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    Colombia: Caribbean Sea coast. Go Now!

    Although most of the people live inland, Colombia also has its share of coastline along the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea (pictured). Go Now!

  • Ecuador!

    Ecuador: Sally Lightfoot Crab. Go Now!

    The Galapagos Islands and Ecuador are home to incredible wildlife, such as the famous Galapagos Turtle and the lesser known, but more common Red Rock or Sally Lightfoot crab (pictured). Begin Your Journey!

  • Chile!

    Chile: Torres del Paine National Park. Go Now!

    The Andes dominate much of Chile, including the breath-taking Torres del Paine National Park (pictured). However, the country also hosts the world's driest desert and a thriving metropolis. Begin Your Journey!

  • Venezuela!

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  • Bolivia!

    Bolivia: Salt flats. Go Now!

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History of Argentina

The first people arrived to South America in about 13,000-7,000 BC from Panama and North America. However, it took some time for these people to move far enough south into what is today Argentina. When these first settlers arrived to Argentina is unknown, but it seems likely that they were in the region by 4000 BC.

These early settlers were hunters, fishers, and gatherers. Over time some of these people also began to settle as they started farming. They rarely created crafts like pottery, although some people did make these.

These early people were very diverse as they spoke numerous languages, lived different lifestyles, and clung to very different cultures. Despite the diversity of the people, the region was sparsely populated, especially considering the extreme cold in the south and in the mountains, which cover much of the modern country.

The first Europeans to arrive to Argentina came in the early 1500s and the first settlement was established in 1536 in what is now Buenos Aires (although this initial settlement was abandoned five years later).

What the Europeans did leave behind were diseases, which killed many of the local people. By the time additional settlements were established later that century many of the local people had died from the European diseases and the Spanish has little resistance to their colonization of the region.

Spanish colonization was a slow process as colonization efforts were focused in other regions where there was a more immediately economic impact. Argentina had little economic value at first, so the lands became secondary on Spain's agenda. This slow colonization of the region continued throughout the 1600s and 1700s as Spanish settlers slowly arrived. At the same time, many of the indigenous people continued living as they had for centuries, but for the people closer to the coasts, they were forced further inland as the Europeans primarily settled along the ocean.

Most of the settlers turned to farming and ranching as the land was ideal for these occupations. As the lands were vast and the Europeans settlers were limited, the ranchers gained huge tracts of land and focused on raising animals. Because this required less labor than most farm work, such as growing crops, there was little need for slaves in Argentina and the country remained fairly homogenous as the Europeans dominated the region and the indigenous population was sparse.

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 access.

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 Lima, Peru.

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 were finalized.

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.

This page was last updated: February, 2013