Argentine Republic, or Argentina, a federal republic of South America, taking its name from the river La Plata ('River of Silver'). It has an area of 1,125,086 sq. m., including the unsettled territories on the north and the south, but the organised and settled provinces occupy less than one-half this area. The whole country is more than ten times larger than Great Britain and Ireland taken together. The republic is made up of fourteen provinces and a number of territories. On the west, the Andes divide this republic from Chili; Bolivia bounds the country on the north, while Paraguay, Brazil, Uruguay, and the Atlantic Ocean form the eastern limit. The great island-group of Fuegia, on the south, belongs partly to this republic and partly to Chili.
Except for the sub-Andean foot-hills, and a few other local and unimportant hilly or mountainous tracts, nearly all the country consists of vast plains or pampas. The northern plain region (the Chaco) is in part densely wooded; but most of the Pampas country is open, presenting wide ranges of treeless pasture, varied by patches of huge thistles and other coarse plants. In the Patagonian region there are extensive districts completely covered with stones and shingle, interspersed with clumps of thorny brushwood, and having in the hollows many strongly saline ponds or lakes.
The climate in the extreme north is very hot, for it lies north of the tropic of Capricorn. The more remote southern territories have an extremely bleak, windy, and disagreeable climate, but are not really so cold as might be expected from their relatively high latitude. But the country in general enjoys an equable, temperate, and healthful climate. The people of the country are mostly Spanish in their language and descent, although there are many Italians, French, and other European immigrants. The Gauchos, or herdsmen of the plains, are a hardy and spirited, but ignorant race, often of partial Indian descent. Some of the Indians of the remote districts have become skilled in the rearing of flocks and herds. Agriculture has of late been rapidly extended. Wheat, maize, flax, and linseed are exported; but the chief staples of export are skins, hides, hair, bones, bone-ashes, horns, phosphorus, ostrich-feathers, wool, tallow, dried and salt beef, beef-extract, fresh meat (frozen), and live animals. The greater part of the republic is well watered and highly fertile, but there are extensive regions of waste land. Sugar-culture thrives in the NW. and north. Wines, spirits, and dried fruits are extensively produced; a valuable product of the north is mate, or Paraguay tea. The rivers Parana and Uruguay, with their large tributaries, are important channels of trade. The mineral resources of the country are comparatively undeveloped. The principal seaport is Buenos Ayres, the capital and largest city. Among the other large towns are Cordoba, Rosario, La Plata, Men-doza, Tucuman, Corrientes, Salta, and Santa Fe. The commerce of the country(imports £25,000,000; exports £36,000,000) is mainly with Great Britain, Germany, the United States, and France.
The population of the country in 1869 was 1,736,922; in 1902 it was officially estimated at 5,025,000 (45 to the sq. m.), of whom 500,000 were of Italian birth, 200,000 Spanish (very many of them Basques), 95,000 French, 22,000 English, 18,000 German, and 15,000 Swiss. Much of the increase is due to immigration (from 60,000 to 90,000 annually). The religion is Roman Catholic. The government is closely modelled upon that of the United States. In 1892 the length of railway lines open for traffic was 7140 miles, with a projected extension across the Andes to meet the Chilian railways. The river La Plata was visited by the Spaniards in 1516, and the country was colonised in 1535. In 1810 the colonists founded a local provisional government. A sanguinary war for independence followed, which did not cease till 1824. Spain acknowledged the independence of the country in 1842. Since 1890 financial troubles and political turmoil have seriously injured the well-being of what was long the best governed and most prosperous of South American states.
See Mulhall, Handbook of the River Plate (1884); M. F. Paz Soldan, Geografia Argentina (1885); Lady F. Dixie, Across Patagonia (1880); Rum-bold, The Great Silver River (2d ed. 1890); Turner, Argentina and the Argentines (1892); Hudson, The Naturalist in La Plata; and the recent British and American Consular Reports.