Argentina – Home of the Gaucho
Argentina lies at the southern end of South America and is the second largest country on the continent—only Brazil is larger. Its name is a Spanish word meaning Land of Silver. Argentina is bordered by Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay, Brazil, and Uruguay. Its area is 2,766,890 square kilometers. Its official name is Argentine Republic.
Argentina has four major regions: the Andes, the North, the Pampas, and Patagonia. The mountains of the Andes rise in the northwest. The dry Gran Chaco lowlands lie in the north. In the south is the cold dry region of Patagonia. The Pampas grasslands cover the heart of the country. Tierra del Fuego is a group of islands off the southern tip of the continent. Argentina shares the islands with Chile.
The first people who arrived in what is now Argentina were American Indians. They traveled there from North America thousands of years ago. Spaniards arrived in the early 1500s. They founded the colony of Buenos Aires in 1536. The Europeans forced the native people to work for them.
Today most of the population is European. Spanish is the national language of Argentina. Roman Catholicism is the main religion.
Banking and other services, manufacturing, and trade are the most important parts of the economy. Exported goods include food, petroleum, and metal products.
Gauchos, nomadic cowboys of the Argentine Pampas, appeared in the 18th century, when they were hired to hunt escaped horses and cattle. In the 19th century, they were hired by ranch owners as skilled cattle herders. Today, Argentine cowboys keep their culture alive.
Buenos Aires is the capital of the country. It is one of the world’s most important ports and most populous cities. A tour of the city usually includes a visit to the tomb of José de San Martín, the hero of Argentina’s struggle for independence from Spain. The Argentine Museum of Natural Sciences has a rich collection of fossils. Buenos Aires is also home to the beautiful Colon Theatre.
Dance and music are important parts of Argentine culture. The tango was created in Argentina in the 1800s. Today it is performed all over the world.
Cerro Aconcagua is the highest point (6,960 m).
Salinas Chicas is the lowest point (40 m below sea level).
Paraná is the longest river (4,900 km).
Lago Buenos Aires is the largest lake (2,240 sq km).