Argentina Travel

History of Argentina

History of Argentina Colonial History of Argentina and Buenos Aires
The history of Argentina after America is discovered is from here on also the history of Buenos Aires because the country's main city and port constitutes most of the political, economic and cultural development of the country.

Buenos Aires was founded in 1536 in the current day barrio(neighborhood) of La Boca. The center were the streets La Defensa and Humberto I. The city was given its name in honor of the patron saint of sailors, Virgin of Buen Ayre. At that point the so called city was a tiny hamlet of about 500 people.

For most of the Colonial period, Buenos Aires remained out of the spotlight unlike the major port of Cartagena in Colombia or the gold mining towns of Peru and Bolivia. By the early 1800s the city's population grew to 7,500, but the city remained a quiet town outside most of the action. The city mainly survived by smuggling and illegal trade of the goods that did come in and out of it's port. The people of Buenos Aires came to be called portenos, or people of the port.

The Independence of Argentina and Buenos Aires
Argentina and Buenos Aires started to develop their own identity with the English invasions that started in 1806. The city was easily conquered by English general Beresford with only 1500 soldiers. But the victory was short lived because in a mere 6 weeks, Juan Martin Pueyrredon trained an army of 12,000 soldiers and reconquered Buenos Aires. The English persisted and sent another 8,500 soldiers in 1807. The English made a terrible decision of trying to capture the city without damaging it and so not using artillery in their attack. The English soldiers marched into the city only to be defeated by the inhabitants dropping stones and boiling water on the heads of the invaders.

By freeing themselves from the rule of two world powers, the Argentine settlers created an identity for themselves. At the same time in Europe, Napoleon conquered Spain and Spanish colonies had no king to obey. As a result of these factors, portenos created and signed their declaration of independence on July 9th, 1816. Argentina became the first independent country in Latin America.

The Building of an Independent Nation
Having become independent, Argentina still remained a large area of land with very few people. The next chapter of Argentine history has to do with numerous "civil wars" within Argentina. At that time the country was broken up in the major urban center of Buenos Aires ruled by fairly organized government and almost a dozen provinces that were controlled by their major land owners. This is the time when the infamous dictator Juan Manuel de Rosas came to power. After many years of oppressive rule by Rosas and by the lessons that the dictator had taught Argentina's citizens, the country was ready to unite into one cohesive unit.

In the years between 1895 and 1912 the population of the country doubled to 7.5 million. Immigration from Europe was the main cause of this growth spurt and the Argentine policy towards immigration was especially welcoming. Starting in 1826 with Bernardino Rivadavia, Argentina's first president, the country has encouraged immigrants to come by giving free passage from Europe, land and even start-up money. By 1914, four-fifth of the Argentine population was immigrant based, consisting of mostly Italian and Spanish people.

The country continues to grow and prosper without many problems until 1930 and the beginning of the world financial crisis. Until 1943 the country experienced a period of military involvement in politics and governing. The military stepped in whenever it felt the government was felt to not be patriotic enough. Fascist-Nazi sympathies ran deep in Argentina and the country did not side with the Allies until the end of World War II.

Argentina started a new page in its history with a military coup that introduced Colonel Juan Domingo Peron as Minister of War and Labor, and later as president. Peron transformed the country with rapid industrialization, employment of migrant workers from the countryside, and by nationalizing the British-owned railroads, gas and telephone companies. He introduced minimum wages to the country and made paid holidays obligatory. On the other hand he limited the cultural exchanges with Europe by not allowing the importation of European books and films.

Evita, or Maria Eva Duarte, was Peron's wife and the spiritual center of the country.

Peron's rule came to an end just after Evita's death and from 1955 to 1973 the military controlled the Argentine government by electing liberal leaders that conformed to their goals. During that time Peron remained in exile in General Franco's Spain.

In 1963, Peron was allowed back into power by a 62 per cent win in the elections. But his return was short lived and rather unsuccessful. Peron seemed rather out of touch, spending much of his attention on right-wing death squads that killed "guerrillas", or in other words, liberals including a number of prominent poets. The death squads continued their work after Peron's Death in 1974. Peron's 3rd wife Isabel took over presidency and continued the influencing politics by killing the opposition. An estimated 9,000 people were killed in this way(some calculate as many as 30,000) and were given the term desaparecidos(disappeared).

In 1980, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands that were British territory. The encounter led to a defeat for Argentina along with countless deaths on both sides. This rather useless war did lead to a return to democracy in Argentina. The next few years were characterized by economic instability and hyper-inflation.

Modern Argentina
Argentina returned to democracy with president Raul Alfonsin who was elected in 1983. He governed from 1983 to 1989 and belonged to the political party called "Union Civica Radical".

1989 saw the return of peronism with the election of the colorful but astute Carlos Menem. The president got even further media coverage by having public disputes with his wife, which were only complemented by his love for cars and women. As president, Menem did stabilize inflation and improved the ecomony in his 10 years in office(he changed the re-election law in the constitution to enable himself to remain in power longer). He also introduced dolarization, or pegging the peso to the US dollar at a 1 to 1 exchange rate. Unfortunately, this later became one of the reasons for Argentina's economic crisis of 2001.

Further Argentina Culture Information:
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