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History and Culture

Argentina has a long and rich history. Inhabited since 11,000 Before Common Era (BCE), relics from indigenous groups including the Diaguitas and Huarpes have been discovered in the area. In 1480, Incas invaded the Northern portion of the country, defeating the locals and banishing them to the Collasuyu region. Remaining sections of the country were left intact until the arrival of European explorers in 1516, who proceeded to build the first Spanish settlement along the banks of the Parana River in 1527. The first incarnation of Buenos Aires followed soon after in 1536. The city was rebuilt in 1580 after being destroyed by natives.

Buenos Aires eventually became a commercial hub, drawing the attention of foreign invaders. Civil war eventually caused the succession of Paraguay and Bolivia. In the late 1800s, foreign investments helped to strengthen a weakened local economy. Argentina soon ranked as one of the 10 richest countries in the world. Suddenly, events took a dramatic turn. Historians mark 1946 as the beginning of the end for Argentina’s golden age.

Living conditions in the country worsened as a string of Presidents attempted to correct various financial and political problems. In 2003, under the reign of Governor Nestor Kirchner, the Argentinian government restructured its debt and began to restore the country to its previous luster. Nestor’s wife, Senator Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner became the first female President of Argentina in 2007. Despite high inflation, Argentina has continued to experience substantial economic growth.

A view over the northern Pampa

A number of influences have created Argentina’s unique culture. Most Argentinians live in the Pampas region. Residents speak a form of Spanish known as Castilian. Dialects vary depending on the region, but a large number speak what is referred to as Rioplatense.

The country has a distinct European flavor. Roman Catholicism, the official state religion, originated in Italy. During the 19th century, European building styles became popular. The Palace of Justice and National Congress are two popular examples.

Events begin 30 to 45 minutes after scheduled start times. It is not uncommon for plays to start late or buses to depart behind schedule. Lateness is not seen as a sign of disrespect, except during business meetings, which are expected to start on time.

Visitors are advised to use extreme caution while traveling on foot. Approximately 20 deaths occur on a daily basis due to Argentinean motorists. Demonstrations are a common occurrence that should be avoided at all costs due to their tendency to sometimes erupt in sudden violence.

Travel guides indicate that Argentineans are extremely cordial, but offer the following tips to avoid conflict:

– People should avoid mentioning Britain, England or the Falkland Islands due to unresolved territorial issues.

– British or English attire, especially sports logos, can result in awkward social moments.

– Mentioning politics, the military, religion or Juan Peron is a big no-no.

– Making verbal comparisons between Argentina and Brazil or Chile is comparing the country to its biggest economic competitor.