When most of us think of Argentina, our minds flood with images of juicy steaks, twirling tangos and packed out football stadiums. However, there is so much more to Argentina than clichés (although we’ll never say no to an asado)!
For example, did you know that Argentina produced the world’s first animated film? Us neither! This list of facts about Argentina will keep you clued up and also make you realise why you NEED to visit this amazing country!
So without further ado, here are our favourite facts about Argentina!
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22 Amazing Facts About Argentina
1. Argentina produced the world’s first animated feature film in 1917
Move over Disney, there’s another legendary animator that few of us have even heard of! The first feature-length cartoon was made by Quirino Cristiani in 1917. The 70-minute film El Apóstol told the story of high levels of corruption and immorality in Argentina at the time.
Cristiani said he was inspired to make the movie after a meeting with Walt Disney himself during his tour of Latin America.
The movie was made using cutout animation and it was generally well-received. However, its time in the world was short-lived because it was lost in an apartment fire in 1928.
2. Yerba Mate is the most popular drink in Argentina
When it comes to famous South American drinks, you’ll be hard pushed to find something more iconic than yerba mate. If you visit Argentina, you’ll constantly see people sipping this caffeine-infused drink through a metal straw known as a bombilla.
Dubbed as the national drink, the Argentinians are crazy about mate and even have an annual day of celebration in its honour on 30th November! More than just an energising beverage, Argentinians have incorporated mate drinking into their social scene and the drink is passed around between friends.
Unfortunately for visitors to the country, there are a lot of rules surrounding the etiquette of mate drinking. They can be a struggle to get your head around so make sure you have a read of our article on yerba mate to make sure you know how to blend in with the locals.
3. Argentina is home to both the highest and lowest points of the Southern Hemisphere
As you’ll already know if you have visited anywhere in South America already, the continent is the home of extremes and Argentina is no different!
Mount Aconcagua, located in Mendoza, marks the highest point of the Southern Hemisphere, with a peak of 6,962 metres. The mountain is one of the Seven Summits of the seven continents. The first recorded ascent of Aconcagua took place in 1897 and was led by the famous British mountaineer Edward FitzGerald.
In contrast, the lowest point of the Southern Hemisphere is Laguna del Carbon, a salt lake that sits in the Santa Cruz province. Translating to ‘coal lagoon’, this basin sits 105 metres below sea level and is also the seventh-lowest point on the planet.
4. The capital of Argentina Buenos Aires translates to the ‘good airs’ or ‘fair winds’
As you’d expect, there has been plenty of conversation about how Buenos Aires got its name but the consensus indicates that it came from the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century.
One of these men, Pedro de Mendoza, was responsible for establishing and naming the port town of Buenos Aires. He was a devotee of Santa Maria del Buen Ayre, The Virgin Mary of Good Air. This particular arm of catholicism has its roots on the Italian island of Sardinia. Here a statue of the Virgin Mary sits atop a tall hill. It is reported that during the 14th century, this hilltop was the only place to escape the smell of the swamps below. Hence the name, ‘Good Air’.
A few years after the statue of the Virgin Mary was placed atop the hill, a new legend emerged. It is said that she was washed up during a huge storm and that the statue itself protected the Sardinians from the storm. Now the term ‘fair winds’ is also used interchangeably with “good air”.
Being such a devoted follower of Santa Maria del Buen Ayre, Pedro de Mendoza named the port town in her honour. Modern-day Buenos Aires is actually a different settlement to the one originally established by Pedro de Mendoza but it still uses the same name.
5. Argentina is the King of Beef but this is changing
Beef is an integral part of Argentinian cuisine and the country is littered with steakhouses (locally known as parrillas) just waiting to serve you up a juicy slab of meat. Argentine beef has become so famous that it is served the world over, known for its tenderness.
Asados (likely known to you as barbecues) are vitally important to Argentine culture and offer a chance for family and friends to catch up over dinner. As well as beef featuring on the grill, you are also likely to see ribs, pork and chicken.
Annual consumption of beef across the country in 2020 worked out to be 49.7 kilograms per person and whilst this looks excessive, it is actually a historic low for the country. This could be due in part to the COVID-19 crisis which priced those on lower incomes out of the meat market but also dietary changes in relation to the climate crisis. The highest beef consumption recorded in Argentina was in 1956, where it hit 100.8 kilograms per person. Jeez, that’s a lot of meat!
6. The Argentinian flag is blue and white triband, with a yellow sun in the centre
The flag was adopted in 1812, four years before Argentina won its independence from Spain. It is a light blue and white triband, the colours of which were chosen by the leader of the Argentine revolution, Manual Belgrano.
