Sunday, May 6, 2012

ARGENTINA: THE LAND AND THE PEOPLE


When I realized I was doing Argentina this week, the first thing that ran through my mind was “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina.” Of course I know there’s got to be more to Argentina than one piece of history brought to us by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Located in the southern part of South America, it’s the second largest country on the continent (after Brazil). In fact, it’s the eighth largest country in the world, when it comes to area.  The land itself is as diverse as its people. The Andes mountains (not to be confused with Andes Mints. Mmm…) border the western side of the country, while there are rich fertile plains in the northern part of the country, called The Pampas. They are subject to some volcanic activity along the mountainside border with Chile as well as earthquakes. 

The Pampas
 While the official language is Spanish, as with most of South America, there are several other languages that have large numbers of speakers who live in Argentina. You’ll also find pockets of Arabic, German, Guaraní, English, French, and Brazilian-Portuguese spoken here as well.  

Rio de la Plata
Located on the Atlantic Ocean side in the Rio de la Plata, the capital Buenos Aires has almost 13 million people in it. It’s one of the largest metropolitan areas in South America, bringing a lot of diversity to the area. Roughly 92% of Argentines identify themselves as Roman Catholic, but less than 20% are actually practicing. Having access to clean water, sanitation, and medical supplies are contributing factors to why most Argentines have a fairly long life expectancy.  (Although there are some risks for communicable diseases in the poorer and/or less urbanized areas, of course.)

The name Argentina itself comes from the fact that Spanish explorers were following a rumor there were large silver deposits in the mountains, for which there were none found in the area where they landed. The Latin word for silver was argentum.  (In fact in French, also based from Latin, the word for both silver and money is the word argent.) I think this is hilarious in a sort of anti-climactic way. The capital Buenos Aires roughly means “fair winds” after the long form of the city name that was named after the patron saint of Sardinia: Ciudad de la Santísima Trinidad y Puerto de Santa María del Buen Aire. I can understand why they’d just call it Buenos Aires. Mostly because it saves in ink on government forms, I imagine. 
Buenos Aires, Argentina
 A lot of Argentine culture has been heavily influenced by other European and American cultures, but it has also mixed with the local peoples and its own history to create its own unique culture. As we take a look at Argentine cultural arts, you can definitely see how it may be similar to others but yet it is definitely, indubitably all Argentina.

Next up: Holidays and Celebrations

Resources:
Wikipedia: “Argentina” “Buenos Aires” “Etymology of Country Names” “Etymology of Argentina”
CIA World Factbook: Argentina

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