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Argentina, officially the Argentine Republic (Spanish: República Argentina, pronounced [reˈpuβlika arxenˈtina]), is the second largest country in South America, constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, Buenos Aires. It is the eighth largest country in the world by land area and the largest among Spanish-speaking nations, though Mexico, Colombia and Spain are more populous. Its continental area is between the Andes mountain range in the west and the Atlantic Ocean in the east. Argentina borders Paraguay and Bolivia to the north, Brazil and Uruguay to the northeast, and Chile to the west and south. Argentina claims the British overseas territories of the Falkland Islands and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. It also claims a part of Antarctica, overlapping claims made by Chile and the United Kingdom, though all claims were suspended by the Antarctic Treaty of 1961. Argentina has the second-highest Human Development Index and GDP per capita in purchasing power parity in Latin America. Argentina is one of the G-20 major economies, with the world's 30th largest nominal GDP, and the 23rd largest when purchasing power is taken into account. The country is classified as upper-middle income or a secondary emerging market by the World Bank. Contents Etymology Main article: Name of Argentina The name is derived from the Latin argentum (silver), which comes from the Ancient Greek ἀργήντος (argēntos), gen. of ἀργήεις (argēeis), "white, shining". Αργεντινός (argentinos) was an ancient Greek epithet meaning "silvery". The first use of the name Argentina can be traced to the early 16th century voyages of the Spanish and Portuguese conquerors to the Río de la Plata ("Silver River"). History Main article: History of Argentina Early history The earliest evidence of humans in Argentina is in Patagonia (Piedra Museo, Santa Cruz) and dates from 11,000 BC (Santa María, Huarpes, Diaguitas and Sanavirones, among others). The Inca Empire under King Pachacutec invaded and conquered present-day northwestern Argentina in 1480, integrating it into a region called Collasuyu; the Guaraní developed a culture based on yuca, sweet potato and yerba mate. The central and southern areas (Pampas and Patagonia) were dominated by nomadic cultures, unified in the 17th century by the Mapuches. European explorers arrived in 1516. Spain established the Viceroyalty of Peru in 1542 encompassing all its holdings in South America, and established a permanent colony at Buenos Aires in 1580 as part of the dependency of Río de la Plata. In 1776 this dependency was elevated to a viceroyalty which shifted trade from Lima to Buenos Aires. José de San Martín, Liberator of Argentina and Perú The area was largely a country of Spanish immigrants and their descendants, known as criollos, and others of native cultures and of descendants of African slaves, present in significant numbers. A third of Colonial-era settlers gathered in Buenos Aires and other cities, others living on the pampas as gauchos, for instance. Indigenous peoples inhabited much of the rest of Argentina. The British invaded twice between 1806 and 1807, as part of the Napoleonic Wars when Spain was an ally of France, but both invasions were repelled. The Buenos Aires Cabildo, scene of the 1810 resolution that led to independence On 25 May 1810, after the rumors of the Napoleonic overthrow of Ferdinand VII were confirmed, the citizens of Buenos Aires created the First Government Junta (May Revolution). Two nations emerged in the former viceroyalty: the United Provinces of South America (1810) and the Liga Federal (1815). Other provinces delayed the formation of a unified state because of differences between autonomist and centralist parties; Paraguay seceded, declaring independence in 1811. Between 1814 and 1817, General José de San Martín led a military campaign aimed at making independence a reality. San Martín and his regiment crossed the Andes in 1817 to defeat royalist forces in Chile and Perú, thus securing independence. The Congress of Tucumán gathered on 9 July 1816 and finally issued a formal Declaration of Independence from Spain. The Liga Federal was crushed in 1820 by the combined forces of the United Provinces and Brazil, and its provinces were absorbed into the United Provinces of South America. Bolivia declared independence in 1825, and Uruguay was created in 1828 as a result of a truce following the Argentina-Brazil War. The controversial truce led to the rise of Buenos Aires provincial governor Juan Manuel de Rosas, who, as a federalist, exercised a reign of terror and kept the fragile confederacy together. The centralist Unitarios and the Federales maintained an internecine conflict until Rosas' 1852 overthrow after the Platine War, and to help prevent future struggle during the tenuous times that followed, a Constitution was promulgated in 1853. The constitution, drafted by legal scholar Juan Bautista Alberdi, was defended by Franciscan Friar Mamerto Esquiú and endured through difficult early years. National unity was reinforced when Paraguayan dictator López attacked Argentina and Brazil in 1865, resulting in the War of the Triple Alliance, which left more than 300,000 dead and devastated Paraguay. Modern history The Port of Buenos Aires (1900). Maritime trade led to accelerated development after 1875. A wave of foreign investment and immigration from Europe after 1870 led to the development of modern agriculture and to a near-reinvention of Argentine society and the economy and the strengthening of a cohesive state. The rule of law was consolidated in large measure by Dalmacio Vélez Sársfield, whose 1860 Commercial Code and 1869 Civil Code laid the foundation for Argentina's statutory laws. General Julio Argentino Roca's military campaign in the 1870's established Argentine dominance over the southern Pampas and Patagonia, subdued the remaining indigenous peoples and left 1,300 indigenous dead. Some contemporary sources indicate that it was campaign of genocide by the Argentine government. Hipólito Yrigoyen was an activist for universal (male) suffrage and was Argentina's first president so elected (1928) Argentina increased in prosperity and prominence between 1880 and 1929, while emerging as one of the 10 richest countries in the world, benefiting from an agricultural export-led economy. Driven by immigration and decreasing mortality, the Argentine population grew fivefold and the economy by 15-fold. Conservative interests dominated Argentine politics through non-democratic means until, in 1912, President Roque Sáenz Peña enacted universal male suffrage and the secret ballot. This allowed their traditional rivals, the centrist Radical Civic Union, to win the country's first free elections in 1916. President Hipólito Yrigoyen enacted social and economic reforms and extended assistance to family farmers and small business. But having been politically imposing and beset by the Great Depression, the military forced him from power in 1930. This led to another decade of Conservative rule, whose economists turned to more protectionist policies and whose electoral policy was one of "patriotic fraud". The country was neutral during World War I and most of World War II, becoming an important source of foodstuffs for the Allied Nations. President Juan Perón (1946) In 1946, General Juan Perón was elected president, creating a political movement referred to as "Peronism". His hugely popular wife, Evita, played a central political role until her death in 1952, mostly through the Eva Perón Foundation and the Peronist Women's Party. During Perón's tenure, wages and working conditions improved appreciably, the number of unionized workers quadrupled, government programs increased and urban development was prioritized over the agrarian sector. Formerly stable prices and exchange rates were disrupted, however: the peso lost about 70% of its value from early 1948 to early 1950, and inflation reached 50% in 1951. Foreign policy became more isolationist, straining U.S.-Argentine relations. Perón intensified censorship as well as repression: 110 publications were shuttered, and numerous opposition figures were imprisoned and tortured. Over time, he rid himself of many important and capable advisers, while promoting patronage. A violent coup, which bombarded the Casa Rosada and its surroundings killing many, deposed him in 1955. He fled into exile, eventually residing in Spain. Arturo Frondizi (second from left) hosts U.S. President John F. Kennedy (1961) Following an attempt to purge the Peronist influence and the banning of Peronists from political life, elections in 1958 brought Arturo Frondizi to office. Frondizi enjoyed some support from Perón's followers, and his policies encouraged investment to make Argentina self-sufficient in energy and industry, but led to a trade deficit for Argentina. The military, however, frequently interfered on behalf of conservative interests and the results were mixed. Frondizi was forced to resign in 1962. Arturo Illia, elected in 1963, enacted expansionist policies; but despite prosperity, his attempts to include Peronists in the political process resulted in the armed forces' retaking power in a quiet 1966 coup. Though repressive, this new regime continued to encourage domestic development and invested record amounts into public works. The economy grew strongly, and income poverty declined to 7% by 1975, still a record low. Partly because of their repressiveness, however, political violence began to escalate and, from exile, Perón skillfully co-opted student and labor protests, which eventually resulted in the military regime's call for free elections in 1973 and his return from Spain. Taking office that year, Perón died in July 1974, leaving his third wife Isabel, the Vice President, to succeed him in office. Mrs. Perón had been chosen as a compromise among feuding Peronist factions who could agree on no other running mate; secretly, though, she was beholden to Perón's most fascist advisers. The resulting conflict between left and right-wing extremists led to mayhem and financial chaos and, in March 1976, a coup d'état removed her from office. The policies of dictator Jorge Videla and economist José Alfredo Martínez de Hoz left a traumatic legacy The self-styled National Reorganization Process intensified measures against armed groups on the far left such as People's Revolutionary Army and the Montoneros, which from 1970 had kidnapped and murdered people almost weekly. Repression was quickly extended to the opposition in general, however, and during the "Dirty War" thousands of dissidents "disappeared". These abuses were aided and abetted by the CIA in Operation Condor, with many of the military leaders that took part in abuses trained in the U.S.