It represents the parting of a blue sky to reveal white clouds. Legend has it that this is what happened when a liberation demonstration occurred in Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires in 1810. The country celebrates the history of their flag annually on 20th June, the anniversary of Belgrano’s passing.
The yellow sun which features on the centre of the flag is known as the ‘Sun of May’ which represents the Incan god of the sun, Inti. The May part of the name refers to the May Revolution in 1810 which marked the start of the independence movement from the Spanish Empire.
7. Argentina’s most famous freedom fighter Che Guevara’s name was actually Ernesto Guevara
As a child, Che was familiar with being called Ernestito (meaning ‘Little Ernest’). However, once he was older, he earned his name Che because of his frequent use of the expression. This Argentine injection means ‘mate’ or ‘man’ in local Spanish. It is also used in Uruguay and parts of Brazil.
8. Government officials banned parents from naming their children Messi in the football star’s hometown
It is pretty much impossible to talk about Argentina and not mention football. After all, Argentina are regular World Cup contenders (having won the tournament twice) and have also produced some of the world’s best footballers.
Legendary sportsman Lionel Messi has inspired millions across the world and nowhere more so than in his hometown of Rosario in Argentina. After resident Héctor Varela named his son after the soccer star, government officials banned parents from naming their children after Messi, worrying about confusion later down the line if the name was to become too fashionable.
9. Gauchos are Argentine cowboys
When you think back to Argentina in the 18th and 19th centuries, romanticised images of rugged horsemen are likely to spring to mind. These nomadic cowboys (known as gauchos) have become a symbol of the country and stories about their escapades have long been woven into literature and folklore.
Gauchos are known for their bravery and also their distinctive dress which is still worn today. Perhaps the most notable part of this costume is the woollen poncho which makes a great travel souvenir!
Nowadays, the term gaucho refers to anybody who lives rurally (usually on an estancia) and has experience with traditional livestock tasks. If you’d like to find out more about the lives of gauchos, it is possible to book a trip to one of the traditional ranches outside of Buenos Aires.
10. Argentina is the home of Tango
Arguably one of the most famous Latin American dances, the tango is known for its passion and intensity. The dance originated in the capital Buenos Aires during the 19th century and was originally performed in the poor areas of the docklands. As such, many Porteños looked down upon the dance, believing it to be lowly and unsavoury.
This eventually changed though and tango went global, becoming a cultural phenomenon widely synonymous with Argentina. There are numerous places across the country to watch the Argentine tango. El Beso and Piazzolla Tango are two of the most popular options. If you’d prefer to cut a few shapes of your own, there is also the option to book a few lessons!
11. Pato is the national sport of Argentina
It might be soccer that springs to mind when you first think of sports in Argentina but astonishingly, pato became the national sport of Argentina in 1953.
Upon first glance, this sport looks a little bourgeoisie… it is played on horseback after all! However, it actually has a long history in the gaucho community. It combines a combination of skills, taken from polo and basketball.
Although a ball is used in games today, originally, this would have been a live duck placed inside a basket. This is how the game got its name because, in Spanish, duck translates to pato. The game has been banned several times, both because of its barbaric nature (as you can imagine, the ducks didn’t have a great time) and also because many gauchos were injured or even trampled to death.
12. 97% of Argentinians have European roots
“Italians who speak Spanish and think they’re British living in Paris…” That is how the Argentinians were once described. It sort of makes sense though when you look at their heritage.
Of the 97% of Argentinians who have European heritage, the vast majority of them descend from Spaniards or Italians. This is because of the Spanish colonisation of Argentina and the mass immigration from Europe which began around the mid 19th century.
13. The name Argentina, derives from the Latin word for silver
Argentum is the Latin word for silver and it is from this, that the country adopted its name. It is believed that this name was chosen due to the history of the European conquerors coming to South America in order to mine the precious metal that they had heard so much about. Although there are countries across the continent that are home to more silver than Argentina, they still get their fair share!
14. The remains of the largest known dinosaur were discovered in Argentina
In 2008, the remains of a Patagotitan mayorum were stumbled upon by a Patagonian farm worker. The dinosaur, which at the time was the largest ever discovered, was thought to have lived during the late Cretaceous period.
However, since the discovery of Patagotian mayorum in 2008, further remains were unearthed in the Neuqueén Province, Argentina in 2012. According to Live Science, the remains have still not been completely unearthed. However, the bones that have been excavated point to this being the largest dinosaur ever discovered on earth.
Scientists suspect that this dinosaur was probably a titanosaur, the largest of the sauropods. They were plant-eaters with long necks and were believed to have lived during the late Jurassic period to the end of the Cretaceous period.
