According to Countryaah, at the beginning of the 16th century, two large population groups inhabited the area that is today Argentina: the Patagons and the Andines. In the first group there were tehuelches, rehuelches, rampas, matacos and guaycurúes. The latter two had developed agricultural communities with stable housing. The former were hunters and nomadic collectors. The Patagons were found in the south, the middle parts and in the north. The Andinians consisted of the following peoples: Rehuenches antiguos, rehuelches algarroberos, huerpes, diaguitas, capayanes, omahuacas and patamas. Contact with the Incas had perfected their farming, including the use of terraces and irrigation. They kept llamas as livestock and traded in the west and northwest. Following the Spanish conquests of the 17th and 18th centuries, the Araucan emigrated from theChile to the central and southwestern parts of present-day Argentina with a subsequent “araucanization” (mapuche) of the people of this region.
The Spanish conquests in the 16th century brought Américo Vespucio in 1502 and in 1516 Juan Díaz de Solís to the estuary which they named the Río de la Plata (Silver River) in honor of the metal they sought – but did not find. In 1526 Sebastián Gaboto created a fort at the mouth of the Carcarañá River – the first colonial settlement in what is today Argentina. In order to slow the advance of the Portuguese, Spain sent Pedro de Mendoza to territories. It happened on the basis of extensive political and economic privileges for the conquistador (the conqueror). In 1536, de Mendoza created a small village, Santa María del Buen Aire, which, however, was already abandoned in 1541 when it could not withstand the siege of the Indians.
Spain now occupied Asuncion (now Paraguay) and made the city the starting point for the conquests. A number of cities in present-day Argentina were founded: Santiago del Estero, Córdoba, Santa Fe and in 1580 Buenos Aires was founded for the second time. This port city quickly became a commercial and political strategic center for Spain. In 1776, the Viceroy of Río de la Plata was established with the capital of Buenos Aires. It covered the current countries of Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina and Uruguay. The strong commercial citizenship that developed in Buenos Aires was friendly to free trade and was driving the revolutionary movement in 1810, establishing the United Provinces of Río de la Plata and crushing the Viceroy, which they blamed for lack of allegiance to the peninsula that was then occupied by Napoleon’s troops. The United Provinces of Río de la Plata decided in 1816 for independence, as it was found that the recently deployed Spanish monarch Fernando VII and his politics were incompatible with the institutional and commercial liberalism that the Buenos Aires local government was striving for. General José de San Martín organized the armies that crushed the royal forces and contributed decisively to the independence of Chile and Peru.
However, the original peoples of Argentina had not yet been defeated. They had been fighting against the Spanish conquerors and as late as 1878 the Argentine army carried out its ” la conquista del desierto ” (conquest of the desert) against the indigenous people of Patagonia. A campaign that led to the almost complete extinction of the Patagonians.
- AllCityPopulation: Find Argentina demographics including latest population, life expectancy, age structure, and urbanization.
The dependence on England… and the United States
However, formal political independence did not imply any significant change in the economic structure – neither in Argentina nor in the other Latin American countries. As world trade increased, Buenos Aires became an increasingly important port city, with silver from the Bolivia mines and meats as well as skins from the vast Argentine plains making up the most important export goods. At the same time, England used the city as a market for the large production of textiles from the textile industries in England. These imports quickly smashed the textile production that had previously taken place locally in the inner parts of Argentina. Only the middlemen – especially the commercial citizenship of Buenos Aires – benefited from this development.
The citizenship and the bulk goods were the dominant classes, and even before the independence wars they were more closely related to Britain than to Spain. The dominant position of exports in the economy led to a strong centralization in Buenos Aires. The railway was under British control and all the inland routes led directly to Buenos Aires without interconnection between the inland villages. There was thus a strong contradiction between the provinces inland and the Buenos Aires region. A contradiction that remains noticeable today.
In 1829, Juan Manuel de Rosas came to power on an alliance between hitherto hostile sectors in Buenos Aires and the interior of the country. He implemented a customs law and restrictions on import goods from France and England. He was subjected to military attacks by both major powers that blocked the port of Buenos Aires to crack the government, but every attack was fought back. These were the first attempts to forcefully integrate Argentina into the world market. It did not succeed until after the so-called “Great War” between Argentina and Uruguay in 1839-52. It also involved Brazil and direct intervention from England and France.
In 1833, with the United States’ consent, England occupied the Malvinas archipelago. After the Rosas government was defeated, Argentina was made completely open to imports of English industrial products and capital as well as exports of meat and wheat. Claimed by economic and political liberalism, Bartolomé Miter (president in 1862-68) joined Pedro II, emperor of Brazil and Venancio Flores, president of Uruguay, with the aim of waging an extermination war against Paraguay. The so-called “Tripleal Alliance” began its war in 1865, and it only ended in 1870 with the death of Paraguayan President Francisco Solano López. In the “moment of victory”, however, Miter had been replaced with Domingo Faustino Sarmiento.
At the same time, a new emerging imperialist power soon made the British unremarkable – both in Argentina and in a number of other dependent countries. US capital first established its dominant position in the freezer series, which was responsible for meat exports, and later expanded to a number of other sectors of the Argentine business community.