hunters and gatherers, and by the Guarani, who were agriculturalists. In the northwest, there were several indigenous groups, who practiced agriculture in the valleys of the eastern Andean foothills. In the Lake District and Patagonia, the Pehuenches and Puelches were hunter-gatherers and the Mapuche who entered the region from the west as the Spanish pushed south.

The Spanish came in the mid 1500’s looking for silver. The country’s oldest permanent settlement is Santiago del Estero, which was founded in 1551 and Buenos Aires was established in 1580. The Spanish continued their march southward, establishing cities and enslaving or decimating the native population through warfare and disease.

Despite its location on the Rio de Plata, the city of Buenos Aires was barred from direct contact with Europe by Spain’s mercantile bureaucracy. The city survived on the resources of the pampas grasslands and the proliferation of the horses and cattle that were left behind by previous expeditions.  A contraband trade arose to take advantage of the meat and hides available and Spain finally took notice of Buenos Aires' ideal location and lifted the trade restrictions. Reflecting its growing significance, Buenos Aires population grew and reached nearly 50,000 people by the early 19th century. Increasing political autonomy and economic success paved the way for the end of Spanish rule.

In the early 19th century, Napoleon invaded Spain, which eventually lead to Argentine independence. The South American independence movement was led by figures like Argentina’s Jose de San Martin, Venezuela’s Simon Bolivar and Chile’s Bernardo O’ Higgins and the United Provinces of the Rio de la Plata declared formal independence on July 9, 1816. Despite achieving independence, the provinces were united in name only. Two decades of conflict left the countries nearly exhausted.

Juan Manuel de Rosas came to prominence in Buenos Aires and represented the interests of rural elites and landowners. He centralized political power in Buenos Aires and reigned for over 20 years. Finally in 1852, a rival strongman named Justo Jose de Urquiza organized a powerful army and forced Rosas from power. Urquiza’s first task was to draw up a Constitution which was formalized on May 1, 1853 and made Urquiza Argentina’s first president. The Constitution is still in force today despite its frequent suspension.

After surviving a war with Paraguay from 1865-1870, Argentina began to boom and immigrants poured in from Spain, Italy, Germany and eastern Europe. Basque and Irish refugees became the first shepherds. By the turn of the 20th century, Argentina was doing well, but instability loomed. Industry could not absorb all the immigration. Labor unrest grew, and as imports surpassed exports, the economy showed signs of stress. Finally with the onset of the Great Depression, the military took power. Juan Domingo Peron was the first leader to try to come to grips with the country’s economic crisis.

Juan Peron emerged in the 1940’s to become Argentina’s most revered, as well as most despised, political figure. He first came to prominence as head of the National Department of Labor following the 1943 military coup. It was in this post that he met Eva (Evita) Duarte, who would become his second wife and make her own major contribution to Argentine history. With the help of Evita, Peron ran for and won the presidency in 1946.  Although the Perons ruled with an iron fist, they legitimized the trade union movement, extended rights to working-class people, secured voting rights for women and made university education available.

Economic problems and rising inflation undermined Juan Peron’s second presidency in 1952, and Evita’s death the same year dealt a blow to both the country and the president’s popularity. In late 1955 a military coup sent him into exile in Spain and initiated nearly three decades of catastrophic military rule.

During the period between 1976 and 1983, often referred to as the "Dirty War", human rights groups estimate that some 30,000 people were "disappeared" by the military. To disappear meant to be abducted and probably killed, never to be seen again.  This period in Argentine history ended only after the military underestimated the response to their 1982 invasion of the British-ruled Falkland (Malvinas) Islands; after a decisive defeat, the military returned control to civilians.  In 1983 Argentines elected civilian Raul Alfonsin to the presidency who vowed to find and prosecute those responsible for the Dirty War. Human rights organizations still campaign for justice and information but most of the criminals remain unpunished.

In May 2003, Néstor Kirchner, the former governor of Santa Cruz, became Argentina's president. Kirchner has vowed to aggressively reform the courts, police, and armed services and to prosecute the perpetrators of the dirty war. Argentina's economy has been rebounding since its near collapse in 2001, with a growth rate of about 8% since President Kirchner took office. In March 2005, Kirchner announced that the country's debt had been successfully restructured.

Source: Moon Handbooks Argentina by Wayne Berhardson 2005


Argentina has modern infrastructure, is rich in natural resources and its people are well-educated.  But despite this, for most of the last seventy years, it has gone from crisis to crisis. In late 2001, it defaulted on part of its US$141 billion foreign debt, triggering political and economic chaos.  With the devaluation of the peso, Buenos Aires went from the world’s 22nd most expensive city (of 131 surveyed) to 120th and unemployment rose dramatically.

Tourism as an industry profited from the devaluation however and accounts for about 10 percent of the economy. As prices dropped, visitors from neighboring countries increased, budget travelers from around the world began to arrive, and more affluent travelers returned.