-financed School of the Americas. This new dictatorship at first brought some stability and built numerous important public works; but their frequent wage freezes and deregulation of finance led to a sharp fall in living standards and record foreign debt. Deindustrialization, the peso's collapse and crushing real interest rates, as well as unprecedented corruption, public revulsion in the face of alleged human rights abuses and, finally, the country's 1982 defeat by the British in the Falklands War discredited the military regime and led to free elections in 1983. Leopoldo Galtieri's takeover of the Falkland Islands in 1982 cost Argentina lives and prestige Raúl Alfonsín's government took steps to account for the "disappeared", established civilian control of the armed forces and consolidated democratic institutions. The members of the three military juntas were prosecuted and sentenced to life terms. The previous regime's foreign debt, however, left the Argentine economy saddled by the conditions imposed on it by both its private creditors and the IMF, and priority was given to servicing the foreign debt at the expense of public works and domestic credit. Alfonsín's failure to resolve worsening economic problems caused him to lose public confidence. Following a 1989 currency crisis that resulted in a sudden and ruinous 15-fold jump in prices, he left office five months early. Raúl Alfonsín (left) greets supporters with his trademark salute (1983) Newly elected President Carlos Menem began pursuing privatizations and, after a second bout of hyperinflation in 1990, reached out to economist Domingo Cavallo, who imposed a peso-dollar fixed exchange rate in 1991 and adopted far-reaching market-based policies, dismantling protectionist barriers and business regulations, while accelerating privatizations. These reforms contributed to significant increases in investment and growth with stable prices through most of the 1990s; but the peso's fixed value could only be maintained by flooding the market with dollars, resulting in a renewed increase in the foreign debt. Towards 1998, moreover, a series of international financial crises and overvaluation of the pegged peso caused a gradual slide into economic crisis. The sense of stability and well being which had prevailed during the 1990s eroded quickly, and by the end of his term in 1999, these accumulating problems and reports of corruption had made Menem unpopular. Néstor Kirchner (second from right) hosts Raúl Alfonsín (right) and former Brazilian Presidents Lula da Silva and José Sarney to commemorate 20 years of productive trade talks President Fernando de la Rúa inherited diminished competitiveness in exports, as well as chronic fiscal deficits. The governing coalition developed rifts, and his returning Cavallo to the Economy Ministry was interpreted as a crisis move by speculators. The decision backfired and Cavallo was eventually forced to take measures to halt a wave of capital flight and to stem the imminent debt crisis (culminating in the freezing of bank accounts). A climate of popular discontent ensued, and on 20 December 2001 Argentina dove into its worst institutional and economic crisis since the 1890 Barings financial debacle. There were violent street protests, which clashed with police and resulted in several fatalities. The increasingly chaotic climate, amid riots accompanied by cries that "they should all go", finally resulted in the resignation of President de la Rúa. Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, president since December 2007 Three presidents followed in quick succession over two weeks, culminating in the appointment of interim President Eduardo Duhalde by the Legislative Assembly on 2 January 2002. Argentina defaulted on its international debt, and the peso's 11 year-old tie to the U.S. dollar was rescinded, causing a major depreciation of the peso and a spike in inflation. Duhalde, a Peronist with a center-left economic position, had to cope with a financial and socio-economic crisis, with unemployment as high as 25% by late 2002 and the lowest real wages in sixty years. The crisis accentuated the people's mistrust in politicians and institutions. Following a year racked by protest, the economy began to stabilize by late 2002, and restrictions on bank withdrawals were lifted in December. Benefiting from a devalued exchange rate the government implemented new policies based on re-industrialization, import substitution and increased exports and began seeing consistent fiscal and trade surpluses. Governor Néstor Kirchner, a social democratic Peronist, was elected president in May 2003 and during Kirchner's presidency Argentina restructured its defaulted debt with a steep discount (about 66%) on most bonds, paid off debts with the International Monetary Fund, renegotiated contracts with utilities and nationalized some previously privatized enterprises. Kirchner and his economists, notably Roberto Lavagna, also pursued vigorous income policies and public works investments. Argentina has since been enjoying economic growth, though with high inflation. Néstor Kirchner forfeited the 2007 campaign in favor of his wife Senator Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Winning by a landslide that October, she became the first woman elected President of Argentina and in a disputed result, Fabiana Ríos, a center-left (ARI) candidate in Tierra del Fuego Province became the first woman in Argentine history to be elected governor. President Cristina Kirchner, despite carrying large majorities in Congress, saw controversial plans for higher agricultural export taxes defeated by Vice President Julio Cobos' surprise tie- breaking vote against them on 16 July 2008, following massive agrarian protests and lockouts from March to July. The global financial crisis has since prompted Mrs. Kirchner to step up her husband's policy of state intervention in troubled sectors of the economy. A halt in growth and political missteps helped lead Kirchnerism and its allies to lose their absolute majority in Congress, following the 2009 mid-term elections. Geography Main articles: Geography of Argentina and Climate of Argentina Topographic map of Argentina (including some territorial claims) The total surface area (excluding the Antarctic claim) is 2,766,891 km2 (1,068,303 sq mi), of which 30,200 km2 (11,700 sq mi) (1.1%) is water. Argentina is about 3,900 km (2,400 mi) long from north to south, and 1,400 km (870 mi) from east to west (maximum values). There are four major regions: the fertile central plains of the Pampas, source of Argentina's agricultural wealth; the flat to rolling, oil-rich southern plateau of Patagonia including Tierra del Fuego; the subtropical northern flats of the Gran Chaco, and the rugged Andes mountain range along the western border with Chile. The highest point above sea level is in Mendoza province at Cerro Aconcagua (6,962 m (22,841 ft)), also the highest point in the Southern and Western Hemisphere. The lowest point is Laguna del Carbón in Santa Cruz province, -105 m (−344 ft) below sea level. This is also the lowest point in South America. The geographic center of the country is in south-central La Pampa province. The easternmost continental point is northeast of Bernardo de Irigoyen, Misiones,(26°15′S 53°38′W / 26.25°S 53.633°W / -26.25; -53.633 (Argentina's easternmost continental point)) the westernmost in the Mariano Moreno Range in Santa Cruz province.(49°33′S 73°35′W / 49.55°S 73.583°W / -49.55; -73.583 (Argentina's westernmost point)) The northernmost point is at the confluence of the Grande de San Juan and Mojinete rivers in Jujuy province,(21°46′S 66°13′W / 21.767°S 66.217°W / -21.767; -66.217 (Argentina's northernmost point)) and the southernmost is Cape San Pío in Tierra del Fuego. (55°03′S 66°31′W / 55.05°S 66.517°W / -55.05; -66.517 (Argentina's southernmost point)) Sailboats on the Uruguay River The major rivers are the Paraná (the largest), the Pilcomayo, Paraguay, Bermejo, Colorado, Río Negro, Salado and the Uruguay. The Paraná and the Uruguay join to form the Río de la Plata estuary, before reaching the Atlantic. Regionally important rivers are the Atuel and Mendoza in the homonymous province, the Chubut in Patagonia, the Río Grande in Jujuy and the San Francisco River in Salta. There are several large lakes including Argentino and Viedma in Santa Cruz, Nahuel Huapi between Río Negro and Neuquén, Fagnano in Tierra del Fuego, and Colhué Huapi and Musters in Chubut. Lake Buenos Aires and O'Higgins/San Martín Lake are shared with Chile. Mar Chiquita, Córdoba, is the largest salt water lake in the country. There are numerous reservoirs created by dams. Argentina features various hot springs, such as Termas de Río Hondo with temperatures between 65°C and 89°C. The largest oil spill in fresh water was caused by a Shell Petroleum tanker in the Río de la Plata, off Magdalena, on January 15, 1999, polluting the environment, drinking water, and local wildlife. The 4,665 km (2,899 mi) long Atlantic coast has been a popular local vacation area for over a century, and varies between areas of sand dunes and cliffs. The continental platform is unusually wide; this shallow area of the Atlantic is called the Argentine Sea. The waters are rich in fisheries and possibly hold important hydrocarbon energy resources. The two major ocean currents affecting the coast