Argentina, officially the Argentine Republic, is a federal republic located in the southern half of South America. The country shares most of the southern cone with its neighbour Chile to the west. It is bordered by Bolivia and Paraguay to the north, Brazil to the northeast, Uruguay and the South Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Drake Passage to the south. With a continental area of 2,780,400 km2, Argentina is the eighth largest country in the world, the second largest in Latin America and the largest Spanish-speaking country. The country is divided into twenty-three provinces (Spanish: provincias, singular: provincia) and one autonomous city (ciudad autónoma), Buenos Aires, which is the country’s federal capital (Spanish: Capital Federal), as decided by Congress. The provinces and the capital have their own constitutions, but exist within a federal system.
Argentina claims sovereignty over part of Antarctica, the Falkland Islands (Spanish: Islas Malvinas), as well as South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. The oldest recorded human presence in what is now Argentina dates back to the Paleolithic period. The country has its roots in the Spanish colonisation of the region in the 16th century. Argentina emerged as the successor state to the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata, an overseas Spanish viceroyalty established in 1776. The declaration and struggle for independence (1810-1818) was followed by a long civil war that lasted until 1861 and resulted in the reorganisation of the country into a federation of provinces with Buenos Aires as its capital. Thereafter, the country enjoyed relative peace and stability, as massive waves of European immigration radically transformed the cultural and demographic picture of the country. The almost unprecedented increase in prosperity led Argentina to become the seventh richest developed nation in the world at the beginning of the 20th century.
After 1930, Argentina sank into political instability and periodic economic crises that caused it to fall back into underdevelopment, although it remained among the fifteen richest countries until the mid-twentieth century. It remained among the fifteen richest countries until the middle of the twentieth century. Argentina retains its historical status as a middle power in international affairs and is a leading regional power in the Southern Cone and Latin America. Argentina has the second largest economy in South America, the third largest in Latin America, and is a member of the major G-15 and G-20 economies. It is also a founding member of the United Nations, the World Bank, the World Trade Organisation, Mercosur, the Union of South American Nations, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States and the Organisation of Ibero-American States. It is the country with the highest Human Development Index in Latin America, with a “very high” rating. Due to its stability, market size and growing high-tech sector, Argentina is classified as a high-income economy.
With an area of 2,780,400 km2 (1,073,518 sq mi), Argentina is located in southern South America and shares land borders with Chile across the Andes Mountains to the west, Bolivia and Paraguay to the north, Brazil to the northeast, Uruguay and the South Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Drake Passage to the south, for a total length of 9,376 km (5,826 mi). The coastal border, which crosses the Río de la Plata and the South Atlantic Ocean, is 5,117 km (3,180 mi) long.
Argentina’s highest point is Aconcagua in the province of Mendoza (6,959 m above sea level), which is also the highest point in the southern and western hemispheres. The lowest point is the Laguna del Carbón in the province of San Julián Grande Depression Santa Cruz (-105 m below sea level, also the lowest point in the southern and western hemispheres and the seventh lowest point on the planet).
The northernmost point is at the confluence of the Grande de San Juan and the Río Mojinete, in the province of Jujuy; the southernmost is Cape San Pío, in the province of Tierra del Fuego; the easternmost is northeast of Bernardo de Irigoyen, in the province of Misiones; and the westernmost is in Los Glaciares National Park, in the province of Santa Cruz. The maximum north-south distance is 3,694 km, while the maximum east-west distance is 1,423 km.
Among the most important rivers are the Paraná, Uruguay, which join to form the Río de la Plata, Paraguay, Salado, Negro, Santa Cruz, Pilcomayo, Bermejo and Colorado. These rivers flow into the Argentine Sea, the shallow area of the Atlantic Ocean above the Argentine Plateau, an exceptionally wide continental shelf. Its waters are influenced by two major ocean currents: the warm Brazilian Current and the cold Falklands Current.