Agriculture accounts for about 10 percent of the Gross Domestic Product, and since the 19th century, Argentina has produced corn, wheat, oats, sorghum, soybeans, potatoes, onions, carrots, squash, beans and tomatoes as well as apples, pears and grapes.  Argentina is also the world’s fifth-largest wine producer.  Other commercial crops include sugar cane, olives, tea, yerba mate and tobacco.

During the post-World War II boom, Juan Peron invested large sums of money in manufacturing products such as steel, chemicals and petrochemicals. But much of Argentina's industry is still inefficient and unable to compete without state assistance. Other industrial products include food processing, motor vehicles and consumer goods.

The official Argentine currency is the Peso. There are bills of 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 pesos, and coins of 1 peso and 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 cents.

Source: Moon Handbooks Argentina by Wayne Berhardson 2005

Geography and Climate

 Argentina is located in the southern extreme of South America. It is the second largest country in South America and the eighth largest in the world. Argentina has an area of almost 3.8 million square kilometers, 2.8 on the continent – approximately 54% are plains (grasslands and savannahs), 23%, plateaus and the other 23%, mountains - and the remainder in the Antarctic.

It is bounded by Bolivia and Paraguay on the north, Brazil, Uruguay and the Atlantic Ocean on the east, and by the Atlantic Ocean and Chile on the west and south.

Argentina’s main geographic characteristic is the contrast between the eastern plains and the Andes mountain range to the west. This is the frontier with Chile and includes the highest peak in the Western hemisphere: the 6,962m (20,841ft) high Mt. Aconcagua.

Between the Paraná and Uruguay rivers, Argentine Mesopotamia (the provinces of Entre Ríos, Corrientes and Misiones) is formed by low hills.  In some places within the subtropical rain forest, there are fissures which provide such spectacular waterfalls as the Iguazú Falls.

The Pampas, in the center of Argentina, is the largest and best-known area of plains. Agricultural and livestock activities are performed in this area, which includes the province of Buenos Aires, the northeast of La Pampa, the south of Córdoba and the south of Santa Fe.

Towards the south, from the Andes to the sea, there are the plateaus of Patagonia, swept by the wind during most of the year. The Atlantic coast, lined with high cliffs, forms massive indentations like the Peninsula Valdés, with its colonies of sea animals.

The country’s territory offers a wide variety of climates: subtropical in the North, sub-Antarctic in the southern Patagonia, and mild and humid in the Pampas plains. The median temperature from November to March is 23° C, (73° F) and 12° C (54°F) from June to September.

1) NORTHWEST Tropical climate, its colorful mountains, the Puna high plateau, gorges and valleys. 
2) GRAN CHACO Primarily forested area, subtropical climate, swampy lands and ponds.
3) MESOPOTAMIA In the northern part subtropical climate prevails and in the south the conditions are more temperate. Rich in flora and fauna.  The land consists of slopes, ponds and swampy areas cut by important rivers.
4) CUYO Mountainous, the Aconcagua is found here.  An arid temperate climate. 
5) CENTRAL   SIERRAS  The central sierras of Córdoba and San Luis have a dry temperate climate. Numerous rivers and lakes. 
6)HUMID:  PAMPA  The Pampa with its temperate climate contains the most productive lands in the country for the agriculture and cattle. The flat landscape is broken by Tandil and Ventania Sierras.  In the East are the popular beaches of the Atlantic coast.
7) PATAGONIA The largest region with the coldest climate. The west is consists mainly mountainous containing with spectacular forests, lakes and glaciers. The centre offers sterile plateau and in the east are vast beaches with spectacular colonies of marine animals. The southern extreme of this region makes up the southernmost point of the world.


What is the weather like in the Region today?  Follow this link to The Weather Underground for the forecast for the cities visited by our explorers.  Or check out this satellite map from  

Try converting the temperature in your town from Fahrenheit to Celsius.  

Temp. converter: Enter a number and click outside the box
F: C:


Most of South America is in the same time zone. What time is it in different cities in the region as compared to the time in your home town?  Check this!  

Source: Moon Handbooks Argentina by Wayne Berhardson 2005

Population, Ethnic Groups, Culture and Religion


Argentina’s current population is more than 36 million inhabitants, almost half of which live in the city and the province of Buenos Aires. Population density calculated on a national basis is 13 inhabitants per square kilometer.

85% of the population is white and most are descendants of Italians and Spaniards. As a result of the massive European immigration, mestizos (white and Indian) were slowly reduced and at the present they amount to only 4.5% of the population. The pure indigenous populations - Mapuches, Collas, Tobas, Matacos and Chiriguanos - amount to 0.5% of the population.


There is complete religious freedom in Argentina, although the official religion is Roman Catholic. Other religions practiced in the country are Protestant, Jewish, Islam, Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox and others.