are the warm Brazil Current and the cold Falkland Current. Because of the unevenness of the coastal landmass, the two currents alternate in their influence on climate and do not allow temperatures to fall evenly with higher latitude. The southern coast of Tierra del Fuego forms the north shore of the Drake Passage. Climate The generally temperate climate ranges from subtropical in the north to subpolar in the far south. The north is characterized by very hot, humid summers with mild drier winters, and is subject to periodic droughts. Central Argentina has hot summers with thunderstorms (western Argentina produces some of the world's largest hails), and cool winters. The southern regions have warm summers and cold winters with heavy snowfall, especially in mountainous zones. Higher elevations at all latitudes experience cooler conditions. The Andean range over Santa Cruz province The hottest and coldest temperature extremes recorded in South America have occurred in Argentina. A record high temperature of 49.1 °C (120.4 °F), was recorded at Villa de María, Córdoba, on 2 January 1920. The lowest temperature recorded was −39 °C (−38 °F) at Valle de los Patos Superior, San Juan, on 17 July 1972. Major wind currents include the cool Pampero Winds blowing on the flat plains of Patagonia and the Pampas; following the cold front, warm currents blow from the north in middle and late winter, creating mild conditions. The Zonda, a hot dry wind, affects west-central Argentina. Squeezed of all moisture during the 6,000 m (20,000 ft) descent from the Andes, Zonda winds can blow for hours with gusts up to 120 km/h (75 mph), fueling wildfires and causing damage; when the Zonda blows (June- November), snowstorms and blizzard (viento blanco) conditions usually affect higher elevations. The Sudestada ("southeasterlies") could be considered similar to the Nor'easter, though snowfall is rare but not unprecedented. Both are associated with a deep winter low pressure system. The sudestada usually moderates cold temperatures but brings very heavy rains, rough seas and coastal flooding. It is most common in late autumn and winter along the central coast and in the Río de la Plata estuary. The southern regions, particularly the far south, experience long periods of daylight from November to February (up to nineteen hours) and extended nights from May to August. Mar del Plata welcomes millions of local tourists every summer, when humidity in most of Argentina is highest Demographics Main articles: Demographics of Argentina, Religion in Argentina, and Languages of Argentina Fiesta del Inmigrante or "Immigrants' Festival" celebrates the immigration to Argentina during the 19th and 20th century in the town of Oberá, Misiones The census of 2001 counted a population of 36,260,130, and the estimate for 2008 was 40,482,000. Argentina ranks third in South America in total population and 30th globally. Argentina's population density is 15 persons per square kilometer of land area, well below the world average of 50 persons. The population is unevenly distributed: the city of Buenos Aires has a population density of over 14,000 inhab./km², while Santa Cruz province has fewer than 1 inhab./km². Benefiting from a moderate birth rate since the 1930s, Argentina has a migration rate of zero per 10,000 locals, yearly. Ethnography As with other areas of new settlement such as Canada, Australia and the United States, Argentina is considered a country of immigrants. Most Argentines are descended from colonial-era settlers and of the 19th and 20th century immigrants from Europe, and 86.4% of Argentina's population self-identify as European descent An estimated 8% of the population is mestizo. A further 4% of Argentines were of Arab or East Asian heritage. In the last national census, based on self-identification, 600,000 Argentines (1.6%) declared to be Amerindians Following the arrival of the initial Spanish colonists, over 6 million Europeans emigrated to Argentina from the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries Argentina was second only to the United States in the number of European immigrants received, and at the time, the national population doubled every two decades mostly as a result. The majority of these European immigrants came from Italy and Spain. Italian immigrants arrived mainly from the Piedmont, Veneto and Lombardy regions, initially, and later from Campania and Calabria; up to 25 million Argentines have some degree of Italian descent, around 60% of the total population. Spanish immigrants were mainly Galicians and Basques. Smaller but significant numbers of immigrants came from France (notably Béarn and the Basses-Pyrénées), Germany and Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Ireland, Greece, Portugal, and the United Kingdom. Eastern Europeans were also numerous, and arrived from Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania and from Central Europe (particularly Poland, Hungary, Romania, Croatia and Slovenia). Sizable numbers of immigrants also arrived from Balkan countries (Bulgaria and Montenegro). There is a large Armenian community and the Chubut Valley has a significant population of Welsh descent. Built in 1906 to welcome hundreds of newcomers daily, the Immigrants' Hotel is now a national museum Small but growing numbers of people from East Asia have also settled in Argentina, mainly in Buenos Aires. The first Asian-Argentines were of Japanese descent; Koreans, Vietnamese and Chinese followed. Today, Chinese are the fastest growing community and over 70,000 Chinese-born live in the largest Argentine cities. The majority of Argentina's Jewish community are Ashkenazi Jews, while about 15–20% are Sephardic groups, primarily Syrian Jews. Argentina's Jewish community is the fifth largest in the world. Argentina is home to a large community from the Arab world, made up mostly of immigrants from Palestine, Syria, and Lebanon. Most are Christians of the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic (Maronite) Churches, with small Muslim and Jewish minorities. Many have gained prominent status in national business and politics, including former president Carlos Menem, the son of Syrian settlers from the province of La Rioja. Although relatively few in number, English immigrants to Argentina have played a disproportionately large role in forming the modern state. Anglo-Argentines were traditionally often found in positions of influence in the railway, industrial and agricultural sectors. The history of the English Argentine position was complicated when their economic influence was finally eroded by Juan Perón's nationalisation of many British-owned companies in the 1940s and, more recently, by the Falklands War in 1982. The officially recognized indigenous population in the country, according to the 2004-05 "Complementary Survey of Indigenous Peoples", stands at approximately 600,000 (around 1.4% of the total population), the most numerous of whom are the Mapuche people. Criticisms of the national census state that data has historically been collected using the category of national origin rather than race in Argentina, leading to undercounting Afro-Argentines and mestizos. The 1887 Buenos Aires census was the last in which blacks were included as a separate category. Illegal immigration has been a recent factor in Argentine demographics. Most illegal immigrants come from Bolivia and Paraguay, countries which border Argentina to the north. Smaller numbers arrive from Peru, Ecuador and Romania. The Argentine government estimates that 750,000 inhabitants lack official documents and has launched a program called Patria Grande ("Greater Homeland") to encourage illegal immigrants to regularize their status; so far over 670,000 applications have been processed under the program. Religion The 17th century Cathedral of Córdoba The Constitution guarantees freedom of religion but also requires the government to support Roman Catholicism. Until 1994 the President and Vice President had to be Roman Catholic, though there were no such restrictions on other government officials; indeed, since 1945, numerous Jews have held prominent posts. Catholic policy, however, remains influential in government and still helps shape a variety of legislation. Estimates for the number of Roman Catholics vary from 70% of the population, to as much as 90%, though perhaps only 20% attend services regularly. Evangelical churches have been gaining a foothold since the 1980s, and count approximately 9% of the total population amongst their followers. Pentecostal churches and traditional Protestant denominations are present in most communities. