numerous nomadic tribespeople, two main indigenous groups existed in
Argentina before the European arrival. In the northwest, near Bolivia
and the Andes, was a people known as the Diaguita, while further south
and to the east were the Guarani. Together the Diaguita and the Guarani
constitute the origins of permanent agricultural civilization in
Argentina, both developing the cultivation of maize. The Diaguita are
also remembered for having successfully prevented the powerful Inca from
expanding their empire into Argentina from what is now Bolivia.
It was perhaps a
legacy of this successful resistance that enabled the native peoples of
Argentina to carry on a prolonged campaign against colonization and rule
by the Spanish. The first Spaniard to land in Argentina, Juan de Solis,
was killed in 1516, and several attempts to found Buenos Aires were
stymied by the local inhabitants. Inland cities were more successful,
and it wasn't until the late 16th century that Buenos Aires was securely
military success, indigenous resistance was inexorably weakened by the
introduction of diseases from Europe. Even after the native threat
became minimal, however, Argentina was still mostly neglected by Spain,
which was more interested in developing Lima and the riches of Peru.
Buenos Aires was forbidden to trade with foreign countries, and the city
became a smuggler's haunt. The restrictive trade policy probably did
little to endear Spain to the colonists. The British attacked Buenos
Aires in 1806 and 1807, as Spain's had come under the control of
Napoleonic France. The colony managed to repulse Britain's attacks
without any assistance from their mother country, an act of strength
that no doubt helped to foster the region's growing sense of
When the French
captured Spain's King Ferdinand VII, Argentina fell completely under the
rule of the local viceroyalty, which was highly unpopular. The locals
rebelled against the viceroyalty and declared their allegiance to the
captive king. By 1816, the deep division between Argentina and its
mother country had become quite apparent, and a party of separatists
decided to declare the country's independence. One of the new patriots,
Jose de San Martin, crossed the Andes and captured Lima. Along with
Simon Bolivar, Martin is credited with breaking the shackle of Spanish
rule in South America.
in Argentina was marked by an often bitter struggle between two
political groups: the Unitarists and the Federalists. The Unitarists
wanted a strong central government, while the Federalists wanted local
has been greatly affected by its immigrant population, mostly European.
Their influence contributed to the demise of pre-Columbian cultures,
resulting in the lack of a dominant indigenous population. The European
immigrant groups each adopted different roles. The Basque and Irish
controlled sheep rearing, the Germans and Italians established farms,
and the British invested in developing the country's infra- structure.
More than one-third
of the country's 32 million people live in Buenos Aires, the capital,
which along with other urban areas accounts for almost 90% of the total
population. The principal indigenous peoples are the Quechua of the
northwest and the Mapuche in Patagonia. Other marginal groups include
the Matacos and Tobas in the Chaco and other northeastern cities. There
are strong Jewish and Anglo-Argentine communities throughout the
country; small communities of Japanese, Chileans and Bolivians; and
enclaves of Paraguayan and Uraguayan residents.
language of Argentina is Spanish, but many natives and immigrants keep
their mother tongues as a matter of pride.