Argentina can be categorized into a number of regions that correlate roughly with the varied physical and cultural landscapes of the country. The main regions include Chaco, Northern, Mesopotamia, Cuyo, Pampas, and Patagonia. The Northern region of Argentina has one of the highest average elevations because of the Andes Mountain Ranges.
The Chaco region, which is formally called the Gran Chaco, extends from northern Argentina into western Paraguay. Scrublands and subtropical forests dominate the landscape. This area has some of the highest temperatures on the continent.
The agrarian lifestyle dominates the cultural heritage of this region. In the 1920s and 1930s, the Chaco region attracted a large number of Mennonite immigrants from Canada and Russia who established successful farming operations mainly on the Paraguay side of the border and also extending into Argentina.
To the east of the northern region—on the other side of the Paraná River and reaching to the banks of the Uruguay River—is the region called Mesopotamia, whose name means “between rivers.”
This unique region has a variety of features, from flatlands for grazing livestock to subtropical rain forests. The most noteworthy feature is the expansive Iguazú Falls on the Iguazú River, located on the border of Brazil and Argentina. It is a series of 275 parallel waterfalls that are just short of two miles across. It has the greatest average annual flow of any waterfall in the world. Most of the falls are more than 210 feet high; the tallest is 269 feet. The spectacular Iguazú Falls is a major tourist attraction, drawing people from all over the world.
The Cuyo region is located along the Andes Mountains in the west-central part of the country. Mt. Aconcagua is located here, along with other high mountain peaks. T
This arid region gets most of its moisture from melting snow off the mountains, which irrigate the rich agricultural lands that produce fruits and vegetables. The Cuyo is a major wine-producing region; it accounts for up to three-quarters of the country’s wine production. Picturesque vineyards and farms make the Cuyo a favorite tourist destination in Argentina. Mendoza is the country’s fourth-largest city. Low mountain ranges form the eastern border between the Cuyo and the Pampas.
The Pampas is a large agricultural region that extends beyond Argentina and includes a large portion of Uruguay and the southern tip of Brazil. With adequate precipitation and a mild type C climate, the Pampas is well suited for both agriculture and human habitation. The rich agricultural lands of the Pampas include the largest city and the country’s capital, Buenos Aires, which is home to up to a third of the nation’s population. The Pampas provides some of the most abundant agricultural production on the planet. The western grasslands host large haciendas (prestigious agricultural units) with cattle ranching and livestock production. This area has elevated Argentina to its status as a major exporter of beef around the world. Argentina has the highest consumption of red meat in the world!
Agricultural production has been a major part of the nation’s economy. One hundred years ago, the export of food products made Argentina one of the wealthiest countries in the world. In today’s global economy, the profit margins in agricultural products are not as lucrative, and industrialized countries have turned to manufacturing for national wealth. Argentina continues to have a strong agricultural sector but has been increasing its industrial production in order to secure a strong economy.
Argentina, with a population of about forty million, is a country of immigrants and a product of the colonial transfer of European culture to the Western Hemisphere. During the colonial era, millions of people immigrated to Argentina from Western European countries such as France, Germany, Switzerland, Portugal, Greece, the British Isles, and Scandinavia. Additional immigrants came from Eastern Europe and Russia. Eighty-five percent of the population is of European descent; the largest ethnic groups are Spanish and Italian. The Mestizo population is only at about 8 percent. Less than 2 percent of Argentines declare themselves to be Amerindians.
The people of Argentina have a good standard of living, and the country is up-and-coming on a world scale. The main problem has been the instability of the government during the twentieth century. The Argentine constitution provides for a balance of powers between the judicial, legislative, and executive divisions, similar to that of the United States. For many decades in the twentieth century, the state vacillated between a democratically elected government and military rule. The swings back and forth have been consistent and regular, which has wreaked havoc on the economy, resulting in everything from hyperinflation to brutal authoritarian rule.
Hyperinflation is when you have out-of-control price increases. An example of hyperinflation would be if one day bread costs $3.00 a loaf and then in a short amount of time that price goes up to $20.00. People may start hoarding and stockpiling bread, which would then cause bread shortages. Click on the link if you want to learn more!
An example of the national swings in Argentina occurred between 1946 and 1955, when General Juan Perón was elected president. His wife, Eva (popularly known as Evita), became a public sensation.
“Peronism” started out with populous support and a shift toward improving working conditions and increasing government spending. At the same time, censorship, isolationism, and repression of civil rights were elevated to a point of social unrest. Opposition members were imprisoned or killed. Eva Perón died of cancer in 1952, and Juan Perón was eventually ousted from office and fled to Spain. Other presidents came to power only to be deposed or ousted by military coups. The instability in the political arena created problems for the economic sector, which had to deal with inflated currency and an unattractive environment for foreign investments. More recently, there has been some progress in stabilizing both the government and the economy, but political instability remains a factor. Argentina has abundant natural resources, adequate infrastructure, and an educated workforce. The country has all the necessary means to launch into the future with a strong economy—as long as it is able to establish a stable government and a sound economic agenda.
Old World European customs mix with New World Latin American traditions to form a cultural heritage unique to Argentina. This cultural heritage can be experienced in the metropolitan city of Buenos Aires, where all facets of society and culture can be found. With a population of about thirteen million—one-third of Argentina’s total population—Buenos Aires is a world-class city. Argentina is an urban country: more than 90 percent of the population lives in cities. The rural side of the culture has often been characterized as the traditional gaucho (cowboy) image of the self-reliant rancher who herds cattle and lives off the land. Beef is a mainstay of the cuisine in much of the country.
The urban culture includes the traditional Argentine tango with music and camaraderie in upscale night clubs. These traditional images may be stereotypes, but the cultural scene in Argentina is heavily invested in the international trends of the modern world.