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, claiming over 330,000 (the seventh-largest congregation in the world), are also present. Argentina has the largest Jewish population in Latin America with about 230,000. The community numbered about 400,000 after World War II, but the appeal of Israel and economic and cultural pressures at home led many to leave; recent instability in Israel has resulted in a modest reversal of the trend since 2003. Islam in Argentina constitutes approximately 1.5% of the population, or about 500,000–600,000 (93% Sunni). Buenos Aires is home to one of the largest mosques in Latin America. A recent study found that approximately 11% of Argentines are non-religious, including those who believe in God, though not religion, agnostics (4%) and atheists (5%). Overall, only 24% attended religious services regularly, and only Protestants attended services in the majority of cases. Language "Voseo" in a Buenos Aires billboard The official language of Argentina is Spanish, usually called castellano (Castilian) by Argentines. A phonetic study conducted by the Laboratory for Sensory Investigations of CONICET and the University of Toronto showed that the accent of the inhabitants of Buenos Aires (known as porteños) is closer to the Neapolitan dialect of Italian than any other spoken language. Italian immigration and other European immigrations influenced Lunfardo, the slang spoken in the Río de la Plata region, permeating the vernacular vocabulary of other regions as well. Argentines are the largest Spanish-speaking society that universally employs what is known as voseo (the use of the pronoun vos instead of tú (you), which occasions the use of alternate verb forms as well). The most prevalent dialect is Rioplatense, whose speakers are primarily located in the basin of the Río de la Plata. According to one survey, there are around 1.5 million Italian speakers (which makes it the second most spoken language in the country) and 1 million speakers of North Levantine Spoken Arabic. Standard German is spoken by between 400,000 and 500,000 Argentines of German ancestry, making it the third or fourth most spoken language in Argentina. Some indigenous communities have retained their original languages. Guaraní is spoken by some in the northeast, especially in Corrientes (where it enjoys official status) and Misiones. Quechua is spoken by some in the northwest and has a local variant in Santiago del Estero. Aymara is spoken by members of the Bolivian community who migrated to Argentina from Bolivia. In Patagonia there are several Welsh-speaking communities, with some 25,000 estimated second-language speakers. More recent immigrants have brought Chinese and Korean, mostly to Buenos Aires. English, Brazilian Portuguese and French are also spoken. English is commonly taught at schools as a second language and, to a lesser extent, Portuguese and French. Urbanization See also: List of cities in Argentina by population Population distributon Argentina is highly urbanized, with the ten largest metropolitan areas accounting for half of the population, and fewer than one in ten living in rural areas. About 3 million people live in Buenos Aires city and 12.8 million in the Greater Buenos Aires metropolitan area, making it one of the largest conurbations in the world. The metropolitan areas of Córdoba and Rosario have around 1.3 million inhabitants each, and six other metropolises (Mendoza, Tucumán, La Plata, Mar del Plata, Salta and Santa Fe) have at least half a million people each. The population is unequally distributed amongst the provinces with about 60% living in the Pampa region (21% of the total area), including 15 million people in Buenos Aires province and 3 million in each of the provinces of Córdoba and Santa Fe and Buenos Aires city. Seven other provinces each have about one million people: Mendoza, Tucumán, Entre Ríos, Salta, Chaco, Corrientes and Misiones. Tucumán is the most densely populated (with 60 inhabitants/km²; more than the world average) while, the southern province of Santa Cruz has less than 1 inhabitant/km². Most European immigrants settled in the cities which offered jobs, education and other opportunities enabling them to enter the middle class. Many also settled in the growing small towns along the expanding railway system and since the 1930s many rural workers have moved to the big cities. Urban areas reflect the influence of European immigration, and most of the larger ones feature boulevards and diagonal avenues inspired by the redevelopment of Paris. Argentine cities were originally built in a colonial Spanish grid style, centered around a plaza overlooked by a cathedral and important government buildings. Many still retain this general layout, known as a damero, meaning checkerboard, since it is based on a pattern of square blocks. The city of La Plata, designed at the end of the nineteenth century by Pedro Benoit, combines the checkerboard layout with added diagonal avenues at fixed intervals, and was the first in South America with electric street illumination. The Ninth of July Avenue in Buenos Aires, named after the date of Argentine Independence in 1816 Ninth of July Avenue in Buenos Aires, named after the date of Argentine Independence in 1816 The city of Rosario and the Paraná River The city of Rosario and the Paraná River Córdoba city centre Córdoba city centre San Martin Boulevard in Mendoza San Martin Boulevard in Mendoza The Governor's office in Tucumán The Governor's office in Tucumán La Plata City Hall La Plata City Hall Economy Main articles: Economy of Argentina, Agriculture in Argentina, Argentine foreign trade, and Tourism in Argentina The Buenos Aires waterfront and three sectors leading the recent economic recovery: construction, foreign trade and tourism Newbery Airfield connects the vast nation to its capital, and to neighbouring Uruguay. International flights operate through Ministro Pistarini Airport at Ezeiza. Freight rail yard in Rosario. The nations' railways move 25 million metric tons of cargo annually. Argentina has abundant natural resources, a well-educated population, an export-oriented agricultural sector and a relatively diversified industrial base. Domestic instability and global trends, however, contributed to Argentina's decline from its noteworthy position as the world's 10th wealthiest nation per capita in 1913 to that of an upper- middle income economy. Though no consensus exists explaining this, systemic problems have included increasingly burdensome debt, uncertainty over the monetary system, excessive regulation, barriers to free trade, and a weak rule of law coupled with corruption and a bloated bureaucracy. Even during its era of decline between 1930 and 1980, however, the Argentine economy created Latin America's largest proportional middle class; but this segment of the population has suffered from a series of economic crises between 1981 and 2002, when the relative decline became absolute. Argentina's economy started to slowly lose ground after 1930 when it entered the Great Depression and recovered slowly, afterwards. Erratic policies helped lead to serious bouts of stagflation in the 1949–52 and 1959–63 cycles and the country lost its place among the world's prosperous nations, even as it continued to industrialize. Following a promising decade, the economy further declined during the military dictatorship that lasted from 1976 to 1983 and for some time afterwards. The dictatorship's chief economist, José Alfredo Martínez de Hoz, advanced a disorganized, corrupt, monetarist financial liberalization that increased the debt burden and interrupted industrial development and upward social mobility; over 400,000 companies of all sizes went bankrupt by 1982 and economic decisions made from 1983 through 2001 failed to revert the situation. Record foreign debt interest payments, tax evasion and capital flight resulted in a balance of payments crisis that plagued Argentina with serious stagflation from 1975 to 1990. Attempting to remedy this, economist Domingo Cavallo pegged the peso to the U.S. dollar in 1991 and limited the growth in the money supply. His team then embarked on a path of trade liberalization, deregulation and privatization. Inflation dropped and GDP grew by one third in four years; but external economic shocks and failures of the system diluted benefits, causing the economy to crumble slowly from 1995 until the collapse in 2001. That year and the next, the economy suffered its sharpest decline since 1930; by 2002, Argentina had defaulted on its debt, its GDP had shrunk, unemployment reached 25% and the peso had depreciated 70% after being devalued and floated. In 2003 expansionary policies and commodity exports triggered a rebound in GDP. This trend has been largely maintained, creating millions of jobs and encouraging internal consumption. The socio-economic situation has been steadily improving and the economy grew around 9% annually for five consecutive years between 2003 and 2007 and 7% in 2008. Inflation, however, though officially hovering around 9% since 2006, has been privately estimated at over 15%, becoming a contentious issue again. The urban income poverty rate has dropped to 18% as of mid-2008, a third of the peak level observed in 2002, though still above the level prior to 1976. Income distribution, having improved since 2002, is still considerably unequal. Argentina faces slowing economic growth in light of an international financial crisis. The Kirchner administration responded at the end of 2008 with a record US$32 billion public-works program for 2009–10 and a further US$4 billion in new tax cuts and subsidies. Kirchner has also nationalized private pensions, which required growing subsidies to cover, in a move designed to shed a budgetary drain as well as to finance high government spending and debt obligations. Government Main articles: Government of Argentina, Politics of Argentina, and Provinces of Argentina The Casa Rosada, seat of the Executive branch The Argentine National Congress, Buenos Aires The Supreme Court of Argentina The Argentine Constitution of 1853 mandates a separation of powers into executive, legislative, and judicial branches at the national and provincial level. The political framework is a federal representative democratic republic, in which the President is both head of state and head of government, complemented by a pluriform multi-party system. Executive power resides in the President and the Cabinet. The President and Vice President are directly elected to four-year terms and are limited to two terms. Cabinet ministers are appointed by the President and are not subject to legislative ratification. The current President is Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, with Julio Cobos as Vice President. Legislative power is vested in the bicameral National Congress, comprising a 72-member Senate and a 257-member Chamber of Deputies. Senators serve six-year terms, with one-third standing for re-election every two years. Members of the Chamber of Deputies are elected to four- year terms by a proportional representation system, with half of the members standing for re-election every two years. A third of the candidates presented by the parties must be women. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. The Supreme Court has seven members appointed by the President in consultation with the Senate. The judges of all the other courts are appointed by the Council of Magistrates of the Nation, a secretariat composed of representatives of judges, lawyers, the Congress and the executive. Though declared the capital in 1853, Buenos Aires did not become the official capital until 1880. There have been moves to relocate the administrative centre elsewhere. During the presidency of Raúl Alfonsín, a law was passed to transfer the federal capital to Viedma, Río Negro. Studies were underway when economic problems halted the project in 1989. Though the law was never formally repealed, it is now treated as a relic. Argentina is divided into twenty-three provinces (provincias; singular provincia) and one autonomous city. Buenos Aires province is divided into 134 partidos, while the remaining provinces are divided into 376 departments (departamentos). Departments and partidos are further subdivided into municipalities or districts. 1. Buenos Aires City 2. Buenos Aires Province 3. Catamarca Province 4. Chaco Province 5. Chubut Province 6. Córdoba Province 7. Corrientes Province 8. Entre Ríos Province 9. Formosa Province 10. Jujuy Province 11. La Pampa Province 12. La Rioja Province 13. Mendoza Province 14. Misiones Province 15. Neuquén Province 16. Río Negro Province 17. Salta Province 18. San Juan Province 19. San Luis Province 20. Santa Cruz Province 21. Santa Fe Province 22. Santiago del Estero Province 23. Tierra del Fuego and disputed areas of Antarctica and the South Atlantic 24. Tucumán Province Argentine provinces and territorial claims Foreign policy Main article: Foreign relations of Argentina Argentina is a full member of the Mercosur block together with Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela; and five associate members: Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. From 2006 Argentina has emphasised Mercosur, which has some supranational legislative functions, as its first international priority; by contrast, during the 1990s, it relied more heavily on its relationship with the United States. Argentina is a founding signatory and permanent consulting member of the Antarctic Treaty System and the Antarctic Treaty Secretariat is based in Buenos Aires. Argentina has long claimed sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), the South Shetland Islands, the South Sandwich Islands and almost 1 million km² in Antarctica, between the 25°W and the 74°W meridians and the 60°S parallel, overlapping British claims. Since 1904, a scientific post has been maintained in Antarctica by mutual agreement. While Argentina has employed threats and force to pursue its claims against Chile in the Beagle channel and Laguna del Desierto, against Britain in Antarctica and the Falklands, as well as against illegal trawlers, this is the exception rather than the rule in Argentine international relations. Argentina was the only Latin American country to participate in the 1991 Gulf War under the United Nations mandate. It was also the only Latin American country involved in every phase of Operation Uphold Democracy in Haiti. Argentina has contributed worldwide to peacekeeping operations, including those in El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, the Ecuador-Peru dispute, Western Sahara, Angola, Kuwait, Cyprus, Croatia, Kosovo, Bosnia and Timor Leste. In recognition of its contributions to international security, U.S. President Bill Clinton designated Argentina as a major non-NATO ally in January 1998. It was last elected as a member of the UN Security Council in 2005. The United Nations White Helmets, a bulwark of peacekeeping and humanitarian aid efforts, were first deployed in 1994 following an Argentine initiative. Military Main article: Armed Forces of the Argentine Republic Libertador Building (Ministry of Defense and Army Headquarters) and the flagship Sarmiento frigate The armed forces of Argentina comprise an army, navy and air force, and number about 70,000 active duty personnel, one third fewer than levels before the return to democracy in 1983. The President is commander- in-chief of the armed forces, with the Defense Ministry exercising day- to-day control. There are also two other forces; the Naval Prefecture (which patrols Argentine territorial waters) and the National Gendarmerie (which patrols the border regions); both arms are controlled by the Interior Ministry but maintain liaison with the Defense Ministry. The minimum age for enlistment in the armed forces is 18 years and there is no obligatory military service. Historically, Argentina's military has been one of the best equipped in the region (for example, developing its own jet fighters as early as the 1950s); but recently it has faced sharper expenditure cutbacks than most other Latin American armed forces. Real military expenditures declined steadily after 1981 and though there have been recent increases, the defense budget is now around US$6 billion. The armed forces are currently participating in major peacekeeping operations in Haiti and Cyprus. Transportation Main article: Transportation in Argentina Motorway in Buenos Aires (Av. General Paz) Buenos Aires Light rail Argentina's transport infrastructure is relatively advanced. There are over 230,000 km (144,000 mi) of roads (not including private rural roads) of which 72,000 km (45,000 mi) are paved and 1,575 km (980 mi) are expressways, many of which are privatized tollways. Having doubled in length in recent years, multilane expressways now connect several major cities with more under construction. Expressways are, however, currently inadequate to deal with local traffic, as 9.2 million motor vehicles are registered nationally as of 2008 (230 per 1000 population). A cargo ship in front of the Rosario-Victoria Bridge The railway network has a total length of 34,059 km (21,170 mi). After decades of declining service and inadequate maintenance, most intercity passenger services shut down in 1992 when the rail company was privatized, and thousands of kilometers of track (excluding the above total) are now in disuse. Metropolitan rail services in and around Buenos Aires remained in great demand, however, owing in part to their easy access to the Buenos Aires subway, and intercity rail services are currently being reactivated along numerous lines. Inaugurated in 1913, the Buenos Aires Metro was the first subway system built in Latin America and the Southern Hemisphere. It is no longer the most extensive in Latin America; but, its 33 miles (53 km) of track carry nearly 900,000 passengers daily. Argentina has around 11,000 km (6,835 mi) of navigable waterways, and these carry more cargo than do the country's renown freight railways. This includes an extensive network of canals, though Argentina is blessed with ample natural waterways, as well; the most significant among these being the Río de la Plata, Paraná, Uruguay, Río Negro and Paraguay rivers. Flora The ceibo is the national flower of Argentina Subtropical plants dominate the Gran Chaco in the north, with the Dalbergia genus of trees well represented by Brazilian Rosewood and the quebracho tree; also predominant are white and black algarrobo trees (prosopis alba and prosopis nigra). Savannah-like areas exist in the drier regions nearer the Andes. Aquatic plants thrive in the wetlands of Argentina. In central Argentina the humid pampas are a true tallgrass prairie ecosystem. The original pampa had virtually no trees; some imported species like the American sycamore or eucalyptus are present along roads or in towns and country estates (estancias). The only tree- like plant native to the pampa is the evergreen Ombú. The surface soils of the pampa are a deep black color, primarily mollisols, known commonly as humus. This makes the region one of the most agriculturaly productive on Earth; however, this is also responsible for decimating much of the original ecosystem, to make way for commercial agriculture. The western pampas receive less rainfall, this dry pampa is a plain of short grasses or steppe. Most of Patagonia lies within the rain shadow of the Andes, so the flora, shrubby bushes and plants, is suited to dry conditions. The soil is hard and rocky, making large-scale farming impossible except along river valleys. Coniferous forests in far western Patagonia and on the island of Tierra del Fuego, include alerce, ciprés de la cordillera, ciprés de las guaitecas, huililahuán, lleuque, mañío hembra and pehuén, while broadleaf trees include several species of Nothofagus such as coihue, lenga and ñire. Other introduced trees present in forestry plantations include spruce, cypress and pine. Common plants are the copihue and colihue. In Cuyo, semiarid thorny bushes and other xerophile plants abound. Along the many rivers grasses and trees grow in significant numbers. The area presents optimal conditions for the large scale growth of grape vines. In northwest Argentina there are many species of cactus. No vegetation grows in the highest elevations (above 4,000 m (13,000 ft)) because of the extreme altitude. Fauna Further information: List of national parks of Argentina The hornero is one of the national emblems of Argentina Many species live in the subtropical north. Big cats like the jaguar, cougar, and ocelot; primates (howler monkey); large reptiles (crocodiles),Argentine Black and White Tegu and a species of caiman. Other animals include the tapir, peccary, capybara, bush dog, raccoon and various species of turtle and tortoise. There are a wide variety of birds, notably hummingbirds, flamingos, toucans and swallows. The central grasslands are populated by the giant anteater, armadillo, pampas cat, maned wolf, mara, cavias and the rhea (ñandú), a flightless bird. Hawks, falcons, herons and tinamous (perdiz, Argentine "false partridges") inhabit the region. There are also pampas deer and pampas foxes. Some of these species extend into Patagonia. The puma inhabits the northeast of the country The western mountains are home to different animals. These include the llama, guanaco, vicuña, among the most recognizable species of South America. Also in this region are the fox, viscacha, Andean Mountain Cat, kodkod and the largest flying bird in the New World, the Andean Condor. Southern Argentina is home to the cougar, huemul, pudú (the