In the 2001 census [INDEC], Argentina had a population of 36,260,130; the preliminary results of the 2010 census indicate a population of 40,091,359. Argentina ranks third in South America in terms of total population and 33rd in the world. The population density is 15 people per square kilometre of land area, which is well below the world average of 50 people. The population growth rate in 2010 was estimated at 1.03% per year, with a birth rate of 17.7 live births per 1,000 population and a death rate of 7.4 deaths per 1,000 population. The net migration rate ranged from zero to four immigrants per 1,000 inhabitants per year.
The proportion of people under 15 is 25.6%, slightly below the world average of 28%, and the proportion of people over 65 is relatively high at 10.8%. In Latin America, this is the second highest figure after Uruguay and is well above the world average, which is currently 7%. Argentina has one of the lowest population growth rates in Latin America, the most recent being around 1% per year, as well as a comparatively low infant mortality rate. The birth rate, at 2.3 children per woman, is still almost double that of Spain or Italy, which are compared here because they have similar religious practices and proportions. The median age is about 30 years and life expectancy at birth is 77.14 years.
In 2010, Argentina became the first country in Latin America and the second in the Americas to allow same-sex marriage on a national scale. It is the tenth country to allow same-sex marriage.
Like other new settlements such as the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil and Uruguay, Argentina is considered a country of immigrants. Argentines commonly refer to the country as “crisol de razas” (melting pot).
Especially in the 19th and 20th centuries, Argentina was the country with the second largest wave of immigration in the world, with 6.6 million, after the United States (27 million) and ahead of other resettlement areas like Canada, Brazil and Australia.
Remarkably, at that time, the national population doubled every two decades. This belief has been preserved in the popular saying “los argentinos descienden de los barcos” (Argentines come down from the boats). Therefore, most Argentines are descended from the 19th and 20th century immigrants of the great wave of immigration to Argentina (1850-1955), the vast majority of which came from various European countries. The majority of these European immigrants came from Italy and Spain. The majority of Argentines come from several European ethnic groups, mainly of Italian and Spanish descent (over 25 million people in Argentina, almost 60% of the population is of partial Italian descent), while 17% of the population is also of partial French descent, and a significant number of Germans.
Argentina is home to a large population of Arab or semi-Arab origin, mainly of Syrian and Lebanese origin (in Argentina they are counted as white, as in the US census). The majority of Arab Argentines are Christians, belonging to the Maronite Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Eastern Rite Catholic Church. A small number are Muslims of Middle Eastern origin. The Asian population of the country is about 180,000, most of whom are of Chinese and Korean origin, although an older Japanese community dating from the early 20th century still exists.
A 2010 study by Argentine geneticist Daniel Corach of 218 people found that Argentina’s genetic map was 79% ethnically diverse European (mainly Spanish and Italian), 18% ethnically diverse indigenous and 4.3% ethnically African, with 63.6% of the group tested having at least one ancestor of indigenous origin.
Since the 1970s, immigration has come mainly from Bolivia, Paraguay and Peru, and to a lesser extent from the Dominican Republic, Ecuador and Romania. The Argentine government estimates that 750,000 residents are undocumented and has launched a programme to encourage illegal immigrants to declare their status in exchange for a two-year residency visa – to date, more than 670,000 applications have been processed under this programme.
The Constitution guarantees freedom of religion. Although it does not impose an official or state faith, it gives Roman Catholicism a differentiated status.
According to a CONICET survey, 76.5% of Argentines are Catholics, 11.3% agnostics and atheists, 9% evangelical Protestants, 1.2% Jehovah’s Witnesses, 0.9% Mormons; 1.2% follow other religions, including Islam, Judaism and Buddhism.
The country is home to both the largest Muslim community and the largest Jewish community in Latin America, the latter being the seventh largest in the world. Argentina is a member of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.
Argentines show a strong individualisation and de-institutionalisation of religious faith; 23.8% of them say they always attend religious services, 49.1% rarely and 26.8% never.
