To start things off, I thought I’d summarize the most important things I’ve learned about Argentina during the hours upon hours of blissful (ahem, boring) free time that I’ve had these past two weeks.
Just the basics:
- Capital: Buenos Aires (the city is sort of like Washington D.C. in that it’s an autonomous city within the province of Buenos Aires)
- Total Country Population: 40 million
- Buenos Aires Population: 3 million
- Provinces: 23
- Major Religion: Roman Catholic
And now for some politics:
- President: Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (elected in 2007; re-elected in 2011), Peronist party. Kirchner is the widow of Néstor Kirchner, who was President from 2003 – 2007.
- Major political parties: Peronist, Radical Civil Union
- Presidential elections are held every four years, and a candidate can only hold the office for two consecutive terms; however, after an interval of at least one term, a candidate can run again.
- The National Congress has two houses, which are structured similarly to those of the US Congress.
- One third of the seats in each house of Congress are reserved for women.
- Voting is mandatory for everyone 18 – 70 years old, and optional for those over 70.
You can never ignore the history…
- 1816: Argentina becomes independent from Spain
- 1943: Military coup
- 1946: Juan Perón, a leader of the military coup, becomes president. His wife, Eva (or Evita, as she is known), is adored by the people.
- 1952: Evita dies. (Side note: festivities celebrating the 60th anniversary of her death will be held this July while I’m in Buenos Aires — should be exciting!) (Side-side note: if you happen to watch the movie or play Evita, beware! The song “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” is rather catchy and may be stuck in your head for days.)
- 1976-1983: Military dictatorship, under which thousands of people disappear (los desaparecidos) during the “Dirty War” (“el proceso”).
- 1982: Argentina is defeated by Great Britain in a war to reclaim the Falkland Islands from English rule.
- 2001-2002: Financial panic, which leads to the end of peso-dollar parity
…Or the economics:
- The Argentine currency is the peso. Parity between the peso and the US dollar was established in 1992 and abandoned ten years later.
- Since 2008, inflation has been a major issue in the country, and the current exchange rate is about 4.47 pesos per dollar.
In case you were wondering:
- Buenos Aires has been called the “Paris of South America” for its strong European atmosphere and heritage.
- As Argentina is in the southern hemisphere, its seasons are reversed, which means that I’ll actually be there during their winter. Not to worry, there won’t be any snow, and average temperatures will be in the 50s; in terms of latitude relative to the equator, Buenos Aires is comparable to Atlanta.
- Gay marriage was legalized in Argentina in 2010.
- Argentina’s Jewish population of 250,000 is the largest in Latin America.
- In 1974, when Isabel Martínez de Perón assumed the presidency (that is, she wasn’t elected) after the death of her husband, Juan Perón (he re-married after Evita’s death), Argentina became the first country in the Western hemisphere to have a non-royal female leader.
- Argentina is one hour ahead of the east coast.
- The country is famous for its beef, wine, and tango dancing.
- Argentina is the 8th largest country in the world by land-size.
- Iguazu Falls is one of Argentina’s most recognizable natural wonders, and is located on the border between Argentina and Brazil (more specifically, on the northern edge of the part of Argentina that juts east into Brazil).