world's smallest deer), and introduced, non-native wild boar. The coast of Patagonia is rich in animal life: elephant seals, fur seals, sea lions and species of penguin. The far south is populated by cormorants. The territorial waters of Argentina have abundant ocean life; mammals such as dolphins, orcas, and whales like the southern right whale, a major tourist draw for naturalists. Sea fish include sardines, Argentine hakes, dolphinfish, salmon, and sharks; also present are squid and spider crab (centolla) in Tierra del Fuego. Rivers and streams in Argentina have many species of trout and the South American dorado fish. Outstanding snake species inhabiting Argentina include boa constrictors and the very venomous yarará pit viper and South American rattle snake. The Hornero was elected the National Bird after a survey in 1928. Culture Café de los Angelitos, a meeting point for musical and literary talent, like many Argentine coffee houses Main articles: Culture of Argentina and List of Argentines Argentine culture has significant European influences. Buenos Aires, considered by many its cultural capital, is often said to be the most European city in South America, as a result both of the prevalence of people of European descent and of conscious imitation of European styles in architecture. The other big influence is the gauchos and their traditional country lifestyle of self-reliance. Finally, indigenous American traditions (like yerba mate infusions) have been absorbed into the general cultural milieu. Literature When I think of what I've lost, I ask "who know themselves better than the blind?" - for every thought becomes a tool. Jorge Luis Borges Main article: Argentine literature Argentina has a rich history of world-class literature, including one of the twentieth century's most critically acclaimed writers, Jorge Luis Borges. The country has been a leader in Latin American literature since becoming a fully united entity in the 1850s, with a strong constitution and a defined nation-building plan. The struggle between the Federalists (who favored a loose confederation of provinces based on rural conservatism) and the Unitarians (pro-liberalism and advocates of a strong central government that would encourage European immigration), set the tone for Argentine literature of the time. The ideological divide between gaucho epic Martín Fierro by José Hernández, and Facundo by Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, is a great example. Hernández, a federalist, opposed to the centralizing, modernizing and Europeanizing tendencies. Sarmiento wrote immigration was the only way to save Argentina from becoming subject to the rule of a small number of dictatorial caudillo families, arguing such immigrants would make Argentina more modern and open to Western European influences and therefore a more prosperous society. Argentine literature of that period was fiercely nationalist. It was followed by the modernist movement, which emerged in France in the late nineteenth century, and this period in turn was followed by vanguardism, with Ricardo Güiraldes as an important reference. Jorge Luis Borges, its most acclaimed writer, found new ways of looking at the modern world in metaphor and philosophical debate and his influence has extended to writers all over the globe. Borges is most famous for his works in short stories such as Ficciones and The Aleph. Argentina has produced many more internationally noted writers, poets and intellectuals: Juan Bautista Alberdi, Roberto Arlt, Enrique Banchs, Adolfo Bioy Casares, Silvina Bullrich, Eugenio Cambaceres, Julio Cortázar, Esteban Echeverría, Leopoldo Lugones, Eduardo Mallea, Ezequiel Martínez Estrada, Tomás Eloy Martínez, Victoria Ocampo, Manuel Puig, Ernesto Sabato, Osvaldo Soriano, Alfonsina Storni and María Elena Walsh. A number of Argentine caricaturists have also become influential: Roberto Fontanarrosa's grotesque characters captured life's absurdities with quick-witted commentary and Quino (born Joaquin Salvador Lavado), has entertained readers the world over, while dipping into current events with soup-hating Mafalda and her comic strip gang. Film and theatre Main article: Cinema of Argentina The Gran Rex Cinema, Buenos Aires The Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires Argentina is a major producer of motion pictures. The world's first animated feature films were made and released in Argentina, by cartoonist Quirino Cristiani, in 1917 and 1918. Argentine cinema enjoyed a 'golden age' in the 1930s through the 1950s with scores of productions, many now considered classics of Spanish-language film. The industry produced actors who became the first movie stars of Argentine cinema, often tango performers such as Libertad Lamarque, Floren Delbene, Tito Lusiardo, Tita Merello, Roberto Escalada and Hugo del Carril. More recent films from the "New Wave" of cinema since the 1980s have achieved worldwide recognition, such as The Official Story (La historia official), Nine Queens (Nueve reinas), Man Facing Southeast (Hombre mirando al sudeste), Son of the Bride (El hijo de la novia), The Motorcycle Diaries (Diarios de motocicleta), or Iluminados por el fuego. Although rarely rivaling Hollywood-type movies in popularity, local films are released weekly and widely followed in Argentina and internationally. Even low-budget films have earned prizes in cinema festivals (such as Cannes), and are promoted by events such as the Mar del Plata Film Festival and the Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema. The per capita number of screens is one of the highest in Latin America, and viewing per capita is the highest in the region. A new generation of Argentine directors has caught the attention of critics worldwide. Argentina is a major center of cinema; its levels of cinema-attendance are comparable to those of European countries. An example of this was Spider-Man 3 which took in 466,586 the first day—a record in Argentina. In Italy it took in 400,000 and Germany 486,571, breaking all records for first day release. Argentine composers Luis Enrique Bacalov, Gustavo Santaolalla and Eugenio Zanetti are Academy Award winners. Lalo Schiffrin has received numerous Grammys and is best known for the Mission:Impossible theme. Buenos Aires is one of the great capitals of theater. The Teatro Colón is a national landmark for opera and classical performances. Built at the end of the 19th century, Teatro Colón's acoustic is considered the best in the world. Currently it is undergoing major refurbishment, in order to preserve its outstanding sound characteristics, the French-romantic style, the impressive Golden Room (a minor auditorium targeted to Chamber Music performances) and the museum at the entrance. With its program of national and international caliber, Calle Corrientes, or Corrientes Avenue, is synonymous with the art. It is thought of as 'the street that never sleeps' and sometimes referred to as the Broadway of Buenos Aires. Many great careers in acting, music, and film have begun in its many theaters. The Teatro General San Martín is one of the most prestigious along Corrientes Avenue and the Teatro Nacional Cervantes functions as the national stage theater of Argentina. The El Círculo in Rosario, Independencia in Mendoza and Libertador in Córdoba are also prominent. Griselda Gambaro, Roberto Cossa and Carlos Gorostiza are Argentine playwrights well-known internationally. Julio Bocca and Jorge Donn are two of the great ballet dancers of the modern era. Architecture, painting and sculpture Second Empire and Neoclassical architecture in downtown Buenos Aires Font of the Nereids (1903) by Lola Mora, a student of Auguste Rodin's Yerba mate (green tea) in a traditional gourd Numerous Argentine architects have enriched their own country's cityscapes and, in recent decades, those around the world. Juan Antonio Buschiazzo helped popularize Beaux-Arts architecture and Francisco Gianotti combined Art Nouveau with Italianate styles, each adding flair to Argentine cities during the early 20th century. Francisco Salamone and Viktor Sulĉiĉ left an Art Deco legacy, and Alejandro Bustillo created a prolific body of Rationalist architecture. Clorindo Testa introduced Brutalist architecture locally and César Pelli's and Patricio Pouchulu's Futurist creations have graced cities, worldwide. Pelli's 1980s throwbacks to the Art Deco glory of the 1920s, in particular, made him one of the world's most prestigious architects. One of the most influential Argentine figures in fine arts was Xul Solar, whose surrealist work used watercolors as readily as unorthodox painting media; he also "invented" two imaginary languages. The works of Cándido López (in Naïve art style), Ernesto de la Cárcova and Eduardo Sívori (realism), Fernando Fader (impressionism), Pío Collivadino (post- impressionist), Emilio Pettoruti (cubist), Antonio Berni (neo- figurative), Gyula Košice (constructivism) and Guillermo Kuitca (abstract) are appreciated internationally. Benito Quinquela Martín is considered to be the quintessential 'port' painter, for which the city of Buenos Aires and the working class and immigrant-bound La Boca neighborhood, in particular, was excellently suited. A similar environment inspired Adolfo Bellocq, whose lithographs have been influential since the 1920s. Realist sculptors Erminio Blotta's, Lola Mora's and Rogelio Yrurtia's evocative monuments became the part of the national landscape and today, Lucio Fontana and León Ferrari are acclaimed sculptors and conceptual artists. Ciruelo is a world-famous fantasy artist and sculptor and Eduardo Mac Entyre's geometric designs have influenced advertisers worldwide since the 1970s. Food and drink Main article: Cuisine of Argentina Besides many of the pasta, sausage and dessert dishes common to continental Europe, Argentines enjoy a wide variety of indigenous creations, which include empanadas (a stuffed pastry), locro (a mixture of corn, beans, meat, bacon, onion, and gourd), humitas and yerba mate, all originally indigenous Amerindian staples, the latter considered Argentina's national