Paraguay is located in the Mixed Mestizo Cultural Region between Brazil, Argentina, and Bolivia. This landlocked country is not located in the Andes. The country’s poor economic characteristics and troublesome political dynamics are similar to those of its neighbors in the Central Andes. Like other Latin American countries, most of the population practices Catholicism. The country’s name comes from the Paraguay River, which flows through the region and provides hydroelectric dams that provide all the electricity for the country.
Paraguay suffers from a lack of infrastructure. The government has not been able to provide for the needs of a growing population with a fertility rate of more than three children per family.
Paraguay’s cultural heritage can be traced to the extensive intermarriage between the original male Spanish settlers and indigenous Guaraní women. Their culture is highly influenced by various European countries, including Spain. Therefore, Paraguayan culture is a fusion of two cultures and traditions; one European, the other, Southern Guaraní. More than 93% of Paraguayans are mestizos, making Paraguay one of the most homogeneous countries in Latin America. A characteristic of this cultural fusion is the extensive bilingualism present to this day: more than 80% of Paraguayans speak both Spanish and the indigenous language.
As much as 40 percent of the population makes its living from agriculture. However, conditions in the rural areas are poor: less than 10 percent of the land is arable. There is not much agricultural growth that could boost the economy.
Paraguay is the sixth-largest producer of soybeans in the world, and cattle ranching is its other strong commodity. A large portion of the marshlands have been transformed for agricultural purposes, but this has caused a loss of wetlands as a habitat.
Corruption and unstable governments are the political system’s legacy. There is a wide disparity between the social elites, who own a high percentage of the land, and most of the population, which remains in poverty with poor living conditions.
Sixty percent of the population lives in the cities, and they often suffer from unsanitary conditions because of water pollution. The largest slums in the country are found in the expanse of the capital city of Asuncion, which has almost two million people.
In the urban areas, there is a strong informal market economy that thrives on imported goods being redistributed to other countries, but there is no formal record-keeping system. An enormous number of black-market goods are brought in and resold to neighboring countries such as Brazil and Argentina, its two largest trading partners. In such conditions, crime and illegal activities thrive, and the rule of law is difficult to enforce.
Uruguay is located along the South Atlantic coast bordering Argentina and Brazil. The only South American country smaller in physical area is Suriname. French Guiana is also smaller than Uruguay but remains a department of France. Uruguay has the location, natural resources, and global trade connections to provide ample opportunities and advantages for its people.
Uruguay is ranked first in Latin America in democracy, peace, low perception of corruption, and is first in South America when it comes to press freedom, size of the middle class and prosperity. On a per-capita basis, Uruguay contributes more troops to United Nations peacekeeping missions than any other country. It tops the rank of absence of terrorism, a unique position within South America
The agricultural lands of the Pampas extend into Uruguay and provide for an extensive agricultural industry with livestock, small grains, vegetables, and dairy. This agricultural base has been the foundation of Uruguay’s growing economy.
Uruguay has been able to integrate itself into the global trade arena and has entered into a postindustrial development status. Postindustrial activities have included computer software development and advancements in information technologies. Uruguay is a modern and well-developed country. About 88 percent of the population is of European descent, and more than 92 percent of the population is urban. The capital city of Montevideo, a cosmopolitan city with a population of about 3.5 million, is home to about 40 percent of the population. The coastal region is an attractive place for tourists and locals who enjoy the beautiful beaches along the shores of the Atlantic.
Uruguayan Spanish has some modifications due to the considerable number of Italian immigrants. Immigrants used to speak a mixture of Spanish and Italian known as ‘cocoliche’ and some of the words are still commonly used by the population.
✎ The Chaco region has some of the highest temperatures on the continent.
✎ 85% of the population of Argentina is of European descent.
✎ Old World European customs mix with New World Latin American traditions to form a cultural heritage unique to Argentina.
✎ Juan Perón (who was married to Eva) was in power during a period of unrest.
✎ Paraguay is a landlocked country between the Andes and the Atlantic coast.
✎ Paraguay is a poor nation with few opportunities to advance its standard of living.
✎ Uruguay is ranked first in Latin America in democracy, peace, low perception of corruption and is free of terrorism, which is unique in South America.
✎ 88% of the population of Uruguay is of European descent.
Next: 5.4 Brazil
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Image and additional information credits:
By Peter Fitzgerald, minor amendments by Cacahuate, French translation by Joelf – own work based on the blank map of regions and CIA WFB map, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22743367
Los Cardones National Park
By Tencho – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13756596
By David – Upsala Glacier up Close, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3738533
By Massimiliano W – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20801942
By Yoavlevy10 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12140687
By Libro del Árbol, Tome II, edited by Celulosa Argentina S. A., Buenos Aires, Argentina, October 1975. The visual material is not explicitly copyrighted, but the editors thank Mr. Jorge Vallmitjana for his photographic contribution., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=291004
By Bjørn Christian Tørrissen – Own work by uploader, http://bjornfree.com/, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=63326659
Cattle market in Buenos Aires
By © Jorge Royan / http://www.royan.com.ar, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18809074
By Marcelo Teson from Los Angeles, CA, USA – Pizza over Fainá, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2221071
By Hugo.arg, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3569089
CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=891927
Dulce de leche
By Kai Hendry – Flickr: Dulce dulce dulce baby, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16454155
By OCHA, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32649945
Pai Tavytera Indians
By FrankOWeaver – Derivative work of File:Pai Tavytera Indians.jpg, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34005185
By Phillip Capper from Wellington, New Zealand – Paraguay River and Ciudad Del Este (Paraguay) from Puerto Iguazu, Argentina, Jan. 2011, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26556935
By OCHA, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32650114
By Marcelo Campi – Piscinas Trouville (Before) 1934 – 2017, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=69516919