Thursday, June 25, 2009

Fact Finder: Argentina's History

It looks like the honeymoon's going to be in Argentina, specifically Buenos Aires. I would like to learn about the history of the place, so I requested a fact-finding mission of myself. I said, "Self, go find out about Argentina's history," and then I did.

There's a LOT to learn about Argentina, so I'm going to stick to the basics so we don't become overwhelmed.

Argentina (see flag at right) is the 2nd largest country in South America (8th in the world) and is the largest (land-wise) Spanish-speaking nation (though not the most populated). It is officially called the Argentine Republic and is classified as an Upper-Middle Income Country. It consists of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, the capital, Buenos Aires. Interestingly, Argentina has warm regions AND icebergs, as it claims part of Antarctica (the Argentine Antarctic).

Earliest human settlements date back to 11,000 BCE in Patagonia. What I didn't remember from 5th grade history: The Incans thrived there (not the Mayans, the two of which I often confuse) and in 1480 controlled most of northwestern Argentina. Central and southern areas (Pampas and Patagonia) were controlled by nomadic cultures and not unified until the 17th century. Foods of the early tribes and peoples included corn, yuca, yerba mate, and sweet potato. (Side note: Fried yuca is not yucky - it's DELICIOUS).

In 1516, the Spanish set up a colony in Buenos Aires and kept control of it, even through British atttempts to conquest in the early 1800s. Spanish descendents, descendents of African slaves, and natives constituted one third of the Colonial-era Argentinians. They lived in Buenos Aires and surrounding areas, often as gauchos (cowboys) on the pampas (fertile low-lands), while indigenous peoples populated the rest of Argentina.

Serious shifting of boundaries occurred in 1810 (Independence) when Argentinians found out Napoleon overthrew King Ferdy VII. First, they created the Primera Junata (their first government that was not under the Spanish crown) via revolution. This resulted in 2 nations: The United Provinces of South America and Liga Federal, both of which would become modern day Argentina (ok, parts of Liga Federal would become Uruguay). Other provinces were slow to get on board with this 'unified state' idea. Paraguay succeeded in 1811. A formal declaration of independence from Spain was written in 1816 and became a reality in 1817, thanks to the efforts of Jose de San Martin (and others, obviously. He wasn't a magician or anything, I mean, let's be realistic). 1820: Liga Federal was crushed and absorbed by the United Provinces of South America. Shortly afterwards, Boliva and Uruguay were formed. Due to wars with Brazil and other countries and their own internal 'federales vs unitarios' issues, Argentina didn't create their Constitution until 1853.

1880-1929 was a period of growth and economic restructuring thanks to foreign investment and European immigration. President Roque Saenz Pena enacted universal male suffrage and they had their first election in 1916. President Hipolito Yrigoyen did some good stuff economic- and social-reform wise, but the military overthrew him during the Great Depression and there was another conservative rule. Argentina was neutral during WWI and most of WWII. 1946 brought the somewhat fascist, somewhat Guallist rule of Juan Peron (and Eva "wow she really looks like Madonna in that picture" Peron). Don't cry for me, Argentina: I'm not going to go into alllll the stuff that happened under and after the Perons. Briefly, Peron increased censorship and repression, the peso lost 70% of its value, workers and working conditions were vastly improved, Peron rid himself of advisors and was violently deposed in '55 and left for Spain. Next there was Fonzarelli -- I'm sorry, typo -- Arturo Frondizi, who invested in energy and industry. He was, however, forced to resign by the conservative military in '62. Huh, I'm seeing a trend, really. Arturo Illia comes into power, but then it's the return of Peron, with 3rd wife in tow, in '73. For a year, because he died in '74. I'm going to stop there. I'm more interested in the earlier history anyway. If YOU want more, go here.

Oh, and the current president is the first woman to hold the title: Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. Another interesting fact: Argentina has had gay civil unions since 2002.

Thank you, Wikipedia.

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