beverage. Other popular items include chorizo (a spicy sausage), facturas (Viennese-style pastry) and Dulce de Leche. An asado with sliced provolone The Argentine barbecue, asado as well as a parrillada, includes various types of meats, among them chorizo, sweetbread, chitterlings, and morcilla (blood sausage). Thin sandwiches, sandwiches de miga, are also popular. Argentines have the highest consumption of red meat in the world. The Argentine wine industry, long among the largest outside Europe, has benefited from growing investment since 1992; in 2007, 60% of foreign investment worldwide in viticulture was destined to Argentina. The country is the fifth most important wine producer in the world, with the annual per capita consumption of wine among the highest. Malbec grape, a discardable varietal in France (country of origin), has found in the Province of Mendoza an ideal environment to successfully develop and turn itself into the world's best Malbec. Mendoza is one of the eight wine capitals of the world and accounts for 70% of the country's total wine production. "Wine tourism" is important in Mendoza province, with the impressive landscape of the Cordillera de Los Andes and the highest peak in the Americas, Mount Aconcagua, 6,952 m (22,808 ft) high, providing a very desirable destination for international tourism. Sports Further information: Sport in Argentina Argentine player Ignacio Corleto about to score against France in the 2007 Rugby World Cup The official national sport of Argentina is pato, played with a six- handle ball on horseback, but the most popular sport is association football. The national football team has won 25 major international titles including two FIFA World Cups, two Olympic gold medals and fourteen Copa Américas. Over one thousand Argentine players play abroad, the majority of them in European football leagues. There are 331,811 registered football players, with increasing numbers of girls and women, who have organized their own national championships since 1991 and were South American champions in 2006. The Argentine Football Association (AFA) was formed in 1893 and is the eighth oldest national football association in the world. The 1891 league tournament in Argentina was the third in football history, after England and the Netherlands. The AFA today counts 3,377 football clubs, including 20 in the Premier Division. Since the AFA went professional in 1931, fifteen teams have won national tournament titles, including River Plate with 33 and Boca Juniors with 24. Over the last twenty years, futsal and beach soccer have become increasingly popular. The Argentine beach football team was one of four competitors in the first international championship for the sport, in Miami, in 1993. Argentina has an important rugby union football team, "Los Pumas", with many of its players playing in Europe. Argentina beat host nation France twice in the 2007 Rugby World Cup, placing them third in the competition. The Pumas are currently sixth in the official world rankings. Basketball is also popular; a number of basketball players play in the U.S. National Basketball Association and European leagues including Manu Ginóbili, Andrés Nocioni, Carlos Delfino and Fabricio Oberto. The men's national basketball team won Olympic gold in the 2004 Olympics and the bronze medal in 2008. Argentina is currently ranked first by the International Basketball Federation. Other popular sports include field hockey (particularly amongst women), tennis, auto racing, boxing, volleyball, polo and golf. Music Main article: Music of Argentina Carlos Gardel, still the standard among Tango vocalists Tango, the music and lyrics (often sung in a form of slang called lunfardo), is Argentina's musical symbol. The Milonga dance was a predecessor, slowly evolving into modern tango. By the 1930s, tango had changed from a dance-focused music to one of lyric and poetry, with singers like Carlos Gardel, Hugo del Carril, Roberto Goyeneche, Raúl Lavié, Tita Merello and Edmundo Rivero. The golden age of tango (1930 to mid-1950s) mirrored that of Jazz and Swing in the United States, featuring large orchestral groups too, like the bands of Osvaldo Pugliese, Anibal Troilo, Francisco Canaro, Julio de Caro and Juan D'Arienzo. Incorporating acoustic music and later, synthesizers into the genre after 1955, bandoneon virtuoso Astor Piazzolla popularized "new tango" creating a more subtle, intellectual and listener-oriented trend. Today tango enjoys worldwide popularity; ever-evolving, neo-tango is a global phenomenon with renown groups like Tanghetto, Bajofondo and the Gotan Project. Progressive rock musician Charly García Argentine rock, called rock nacional, is the most popular music among youth. Arguably the most listened form of Spanish-language rock, its influence and success internationally owes to a rich, uninterrupted development. Bands such as Soda Stereo or Sumo, and composers like Charly García, Luis Alberto Spinetta, and Fito Páez are referents of national culture. Mid-1960s Buenos Aires and Rosario were cradles of the music and by 1970, Argentine rock was well-established among middle class youth (see Almendra, Sui Generis, Pappo, Crucis). Seru Giran bridged the gap into the 1980s, when Argentine bands became popular across Latin America and elsewhere (Enanitos Verdes, Fabulosos Cadillacs, Virus, Andrés Calamaro). There are many sub-genres: underground, pop-oriented and some associated with the working class (La Renga, Attaque 77, Divididos, Hermética, V8 and Los Redonditos). Current popular bands include: Babasonicos, Rata Blanca, Horcas, Attaque 77, Bersuit, Los Piojos, Intoxicados, Catupecu Machu, Carajo and Miranda!. Mercedes Sosa, the grande dame of Argentine folk music European classical music is well represented in Argentina. Buenos Aires is home to the world-renowned Colón Theater. Classical musicians, such as Martha Argerich, Eduardo Alonso-Crespo, Daniel Barenboim, Eduardo Delgado and Alberto Lysy, and classical composers such as Juan José Castro and Alberto Ginastera are internationally acclaimed. All major cities in Argentina have impressive theaters or opera houses, and provincial or city orchestras. Some cities have annual events and important classical music festivals like Semana Musical Llao Llao in San Carlos de Bariloche and the multitudinous Amadeus in Buenos Aires. Argentine folk music is uniquely vast. Beyond dozens of regional dances, a national folk style emerged in the 1930s. Perón's Argentina would give rise to Nueva Canción, as artists began expressing in their music objections to political themes. Atahualpa Yupanqui, the greatest Argentine folk musician, and Mercedes Sosa would be defining figures in shaping Nueva Canción, gaining worldwide popularity in the process. The style found a huge reception in Chile, where it took off in the 1970s and went on to influence the entirety of Latin American music. Today, Chango Spasiuk and Soledad Pastorutti have brought folk back to younger generations. Leon Gieco's folk-rock bridged the gap between Argentine folklore and Argentine rock, introducing both styles to millions overseas in successive tours. Holidays Architect Alejandro Bustillo's National Flag Memorial, Rosario Main article: Public holidays in Argentina Though holidays of many faiths are respected, public holidays usually include most Catholic holidays. Historic holidays include the celebration of the May Revolution (25 May), the Independence Day (9 July), National Flag Day (20 June) and the death of José de San Martín (17 August). The extended family gathers on Christmas Eve at around 9 p.m. for dinner, music, and often dancing. Candies are served just before midnight, when the fireworks begin. They also open gifts from Papá Noel (Father Christmas or "Santa Claus"). New Year's Day is also marked with fireworks. Other widely observed holidays include Good Friday, Easter, Labor Day (1 May) and Sovereignty Day (formerly Malvinas Day, 2 April). Education Main article: Education in Argentina After independence, Argentina constructed a national public education system in comparison to other nations, placing the country high up in the global rankings of literacy. Today the country has a literacy rate of 97%, and three in eight adults over age 20 have completed secondary school studies or higher. The ubiquitous white uniform of Argentine school children is a national symbol of learning School attendance is compulsory between the ages of 5 and 17. The Argentine school system consists of a primary or lower school level lasting six or seven years, and a secondary or high school level lasting between five to six years. In the 1990s, the system was split into different types of high school instruction, called Educacion Secundaria and the Polimodal. Some provinces adopted the Polimodal while others did not. A project in the executive branch to repeal this measure and return to a more traditional secondary level system was approved in 2006. President Domingo Faustino Sarmiento is overwhelmingly credited in pushing and implementing a free, modern education system in Argentina. The 1918 university reform shaped the current tripartite representation of most public universities. Education is funded by tax payers at all levels except for the majority of graduate studies. There are many private school institutions in the primary, secondary and university levels. Around 11.4 million people were enrolled in formal education of some kind in 2006, including 1.5 million in the nation's 85 universities. Public education in Argentina is tuition-free from the primary to the university levels. Though literacy was nearly universal as early as 1947, the majority of Argentine youth had little access to education beyond the compulsory seven years of grade school during the first half of the 20th century; since then, when the tuition-free system was extended to the secondary and university levels, demand for these facilities has often outstripped budgets (particularly since the 1970s). Consequently, public education is now widely found wanting and in decline; this has helped private education flourish, though