This week, we’re spotlighting the South American country of Argentina, located on the southernmost part of the continent. As the eight largest country in the world, Argentina is made up of vast diversity of geography, including plains, deserts, tundra, forests, mountains, rivers, and thousands of miles of ocean shoreline. This varied geography is grouped into four major regions: the Andes, the North, the Pampas, and Patagonia.
Before the arrival of conquistadors, historians estimate that present-day Argentina was home to about 300,000 people, including the Chaco, the Tehuelche peoples of Patagonia, and the Querandí and Puelche (Guennakin) peoples of the Pampas. After three centuries of Spanish colonization, Argentina declared independence in 1816. Argentine nationalists also helped spark revolutionary movements across the region. After periods of strongman leadership, Argentina was defeated by British forces during the Falklands Islands War of 1982. The defeat led to the fall of the military regime and the reestablishment of democratic rule.
Today, the nation’s economy is largely dependent on services and manufacturing, although agriculture and ranching are still important. Argentina produces more grain than any other country in Latin America and is second in raising cattle to Brazil. Valuable minerals are also an important national product and the country’s name even comes from the Latin word for silver, argentum. Tourism is also an important part of the modern economy.
Despite the Pampas and vast Patagonian landscapes, contemporary Argentina is largely urban. Buenos Aires, the capital, is one of South America’s most crowded and cosmopolitan cities. About one-third of the Argentine people call the city home.
Because almost all Argentines are descendants of European immigrants, the culture is a blend of European customs and Latin American innovations. One of the most famous cultural innovation has been the tango, a dance that originated in the impoverished port areas on the border of Argentina and Uruguay in the 1880s. Beef is a staple of Argentine cuisine and the country consumes twice the amount per capita as the United States. Argentina also has a strong sports culture and is world-renowned for polo and football (soccer).
The Argentine flag was adopted in its current form was adopted on February 25, 1818. The pale blue stripes represent the ribbons worn by patriots in May 1810, when the Spanish viceroy in Buenos Aires yielded authority to the local government. The golden “Sun of May” also represents the events of May 1810, when the sun supposedly shone through the clouds. Neither the exact color shade nor the dimensions were ever determined.