Background Information on Argentina

History

In 1816, the United Provinces of the Rio de la Plata declared their independence from Spain. Eventually, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay went their own way, but the area that remained became Argentina. The country’s population and culture were subsequently heavily shaped by immigrants from throughout Europe, especially Italy and Spain, which provided the largest percentage of newcomers from 1860 to 1930. Up until about the mid-20th century, much of Argentina's history was dominated by periods of internal political conflict between civilian and military factions. After World War II, an era of Peronist authoritarian rule and interference in subsequent governments was followed by a military junta that took power in 1976. Democracy returned in 1983, and has persisted despite numerous challenges, the most formidable of which was a severe economic crisis in 2001-02.

Important historic dates:

May 25, 1810: The first "Patria" or Home Government Assembly was constituted.

July 9, 1816: Proclamation of Independence by the United Provinces of the River Plate and the birth of the Republic of Argentina.

1982: La Guerra de las Malvinas, known in English as The Falklands War. Puentes Pista: The Falklands War is still very fresh in the minds of all Argentines and territory of the Falkland Islands continues to be a point of tension between the UK and Argentina. While in Argentina it is wise to refer to the Falkland Islands as “The Malvinas,” which is the Argentine name for the islands.

2001: The Economic Crisis

Government

The country is a representative federal and democratic republic with Buenos Aires as the Federal Capital and 23 provinces. 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 18. Presidential reelection is allowed for one consecutive 4-year period. Our current president is Mauricio Macri of the center-right “Partido para una Republica con Oportunidades” (PRO) was inaugurated in December 2015.

Economy

Argentina’s GDP is US$879.4 billion (2016), with a per capita GDP of US$20,200. Argentina benefits from rich natural resources, a highly literate population, a diversified industrial base, and an export-oriented economy. Main destinations of exports in 2016 were Brazil (17.0%), China (7.2%) and U.S. (5.9%). Although one of the world's wealthiest countries 100 years ago, Argentina suffered during most of the 20th century from recurring economic crises, persistent fiscal and current account deficits, high inflation, mounting external debt, and capital flight. The most formidable challenge was a severe economic crisis in 2001-2002 that led to the resignation of several interim presidents.

The economy has recovered strongly since bottoming out in 2002. With the reemergence of double-digit inflation in 2005, the Kirchner administration pressured businesses into a series of agreements to hold down prices. The government renegotiated its public debt in 2005 and paid off its remaining obligations to the IMF in early 2006. Real GDP growth averaged 8.5% during the period 2003-2009, bolstering government revenues and keeping the budget in surplus. This trend has ended in the over the last few years, as growth has fluctuation between -2.5% (2014), 2.5% (2015), and -1.8% (2016). Argentina’s unemployment rate hovers around 8%, with around 30% of the population below the poverty line (2006).

Religion

There is complete religious freedom in Argentina, although the official religion is Roman Catholic. Other major religious populations include Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Greek Orthodox, and Russian Orthodox.

Culture

Buenos Aires has great cultural production in cinema, theatre, visual arts, music, and literature. The Colon Theatre is ranked among the top three opera houses in the world. 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, is revered by millions. With regards to science and culture, Argentina has five Nobel Prize winners: Carlos Saavedra Lamas (1936) and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel (1980) for peace; Bernardo Houssay (1947) and Cesar Milstein (1984) for medicine; and Luis Federico Leloir (1970) for chemistry.

Geography

Located in the southeast tip of South America, Argentina encompasses 1,452,236 square miles and is populated by 40.3 million inhabitants, over 15.9 million of which claim home to the capital city of Buenos Aires. The dominant language is Spanish.

Argentina is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, Brazil, and Uruguay to the east, Paraguay and Bolivia to the north, Chile to the west, and Antarctica to the south. The vast Argentine territory has a diversity of landscapes, where ice fields contrast with arid zones; mountains (the Andes) with valleys or plateaus; fluvial streams and lakes with large oceans, broad grassy plains with woods and forests. The southern area is the Patagonia region. The climate is generally arid in north and west, Mediterranean-type climate in the center-east of the country, and damp and cool in the south.

Temperature

The average temperature in Buenos Aires is 18°C, except during the summer, with a high of 35°C or in the winter with a low of 0° C.