Argentina History

The name Argentina comes from the Latin argentum (silver) as the Spanish conquistadors believed the area had silver. In the Americas, Canada, US, Brazil and Argentina are the largest countries (in that order).

The oldest signs of people in Argentina are in the Patagonia (Piedra Museo, Santa Cruz), and are more than 13,000 years old. In 1480 the Inca Empire conquered northwestern Argentina, making it part of the empire. In the northeastern area, the Guaraní developed a culture based on yuca and sweet potato however typical dishes all around Argentina are pasta, red wines (Italian influence) and beef.

Other languages spoken are Italian, English and German. Lunfardo is Argentinean slang and is a mix of Spanish and Italian. Argentineans are said to speak Spanish with an Italian accent.

Argentina declared independent from Spain in 1816, and achieved it in 1818. It grew a lot after immigrants from Europe came to the country. By the 1920s it was the 7th wealthiest country in the world, but it began a decline after this. In the 1940s, following the “infamous decade” where the country’s politics were not stable, Juan Peron came to power. Peron was one of the most important people in the country’s history and many politicians today call themselves Peronist. Peron was forced out of power in 1955. After spending years in exile he returned to power in the 1970s.

In 1976, the country was falling into chaos, and the military took power. This was not the first time the military had done this. Leading the new government was Jorge Rafael Videla. Videla was one of history’s most brutal dictators. Thousands of people disappeared or were killed during his time as president. Videla retired in 1980.

One of his successors was another general turned dictator, Leopoldo Galtieri. By the time Galtieri was in office in 1981 the dictatorship became unpopular. To try to stir up support, Galtieri ordered an invasion of the Falkland Islands, starting a war. Argentina lost the war, and soon the country fell into chaos again. Galtieri was removed from power and eventually democracy was restored. Galtieri and Videla would be charged with “crimes against humanity” because of the mass murder and other crimes that they ordered as president.

Today, Argentina is one of the most important countries in Latin America, though it still has many problems facing it. It has a large economy and is an influential country in the “southern cone” of South America.


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