Map of Argentina. Argentina on the world map
Map of Argentina with cities. Where Argentina is on the world map. The main geographical facts about Argentina - population, country area, capital, official language, religions, industry and culture.
Argentina Fact File
Official name Argentine Republic
Form of government Federal republic with two legislative bodies (Senate and Chamber of Deputies)
Capital Buenos Aires
Area 2,766,890 sq km (1,068,296 sq miles)
Time zone GMT - 3 hours
Projected population 2015 43,498,000
Population density 13.7 per sq km (35.4 per sq mile)
Life expectancy 75.5
Infant mortality (per 1,000) 17.2
Official language Spanish
Other languages English, Italian, German, French, indigenous languages
Literacy rate 96.2 c
Religions Roman Catholic 90%, Protestant 2%, Jewish 2 %, other 6 %
Ethnic groups European 85%, indigenous, mixed indigenous-European, and other 15%
Currency Argentine peso
Economy Services 53%, industry 34%, agriculture 13%
GNP per capita US$ 10,200
Climate Mainly temperate; subtropical in northern Chaco, cold and arid in Patagonia; snow on Andes
Highest point Aconcagua 6,960 m (22,834 ft)
Map reference Pages 458-59, 460
With its northern extremity just north of the Tropic of Capricorn, but lying mainly within the temperate zone, Argentina becomes narrower and colder as it tapers south to Tierra del Fuego. The largest Spanish-speaking country of Latin America, it is named for the silver deposits that were sought by early explorers (Argentina means "land of silver"). In the nineteenth century Argentina attracted many Spanish and Italian immigrants in search of a better life, and today it contrasts with some of its neighbors in having a population that is mainly middle-class, with cosmopolitan interests, and a strong European background and culture. Most Argentinians are of Spanish and Italian descent, but there are also people of German, Russian, French, and English background, as well as a Jewish community in Buenos Aires and a Welsh community in Patagonia.
Argentina's politics have been much influenced by the legacy of Colonel Juan Domingo Peron. A major force in Argentine politics from 1946 to 1976, "Peronism" was a mild form of fascism which combined military rule and statist economic policy with progressive labor legislation. After Peron's death in 1974, he was succeeded by his widow. That government was ousted by a military coup in 1976. A three-man junta was then installed. Under this government thousands of people "disappeared" in a violent campaign against left-wing elements. Their fate still haunts the present government.
Physical features and land use Argentina
There are four main regions. In the north lie the subtropical woodlands and swamps of the Gran Chaco, a zone that spills over the northeastern border into Paraguay. Swampy in parts, dry in others and covered with thorny scrub, the Chaco is known as "Green Hell". To the west are the wooded slopes and valleys of the Andes; in the far south is the cold, semiarid Patagonian Plateau. It was the temperate region to the west and south of Buenos Aires that made Argentina famous. Here are the plains of the pampas—moist and fertile near the capital, drier but still productive elsewhere. These grasslands, where the gauchos (part Indian, part Spanish cattleherders) once lived and worked, are the basis of Argentina's cattle industry.
The pampas was largely created by gravel and sand brought down by streams from the Andes. A large native clump-grass called pampas grass, with coarse gray blades and silvery plumes, provided stock feed when the Spanish settlers arrived. They brought horses and cattle, and began to fence off the more productive land for ranching and cultivation. While beef raising is still important, much of the fertile parts of the pampas are now used for growing wheat, maize, alfalfa, and flax.
Argentina has many lakes on the slopes of the Andes, and the alpine terrain attracts tourists and skiers from elsewhere in South America. The Andes are widely affected by volcanic activity and there are several active volcanoes along the border with Chile, as well as Aconcagua, the highest mountain outside the Himalayas. The huge Paraguay-Parana-Uruguay river system, the second-largest on the continent, drains south from the Chaco and west from the highlands of Uruguay before emptying into the estuary of the River Plate (Rio de la Plata). The three cities located here, two of them national capitals (the ports of Buenos Aires and Montevideo), mark the historic importance of this estuary.
People and culture Argentina
Hunters and fishermen occupied the Argentine region from 12,000 years ago, and in recent times the Yahgan and Ona people made their home in Tierra del Fuego, despite its bitter climate. In the sixteenth century Spanish settlers began moving into Argentina from Peru, Chile, and Paraguay, and in the nineteenth century a ferocious war cleared the pampas of its remaining Indians.
Today, more than one-third of the population is descended from Italian immigrants. Argentinians are overwhelmingly urban: 88 percent live in towns and cities, with forty percent in Buenos Aires itself (an urban agglomeration of around 11.5 million). The European orientation of cultural life is reflected in their art, music, and literature.
Mountains in the Torres del Paine National Park, Chile (left page bottom). Autumn colors in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina (top). Buenos Aires, Argentina (above).
Economy and resources Argentina
Although the rural sector remains important, today industry makes a major contribution to the economy. Roughly one-fifth of the workforce is in manufacturing, mainly in industries producing frozen meat, canned meat, tallow, and leather for export. Wheat and fruit are also major exports. Energy available for industry includes nuclear power, hydroelectric power, and petroleum. There are oilfields in Patagonia and in the Mendoza area near the Andes, directly west of Buenos Aires.
Argentina has varied mineral resources—lead, zinc, tin, copper, silver, and uranium. It has a well-educated workforce and a diversified industrial base. Buenos Aires has a thriving computer industry. Episodes of hyperinflation have shaken investor confidence but political stability and reduced inflation in recent years are attracting overseas investment. Reforms introduced by President Menem have seen a general restructuring. There are signs that the economy has begun a period of growth.