Argentina, country of South America, covering most of the southern portion of the continent. The world’s eighth largest country, Argentina occupies an area more extensive than Mexico and the U.S. state of Texas combined. It comprises immense plains, deserts, tundra, and forests, as well as tall mountains, rivers, and thousands of miles of ocean shoreline.
Argentina has long played an important role in the continent’s history. Following three centuries of Spanish colonization, Argentina declared independence in 1816, and Argentine nationalists were instrumental in revolutionary movements elsewhere, a fact that prompted 20th-century writer Jorge Luis Borges to observe, “South America’s independence was, to a great extent, an Argentine enterprise.”
The country’s name comes from the Latin word for silver, argentum, and Argentina is indeed a great source of valuable minerals. More important, however, has been Argentina’s production of livestock and cereals, for which it once ranked among the world’s wealthiest nations.
People and Culture
Unlike Mexico and South American countries such as Peru and Ecuador, Argentina has fewer native people and a large population, which came from Europe. The population is comprised as much as 95% of people of European descent, mostly from Italy, Spain, and Germany. Much of the native population died from diseases brought in by Europeans. Nearly half of the population lives in the area around Buenos Aires. Buenos Aires has been called the “Paris of South America,” because of the European influences. The people are well-educated and 97% of the population can read and write. Soccer is the favorite sport in Argentina.
Argentina is rich in animal species. The coast of Patagonia is home to elephant seals, fur seals, penguins, and sea lions. The waters off the Atlantic are home to sharks, orcas, dolphins and salmon.