Argentina's cultural roots are mainly European and that is reflected in its architecture, music, literature and lifestyle.  There is intense cultural activity seen in the festivities, expositions, cinemas, theatres and concerts that take place in the cities.

The characteristic music of the city of Buenos Aires is the world-famous tango. Folklore includes several and varied rhythms and styles according to the different regions of the country. 

The typical Argentine food is asado (barbecue: meat cooked over live coals), apart from empanadas (a sort of turnover meat pie or pastry that comes with a variety of other stuffings), tamales (a dish made of corn meal, chicken or meat wrapped in corn husks), humita (dish made of grated corn, sweet peppers and tomatoes wrapped in the green leaves of corn) and locro (a dish made of meat, potato, pumpkin, corn and sweet pepper). 

However, due to the important migrating current that populated the country, there exists a quite varied international cuisine: Spanish, Italian, French, German, Scandinavian, Greek, English, Swedish, Hungarian, Dutch, Chilean, Mexican, Basque, Jewish, Russian, Ukrainian, Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Arabian.

The quality of Argentine wines and meats is known worldwide and the new Argentine cuisine has reached a high international standing.


The word mate comes from the quechua "mathi", which means "small pumpkin". The "tea" is prepared with an herb called mate, which is a traditional plant. The tradition is shared with Uruguay, Brazil and Paraguay. Water is added to the herb and sugar and you can add thin orange slices or lemon, modifying its taste. The mate container may be made of different materials such as wood, plastic, metal or the pumpkin itself and the liquid is drunk through a thin metal straw. You can drink mate alone, but traditionally it is shared with friends.

Fauna and Flora Flora

Argentine vegetation varies according to the climate and the topographic region of the country. In the northeast region, where the climate is wet and hot there is tropical vegetation; like the palm trees, quebracho Colorado, palo de rosa, palosanto, jacaranda and ceibo. In the Pampean region there are short herbs, gramineous and others. In this area there are practically no trees, except some imported varieties that can exist with little rainfall such as eucalyptus, sicomoros, poplars and acacias. In the Patagonian Andean Region there are forests of Northofagues (coihues, lengas, ñires), conifers, (larches, araucarias, and cypresses) and other trees like myrtles, maitenes, and radales. In Tierra del Fuego there are thick conifers forests, especially firs, cypresses, pines, cedars and myrtles. Cactus and other thorny plants thrive in the arid Andean regions of the northwest.


In the north, the fauna is abundant and diverse. Among the mammals, you can find several species of monkey, fox, puma, jaguar, ocelot, tapir, pecari and zorrino. Among the native birds are: the flamingo, several calibú species and parrots. In the Pampas there are also armadillos,  hares, deer, ñandus, eagles, hawks, garzas, chorlitos and partridges. The coldest Andean regions are the habitat of llamas, guanacos, vicuñas, alpacas, and condors. For information on sea life, see the Patagonia section.

Environment Pollution

Argentina suffers from various types of pollution.  Diesel buses contribute to poor air quality, but private vehicles and taxis contribute also. Factories are another source.  Just as motor vehicles cause urban air pollution, they also produce most of its noise pollution.  Buses and motorcycles are the worst offenders.

Cities also produce huge amounts of garbage. In 2001 for example, Buenos Aires generated more than 400,000 tons of solid waste per month. All of this garbage has to be dealt with and the city government is seeking to create a landfill near the city of Olavarria, 400km to the southwest.

Soil conservation and deforestation

Centuries of livestock activities, both grazing and trampling have caused serious erosion problems.  Even today, some national parks have been unable to eliminate grazing within their boundaries.  The biggest problems though, are in the northern subtropical forests. In Misiones Province, commercial farms have cut down much of the rainforest. In Jujuy and Salta Provinces, the cloud forest on the edge of the Andes is also in danger from commercial interests.

Source: Moon Handbooks Argentina by Wayne Berhardson 2005


Maps of Argentina
Good interactive maps
Good variety of maps
Regional info & maps

General Information
Moon Travel Planner
Excellent interactive info on Argentina
Argentina - Basic Information

Argentina Tourism Website

Focus on Argentina
Tourism site with good regional info
Regional info

Argentina Homework Helper

Argentina On ViewArgentina

National Park Info

Tango in Argentina

Argentina Guide to Camping
in Spanish

Latin America links

Esteros del Iberá
Moon’s Destination Planner

Iguaçu Falls
Iguazu Falls


Magellanic Penguins
Penguins Project - penguins - argentina
Peter and Barbara Barham's Penguin page

Classroom Fun & Facts about Penguins

Orcas - orcas


Prehistoric Argentina

Southern Elephant Seals - elephant seals

Sources:  Wikipedia the free Encyclopedia,, Government of Argentina, Moon Handbooks Argentina by Wayne Bernhardson 2005,,, Lonely Planet Publications Argentina,, 

 Kim and Don Greene, Contributors; publication date December 1, 2005