15. Pope Francis used to work as a nightclub bouncer in Buenos Aires
The first-ever pope to be born in the Americas was Pope Francis, a Porteño born to Italian parents. After his appointment to the highest position within the Catholic Church, interest in his personal life started to grow which led to the revelation that he had previously worked as a nightclub bouncer in his home city of Buenos Aires.
16. Football legend Maradona has inspired a religion
When it comes to godlike figures in Argentina, Maradona sits right up there next to the Virgin Mary and the Pope. Most known for his ‘Hand of God’ goal against England in the 1986 World Cup, Maradona’s mad football skills inspired such wonder that a church and religion has been created in his name.
The church, located in the city of Rosario, was opened in 1998 by a small collection of Maradona fans. The religion has been well thought out and it even has its own set of 10 Commandments, including: “Name your first son Diego” and “The ball is never soiled”.
Although it may seem like a parody on the surface, the Church of Maradona has over 120,000 members according to The Guardian and devotees can even get baptised at the church. Followers of the Maradonian Church have abandoned traditional year notation such as BC and AD and instead use d. D. Supporters count the years from Maradona’s birth, meaning the d. D. stands for después de Diego (after Diego).
In the Maradonian Church, their hero is referred to as D10S. This is a fusion of the Spanish for God (Dios) and the number 10, which Maradona famously sported on his football shirt.
17. Argentina sent a pregnant woman to Antarctica in 1977 to try and stake claim to a part of the continent
It sounds wild but it is true… in 1977, Argentinian officials sent pregnant woman Silvia Morella de Palma to Antarctica so that they could claim ownership of some of the continent.
At the time of her journey, Silvia was seven months pregnant and her son Emilio Marcos Palma was born on January 7th 1978. He was the first person ever born in Antarctica.
Despite Argentina’s cunning plan, the claimed territory of ‘Argentine Antarctica’ is not recognised by the rest of the world.
18. Argentina went through five Presidents in just ten days
During the Argentine economic crisis in 2001, the country experienced one of its darkest times. Bank accounts needed to be frozen and the Argentine peso plummeted in value.
As a result, the people of Argentina went into revolt. Violent protests took place all over the country and sadly, numerous people were killed. In response to this unrest, the president at the time resigned.
From this point onwards, there was much political instability and a further four presidents took over the role in the subsequent 10 days following the resignation of President Fernando de la Rua.
19. The Falklands War was never an official war
Most of us will have heard of the Falklands War, the conflict between Britain and Argentina over ownership of the Falkland Islands. On April 2nd 1982, Argentina invaded the British territory, before taking the neighbouring island of South Georgia.
Despite action from both sides, neither country proclaimed a state of war so although the conflict raged on for 74 days, it officially remained an ‘undeclared war’. The controversy regarding the governance of the Falkland Islands lives on, as echoed in our comments section.
20. Previously, Britain had helped to make Argentina one of the richest countries in the world
Anglo-Argentinean relations weren’t always bad. In the early 20th century, Britain helped Argentina to achieve its wealthy status. Investors and migrants built the country’s railways, started the first football club and even opened the first and only Harrods department store outside the UK in 1912.
By 1913, Argentina had a higher income per capita than Germany, France, Italy and Spain. In fact, on this basis, it was nearly as rich as Canada!
21. Argentina has had two female presidents
Surprisingly, the first of these, Isabel Martínez de Perón wasn’t technically elected. After serving as First Lady, she temporarily filled the post after her husband Juan Domingo Perón’s death whilst still in office in 1974.
Isabel held the position of president for two years, however, during this time the government took control of the country, placed her under house arrest and eventually exiled her to Spain. Although things could have ended better for Isabel, she still retains the record for being the first woman to have had the “President” title.
Argentina’s second female president and the first that the people elected is Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Previously a lawyer, she served as the President of Argentina from 2007-2015.
22. The first-ever use of fingerprinting for identification occurred in Argentina in 1892
When the children of Argentine Francesca Rojas’ were found stabbed to death in their home, their mother told police she thought the murderer may be a man whose advances she had earlier rejected. The man in question was arrested and continually tortured for his confession, however, he maintained his innocence.
Juan Vucetich, who was in charge of criminal identification, proposed using a radical new technique to source more information from the crime scene. After discovering that a bloody fingerprint could not have belonged to the accused man and looked instead to be from Rojas herself, the police returned to interrogate her and she shortly confessed. She had murdered her children in an attempt to facilitate marriage with her lover, who hated them.
This early use of fingerprinting was the catalyst for a period of rapid forensic discovery which still aids investigators to this day.
Got any more facts about Argentina for our list? Let us know in the comments or in our Facebook community!