Argentina is a federal republic located in southeastern South America. Sharing the bulk of the Southern Cone with its neighbour Chile, it is bordered by Bolivia and Paraguay to the north; Brazil to the northeast; Uruguay and the South Atlantic Ocean to the east; Chile to the west and the Drake Passage to the south.
The name “Argentina” is derived from Latin argentum (“silver”, plata in Spanish), a noun associated with the silver mountains legend, widespread among the first European explorers of the La Plata Basin.
The earliest traces of human life in the area now known as Argentina are dated from the Paleolithic period, with further traces in the Mesolithic and Neolithic. Until the period of European colonization, Argentina was relatively sparsely populated by a wide number of diverse cultures with different social organizations, which can be divided into three main groups. The first group are basic hunters and food gatherers without development of pottery, such as the Selknam and Yaghan in the extreme south. The second group are advanced hunters and food gatherers which include the Puelche, Querandí and Serranos in the center-east; and the Tehuelche in the south (all of them conquered by the Mapuche spreading from Chile) and the Kom and Wichi in the north. The last group are farmers with pottery, like the Charrúa, Minuane and Guaraní in the northeast, with slash and burn semisedentary existence; the advanced Diaguita sedentarytrading culture in the northwest, which was conquered by the Inca Empire around 1480; the Toconoté and Hênîa and Kâmîare in the country’s center, and the Huarpe in the center-west, a culture that raised llama cattle and was strongly influenced by the Incas.
The country has its roots in Spanish colonization of the region during the 16th century. Argentina rose as the successor state of the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata, a Spanish overseas colony founded in 1776. The declaration and fight for independence (1810–1818) was followed by an extended civil war that lasted until 1861, culminating in the country’s reorganization as a federation of provinces with Buenos Aires as its capital city. The country thereafter enjoyed relative peace and stability, with massive waves of European immigration radically reshaping its cultural and demographic outlook. The almost-unparalleled increase in prosperity led to Argentina becoming the seventh wealthiest developed nation in the world by the early 20th century.
With a mainland surface area of 2,780,400 km2 (1,073,518 sq mi), Argentina is located in southern South America, sharing land borders with Chile across the Andes to the west; Bolivia and Paraguay to the north; Brazil to the northeast, Uruguay and the South Atlantic Oceanto the east; and the Drake Passage to the south; for an overall land border length of 9,376 km (5,826 mi). Its coastal border over theRío de la Plata and South Atlantic Ocean is 5,117 km (3,180 mi) long.
Argentina’s highest point is Aconcagua in the Mendoza province (6,959 m (22,831 ft) above sea level), also the highest point in theSouthern and Western Hemispheres. The lowest point is Laguna del Carbón in the San Julián Great Depression Santa Cruz province(−105 m (−344 ft) below sea level, also the lowest point in the Southern and Western Hemispheres, and the seventh lowest point on Earth)
The northernmost point is at the confluence of the Grande de San Juan and Río Mojinete rivers in Jujuy province; the southernmost is Cape San Pío in Tierra del Fuego province; the easternmost is northeast of Bernardo de Irigoyen, Misiones and the westernmost is within Los Glaciares National Park in Santa Cruz province. The maximum north–south distance is 3,694 km (2,295 mi), while the maximum east–west one is 1,423 km (884 mi).
Some of the major rivers are the Paraná, Uruguay—which join to form the Río de la Plata, Paraguay, Salado, Negro, Santa Cruz, Pilcomayo,Bermejo and Colorado. These rivers are discharged into the Argentine Sea, the shallow area of the Atlantic Ocean over the Argentine Shelf, an unusually wide continental platform. Its waters are influenced by two major ocean currents: the warm Brazil Current and the cold Falklands Current.
Argentina is divided into seven geographical regions:
- Northwest, a continuation of the high Puna with even higher, more rugged topography to the far-west; the arid precordillera, filled with narrow valleys or quebradas to the mid-west; and an extension of the mountainous Yungas jungles to the east.
- Mesopotamia, a subtropical wedge covering the western Paraná Plateau and neighbouring lowlands enclosed by the Paraná and Uruguay rivers.
