In 1776 the region had finally grown large enough and powerful enough to gain additional
power from Spain. Buenos Aires became the capital of the territory
of Rio de la Plata, which included what is now Argentina,
Uruguay, Paraguay, and parts of
Bolivia. This political move changed Argentina in very little
time. Prior to this point most goods were shipped from Lima or Panama while Buenos
Aires was restricted in trade; in 1776 this changed as Argentina gained free trade
The economy quickly expanded as did the wealth of the region once Buenos Aires became
a thriving port city. The city exported cattle, crops, and the natural resources
from Bolivia, most notably silver. These goods, in addition
to the fact that Buenos Aires sits on the Atlantic Ocean, meant a clear shipping
lane to Europe, which also gave Argentina
an advantage over many colonial Spanish cities, most notably
This great growth and success hit a few bumps early. In 1806-1807 the
British attacked the city as a part of a war with Spain
and only a couple years later Spain was defeated by France
in the Napoleonic Wars. None-the-less, the Argentines held off the British and as
Spain fell from power, Argentina moved towards independence,
as did much of South America.
Argentina, as a part of and leader of Rio de la Plata,
declared independence in 1810, but this was only the beginning of the movement.
Most Argentines sought independence, but some remained loyal to Spain
and even those seeking independence disagreed on the country's direction. Despite
the differences, most people sought independence and this came with the help of
Jose de San Martin.
San Martin liberated Rio de la Plata and helped liberate Chile
and Peru as well. The country of Rio de la Plata was short
lived though as Paraguay gained independence in 1814, then
Bolivia declared independence in 1825 and
Uruguay did the same in 1828.
Despite having gained freedom from Spain,
Argentina erupted in civil war shortly after this time as the numerous groups
envisioned different futures for Argentina. These debates had many issues, but essentially
boiled down to a battle between the people of Buenos Aires and the rural population,
who wanted greater freedoms. After attempts by dictators and numerous battles, a
constitution was adopted in 1853, which led to the withdrawal of Buenos Aires from
the nation (although they quickly returned).
By the mid- to late-1800s things in Argentina had stabilized
as the economy was improving and the country was gaining strength. During this time
the country went through a modernization process that introduced new machinery to
expand both the ranching industry and industrial production. The country also won
a war against Paraguay, expanding its territory. However
the country also had set backs as Buenos Aires again tried to secede from Argentina
in 1880, but lost the battle and permanently became a part of the country.
Argentina and their economy continued to improve into
the 1900s as industry rose as did the cities, primarily due to large immigration
from Europe. Unlike in the past though, this wave of immigrants
came from numerous countries throughout Europe. The country also introduced a number
of social changes and the country became more liberal, granting universal male suffrage
and nationalizing institutions the Catholic Church formerly controlled, like education
(which eventually led to breaking from the Catholic Church entirely). International
relations also improved during this time as border disputes with Chile
This relative peace and prosperity slowly ended as political arguments divided the
government and the people. As the people sought greater social freedoms and workers'
rights they began protesting. While most of these were peaceful, in 1919 protests
led to over 700 people being killed with thousands more injured. Despite these killings,
the government maintained control, partially due to fear. These protests essentially
ended, but the government also moved to improve workers' rights
Social unity also remained divided into the 1920s and 1930s, when it was magnified
by the Great Depression, beginning in 1930. This led to more political chaos and
shortly after a military coup, which brought the fascist Jose Felix Uriburu to power.
His rule was harsh, suppressive, and corrupt as he attempted to create a fascist-like
police or military state. This only lasted two years when the people turned in the
complete opposite direction. This resolved little as political turnover remained
high throughout the 1930s and the economy struggled.
In 1943 the string of political instability ended with a revolution, but with a
change in government, it only thrust Argentina into the
middle of World War II. Although Argentina didn't declare war or take any side,
the country was clearly leaning towards the Allies and near war's end Argentina
officially joined the war, hoping to enjoy better relations with the winning side.
It was also during this time, in 1943, that the military took over the government
in Argentina. One of the military officers who took power
was Juan Domingo Peron (whose wife, Eva gained great fame and popularity as well).
He gained widespread popularity and support and took the presidency after the war
in 1946. Peron censored much of the press and restricted freedom of speech during
his rule, but he also expanded workers' rights as he increased the government's
role in numerous social and economic programs. By 1955 his policies were bankrupting
the country and he was forced to flee the country.
The late 1950s sadly returned Argentina to the state of
affairs earlier in the century as the economy again struggled and social unrest
increased. There were multiple coups and the government changed hands multiple times
via both coups and elections. Even during times of political stability, there was
social unrest and protests. Eventually the government began banning certain parties
from running for office, including the communists and the Peronist (followers of
Juan Peron). This of course led to great movements of these two groups as they gained
support and stronger resistance to the government due to their illegality. This
instability and growth of communist and Peronist groups continued into the 1970s.
In 1973 one of Juan Peron's supporters claimed the presidency in a general election,
leading to Peron's return to Argentina and his return
to power, but he died a year later. After his death, the economy again took a turn
for the worst and a military coup in 1976 overthrew this government. This new government
was suppressive and was often accused of human rights violations. Also during this
time the country was in a war with the United Kingdom
over control of the Falkland Islands, which Argentina later lost.
Argentina returned to elected officials in 1983 when the
military stepped down. Since this time the country has remained in economic flux
as they have experienced a number of economic threats, including the loss in value
of their currency in 2001. The political situation has been more stable since this
time as it has slowly recovered from the political turmoil of the past. Today both
the economy and political scene are fairly stable as the people are moving forward.