On 13 March 2013, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the Argentine cardinal-archbishop of Buenos Aires, was elected Bishop of Rome and Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church. He takes the name “Francis” and becomes the first pope from the Americas or the Southern Hemisphere. He is the first pope born outside Europe since the election of Pope Gregory III. He is also the first Jesuit pope.
Buenos Aires is the second largest city in South America. It is one of only three “alpha” cities in Latin America and is the most visited city in South America. It is also the 13th richest city in the world. It has the highest per capita income in the Southern Cone.
With abundant natural resources, a highly educated population, a diversified industrial base and an export-oriented agricultural sector, Argentina’s economy is the third largest in Latin America and the second largest in South America. It has a “very high” Human Development Index score and a relatively high GDP per capita, with a substantial domestic market size and a growing share of the high-tech sector.
As a medium-sized emerging market and one of the world’s largest developing countries, Argentina is a member of the major G-20 economies. Historically, however, the country’s economic performance has been very uneven, with strong economic growth alternating with severe recessions, income under-distribution and, in recent decades, increasing poverty. At the beginning of the 20th century, Argentina reached a level of development that made it the seventh richest country in the world. Although it managed to remain among the top fifteen economies until the middle of the century, it has suffered a long and steady decline and is now only a middle-income country.
High inflation – a weakness of the Argentine economy for decades – has once again become a problem. In 2013, rates varied between the official 10.2% and the 25% estimated by the private sector, leading to heated public debates over manipulated statistics. Income distribution, which has improved since 2002, is classified as “average”, i.e. still very unequal.
Argentina is ranked 107th out of 175 countries in Transparency International’s 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index. While the country has settled most of its debts, it has been in a technical debt crisis since 31 July 2014. A New York judge has blocked Argentina’s payments on 93% of its bonds unless it pays “vulture funds” the full value of the defaulted bonds they bought after the 2001 default. Argentina has vowed not to capitulate to what it sees as a ransom fund tactic.
In 2012, manufacturing accounted for 20.3% of GDP – the largest goods-producing sector in the Argentine economy. Well integrated with Argentine agriculture, half of industrial exports are of rural origin.
With an output growth rate of 6.5% in 2011, the diversified manufacturing sector is supported by a steadily growing network of industrial parks (314, in 2013).
In 2012, the main sectors by volume were: food, beverages and tobacco; motor vehicles and auto parts; textiles and leather; refined products and biodiesel; chemicals and pharmaceuticals; steel, aluminium and iron; industrial and agricultural machinery; household appliances and furniture; plastics and tyres; glass and cement; and recorded and printed media. In addition, Argentina has long been ranked among the top five wine producing countries in the world. However, it was also ranked among the 74 countries where child and forced labour was observed and mentioned in a report published in 2014 by the Bureau of International Labour Affairs. The ILAB’s list of goods produced by child or forced labour shows that many of the goods produced by child and/or forced labour are from the agricultural sector.
Córdoba is Argentina’s main industrial centre, producing metal processing, motor vehicles and auto parts. It is followed by Greater Buenos Aires (food processing, metallurgy, motor vehicles and parts, chemicals and petrochemicals, consumer goods, textiles and printing); Rosario (food processing, metallurgy, agricultural machinery, petroleum refining, chemicals and tanning); San Miguel de Tucumán (sugar refining); San Lorenzo (chemicals and pharmaceuticals); San Nicolás de los Arroyos (steel mills and metallurgy); and Ushuaia and Bahía Blanca (petroleum refining). Other manufacturing companies are located in the provinces of Santa Fe (zinc and copper smelting and flour mills); Mendoza and Neuquén (wineries and fruit processing); Chaco (textiles and sawmills); and Santa Cruz, Salta and Chubut (oil refining).
Argentina’s electricity generation in 2009 was over 122 TWh (440 PJ), of which about 37% was consumed by industrial activities.