- Gran Chaco, a large, subtropical and tropical low-lying, gently sloping alluvial plain between Mesopotamia and the Andes.
- Sierras Pampeanas, a series of medium-height mountain chains located in the center.
- Cuyo, a basin and range area in the central Andes piedmont, to the west.
- Pampas, a massive and hugely fertile alluvial plain located in the center east.
- Patagonia, a large southern plateau consisting mostly of arid, rocky steppes to the east; with moister cold grasslands to the south and dense subantarctic forests to the west.
The National Parks of Argentina make up a network of 33 national parks in Argentina. The parks cover a very varied set of terrains and biotopes, from Baritú National Park on the northern border with Bolivia to Tierra del Fuego National Park in the far south of the continent. The Administración de Parques Nacionales (National Parks Administration) is the agency that preserves and manages these national parks along with Natural monuments and National Reserves within the country.
The headquarters of the National Parks Service are in downtown Buenos Aires, on Santa Fe Avenue. A library and information centre are open to the public. The administration also covers the national monuments, such as the Jaramillo Petrified Forest, and natural and educational reserves.
The animal and plant life in Argentina is very impressive as many species are native to Argentina and many others made their ways to the country from nearby countries and regions in pre-historic times. The diverse landscape in the country encourages mountain, water, and plains animals to call the country home.
Among the mammals, there are numerous animals that live in both the mountains and elsewhere. The mountain mammals include some of South America’s most iconic animals, such as the alpaca, llama, and the vicuna (a camel species). However many more species exist both in the mountains as well as at lower elevations including deer, cougars (puma), foxes, tapirs, monkeys, beers, armadillos, opossums, sloths, rats, squirrels, mice, rabbits, bats, boars, anteaters, and even an occasional jaguar. Argentina is also home to additional rodents such as the capybaras, the coypu, and the chinchilla.
The mammalian life extends to reach off the coasts as well; sea lions, whales, and dolphins all live in the South Atlantic Ocean, but these waters are better known for the fish and shellfish that call is waters home. Sharks, grouper, barracuda, eels, and shrimp are all common. Argentina is also home to many freshwater fish in their lakes and rivers including trout, salmon, pike, catfish, and others.
Like the mammals, the bird life is quite diverse based upon the varied landscape as the country is home to all sorts of birds. Egrets, eagles, pelicans, herons, and condors all roam the coastal waters. Some of these birds also make their way inland and find many other birds such as partridges, parinas, huallatas, condors, coots, ducks, geese, sandpipers, finches, hummingbirds, wrens, owls, and even the Andean flamingo. One of the most famous of the birds in Argentina is the penguin, which lives in the far southern reaches of the country along the coasts.
The reptilian, amphibian, and insect life in Argentina is also diverse, but the variety of species is fairly limited. Many of these animals are spiders, including the tarantula and black widow, and snakes, including the rattlesnake. In or near some of the warmer water rivers and lakes the amphibian population spikes a bit as a number of frogs and lizards are present. The number of insects is quite substantial, including flies, mosquitos, beetles, moths, butterflies, ants, and more.
When it comes to native plant life, South America is home to many famous edible plants and these plants quickly spread throughout Argentina, South America, and beyond. The pineapple is from the region whereBrazil and Uruguay meet while potatoes and tobacco originated in the Andes Mountains. A few others, including cacao trees (used to make chocolate), peanuts, and tomatoes are also from South America, although their actual origin is unknown. Peppers, both sweet and hot peppers are from Central America or northern South America while vanilla, avocado, papaya, and corn (maize) are likely from Central America itself. No matter each food’s origin, what is known is that these foods spread throughout the continent and to the country of Argentina with the help of pre-historic people, animals, and winds. These people have had these foods for nearly as long as people have inhabited the region and each makes an important part of the people’s diet and culture now and for thousands of years into the past.
More than these well-known plants, Argentina is home to many other trees and plants. Pine trees, eucalyptus trees, carob trees, cedar trees, quebracho tree, and cypress trees are all common.