it has also caused a marked inequity between those who can afford it (usually the middle and upper classes) and the rest of society, as private schools often have no scholarship systems in place. Roughly one in four primary and secondary students and one in six university students attend private institutions. There are thirty-eight public universities across the country, as well as numerous private ones. The University of Buenos Aires, Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Universidad Nacional de La Plata, Universidad Nacional de Rosario, and the National Technological University are among the most important. Public universities faced cutbacks in spending during the 1980s and 1990s, which led to a decline in overall quality. Health care Main article: Health care in Argentina The University of Buenos Aires School of Medicine, alma mater to many of the country's 3,000 medical graduates, annually. Health care is provided through a combination of employer and labor union-sponsored plans (Obras Sociales), government insurance plans, public hospitals and clinics and through private health insurance plans. Government efforts to improve public health can be traced to Spanish Viceroy Juan José de Vértiz's first Medical Tribunal of 1780. Following independence, medical schools were established at the University of Buenos Aires (1822) and the National University of Córdoba (1877). The training of doctors and nurses at these and other schools enabled the rapid development of health care cooperatives, which during the presidency of Juan Perón became publicly subsidized Obras Sociales. Today, these number over 300 (of which 200 are related to labor unions) and provide health care for half the population; the national INSSJP (popularly known as PAMI) covers nearly all of the five million senior citizens. Perón's Minister of Health, Ramón Carrillo, borrowed from German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck's support for employer or guild-sponsored plans and the British National Health Service. He advanced the widespread use of Obras Sociales, a form of health insurance cooperative, accompanied by the construction of over 4,000 public clinics and hospitals. These (totaling 8,000) serve the roughly 40% of Argentines who belong to neither an Obra Social nor to one of 280 private health insurance companies. Private health insurance, which was first made available in 1932 by Alejandro Schvarzer, covers 1.1 million households (about 10% of the population) and collects average monthly premiums of about US$100 (though larger families often pay US$300). This system operates nearly 10,000 clinics and 18,000 beds. Health care costs amount to almost 10% of GDP and have been growing in pace with the proportion of Argentines over 65 (7% in 1970). Public and private spending have historically split this about evenly: public funds are mainly spent through Obras, which in turn, refer patients needing hospitalization to private and public clinics; private funds are spent evenly between private insurers' coverage and out-of-pocket expenses. There are more than 153,000 hospital beds, 121,000 physicians and 37,000 dentists (ratios comparable to developed nations). The relatively high access to medical care has historically resulted in mortality patterns similar to developed nations; from 1953 to 2005, deaths from cardiovascular disease have increased from 20% to 23% of the total, those from tumors from 14% to 20%, respiratory problems from 7% to 14%, digestive maladies (non-infectious) from 7% to 11%, strokes a steady 7%, injuries a steady 6% and infectious diseases, 4%. Causes related to senility led to many of the rest. Infant deaths ahve fallen from 19% of all deaths in 1953 to 3% in 2005. The availability of health care has reduced infant mortality from 69 per 1000 live births in 1948 to 12.9 in 2006 and raised life expectancy at birth from 60 years to 76. Though these figures compare favorably with global averages, they fall short of levels in developed nations and in 2006, Argentina ranked fourth in Latin America. Science and technology Main article: Science and technology in Argentina Dr. Luis Federico Leloir (left) and his staff toast his 1970 Nobel Prize in Chemistry Argentina has contributed many distinguished doctors, scientists and inventors to the world, including three Nobel Prize laureates in sciences. Argentines have been responsible for major breakthroughs in world medicine; their research has led to significant advances in wound- healing therapies and in the treatment of heart disease and several forms of cancer. Domingo Liotta designed and developed the first artificial heart successfully implanted in a human being in 1969. René Favaloro developed the techniques and performed the world's first ever coronary bypass surgery and Francisco de Pedro invented a more reliable artificial cardiac pacemaker. Bernardo Houssay, the first Latin American awarded with a Nobel Prize, discovered the role of pituitary hormones in regulating glucose in animals; César Milstein did extensive research in antibodies; Luis Leloir discovered how organisms store energy converting glucose into glycogen and the compounds which are fundamental in metabolizing carbohydrates. Dr. Luis Agote devised the first safe method of blood transfusion, Enrique Finochietto designed operating table tools such as the surgical scissors that bear his name ("Finochietto scissors") and a surgical rib-spreader. They have likewise contributed to bioscience in efforts like the Human Genome Project, where Argentine scientists have successfully mapped the genome of a living being, a world first. Dr. Luis Agote (second from right) overseeing the first safe and effective blood transfusion (1914) Argentina's nuclear program is highly advanced, having resulted in a research reactor in 1957 and Latin America's first on-line commercial reactor in 1974. Argentina developed its nuclear program without being overly dependent on foreign technology. Nuclear facilities with Argentine technology have been built in Peru, Algeria, Australia and Egypt. In 1983, the country admitted having the capability of producing weapon- grade uranium, a major step needed to assemble nuclear weapons; since then, however, Argentina has pledged to use nuclear power only for peaceful purposes. In other areas, Juan Vucetich, a Croatian immigrant, was the father of modern fingerprinting (dactiloscopy). Raúl Pateras Pescara demonstrated the world's first flight of a helicopter, Hungarian- Argentine László Bíró mass-produced the first modern ball point pens and Eduardo Taurozzi developed the pendular combustion engine. Juan Maldacena, an Argentine-American scientist, is a leading figure in string theory. An Argentine satellite, the PEHUENSAT-1 was successfully launched on 10 January 2007 using the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). The Pierre Auger Observatory near Malargüe, Mendoza, is the world's foremost cosmic ray observatory. Communications and media Print The funeral of Eva Perón, as covered by Clarín The print media industry is highly developed and independent of the government, with more than two hundred newspapers. The major national newspapers are from Buenos Aires, including the centrist Clarín, the best-selling daily in Latin America and the second most-widely circulated in the Spanish-speaking world. Other nationally circulated papers are La Nación (center-right, published since 1870), Página/12 (left- wing), Ámbito Financiero (business conservative), Olé (sports) and Crónica (populist). Two foreign language newspapers enjoy a relatively high circulation: the Argentinisches Tageblatt in German and the Buenos Aires Herald, published since 1876. Major regional papers include La Voz del Interior (Córdoba), Río Negro (General Roca), Los Andes (Mendoza), La Capital (Rosario), El Tribuno (Salta) and La Gaceta (Tucuman). The most circulated newsmagazine is Noticias. The Argentine publishing industry ranks with Spain and Mexico as the most important in the Spanish-speaking world, and includes the largest bookstore chain in Latin America, El Ateneo. Radio and television Main article: Communications in Argentina Public television, Buenos Aires. On the air since 1951, Argentine TV broadcasting was the first in Latin America. Argentina was a pioneering nation in radio broadcasting. At 9 pm on 27 August 1920, Sociedad Radio Argentina announced: "We now bring to your homes a live performance of Richard Wagner's Parsifal opera from the Coliseo Theater in downtown Buenos Aires"; only about twenty homes in the city had a receiver to tune in. The world's first radio station was the only one in the country until 1922, when Radio Cultura went on the air; by 1925, there were twelve stations in Buenos Aires and ten in other cities. The 1930s were the "golden age" of radio in Argentina, with live variety, news, soap opera and sport shows. There are currently 260 AM broadcasting and 1150 FM broadcasting radio stations in Argentina. Radio remains an important medium in Argentina. Music and youth variety programs dominate FM formats; news, debate, and sports are AM radio's primary broadcasts. Amateur radio is widespread in the country. Radio still serves a vital service of information, entertainment and even life saving in the most remote communities. The Argentine television industry is large and diverse, widely viewed in Latin America, and its productions seen around the world. Many local programs are broadcast by networks in other countries, and others have their rights purchased by foreign producers for adaptations in their own markets. Argentina has five major networks. All provincial capitals and other large cities have at least one local station. Argentines enjoy the highest availability of cable and satellite television in Latin America, similar to percentages in North America. Many cable networks operate from Argentina and serve the Spanish-speaking world, including Utilísima Satelital, TyC Sports, Fox Sports en Español (with the United States and México), MTV Argentina, Cosmopolitan TV and the news network Todo Noticias.