Argentina can fairly be described as “up and coming”…again. Once one of the wealthiest countries in the world, Argentina suffered economic disruption and political instability after the Great Depression that lasted into the early 21st century. Recently, however, the economy is growing and they are on a path toward international integration under the leadership of President Mauricio Macri. Join Active Minds as we review Argentina’s history, culture, current status, and future prospects.

Key Lecture Points

  • Argentina is the second largest country and the second largest market in South America.
  • Settled by Spain in the 16th century, Argentina received little attention in the early days because of its remote location and lack of silver or gold. Led by Jose de San Martin, Argentina declared its independence in 1816. The decades after independence were marked by turmoil, attempted foreign intervention and civil war between centralist and federalist factions.
  • The late 19th century saw a wave of European immigrants, mainly from Italy and Spain. Liberal immigration and economic policies made Argentina one of the richest countries in the world by the turn of the century.
  • Juan Peron emerged as the strongman of the postwar period. He became president in 1946, greatly aided by the popularity of his wife, Evita. After her death in 1952, his popularity declined and he was ousted by a military coup in 1955. He went into exile, returning to Argentina in 1973. Elected president again, he was in office only 9 months when he died in 1974. His third wife, Isabel, as vice president, succeeded him.
  • The country was on the brink of political and economic collapse when the military removed Isabel Peron and began a brutal seven-year military regime. It is estimated as many as 30,000 Argentinians, suspected of subversion, were killed or disappeared during this time.  The so-called Dirty War still haunts Argentinians.
  • After Argentina’s humiliating defeat in the Falklands War, democracy returned to the country in 1983. The next governments saw recurring economic crises. By the end of 2001, the economy was again on the verge of collapse. Argentina defaulted on its $155 billion foreign debts payments.
  • 2003 Nestor Kirchner was elected president, followed in 2007 by his wife, Cristina Kirchner. The Kirchner years were marked by extensive public spending and isolation from the international economic community.
  • Mauricio Macri was elected president in 2015. A market friendly centralist, he has embarked on an extensive program of economic reforms. His major challenge is producing sufficient economic improvements before the October 2017 midterm elections.
  • Argentina has a rich culture that includes the traditions of the iconic gauchos and the tango, the country’s most famous art form.

Exploration Questions

  • What are the key themes in Argentine history and how are they reflected in current political and economic events?
  • How does Argentina differ from other Latin American countries?

Reflective Questions

  • Do you think Macri will be able to turn around the economy?  Why or why not?
  • Have you ever been to Argentina?  What made it unique from other countries you may have visited in Latin America?

More to Explore

For Further Reading

  • Hernandez, Jose. The Gaucho Martin Fierro. Createspace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016. 96 pages. Written in the late 19th century, this epic poem was a social protest against the economic changes happening on the pampas that threatened the survival of the Gaucho life style, traditions and values.
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  • Finchelstein, Federico. The Ideological Origins of the Dirty War. Oxford University Press, USA, 2017. 232 pages. The author traces the central role fascism has played in Argentine political history during the 20th century, and how it led to the destruction of the rule of law during the Dirty War.
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  • Borges, Jorge Luis, Donald A. Yates (editor), James E. Irby (editor). Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings. New Directions Publishing Corporation, 2007. 256 pages. This book provides an English translation of the original text of Borges’ short story collection plus a biographical and critical essay and a chronology of the author’s life.
    Click here to order