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6-10-2015, 09:05

Situating the Nation

Argentina, or the Argentine Republic, borders Bolivia and Paraguay in the north, Brazil and Uruguay in the east, and Chile in the west. Argentina occupies an area of 766,889 square kilometers (sq km) (1,068,302 square miles), making it the second largest South American country behind Brazil. Its length from north to south is about 3,330 km, and at its widest it spans about 1,384 km. Argentina, however, claims a total of 2,808,602 sq km (1,084,120 square miles), including the Falkland Islands, or Islas Malvinas, and some other southern Atlantic islands, as well as part of Antarctica. Argentina’s capital is Buenos Aires with a population of approximately 12 million in its metropolitan area. hat includes the autonomous capital city and its urban extensions.

He country declared itself formally independent from Spain in 1816. However, it was not a united country for decades after its independence. he Argentinean rural northwest, for example, resisted Buenos Aires’s attempt to control power, setting the background for a delicate interplay of political identities, trade interests, and interventions from world powers in the process of national independence. In 1806 and 1807, the Buenos Aires estancieros (landlords) and comer-ciantes (merchants) had to repel a number of British invasions without any military aid from Spain. he portenos (the people of the port city) developed a certain sense of self-reliance and autonomy from Spain. After the Napoleonic invasions of the Iberian Peninsula and as a result of the changing status of Buenos Aires vis-a-vis the Spanish Crown, the portenos took advantage of the crisis in Spain and strove to emancipate from Spain. In 1809 the comerciantes and estancieros forced the kingless viceroy in Buenos Aires to grant free trade to the inhabitants of the region. New economic interests would thus have an open door to trade freely with England. his move amounted to a dismantling of mercantilism and a de facto economic, if not political, independence. Soon thereafter, the struggle for political independence began.

It is not strange, therefore, that at the early period of the independence process the estanciero-comerciante alliance favored independence, for they wanted to expand their economic base and their trade with Europe. However, what must

Be stressed is that this alliance between the rural and the bourgeois parts of society did not prevent clashes of interests among different regions of the country. he rural interior, for example, was protectionist, with no interest in free trade, for the interior of the country did not sell much to Europe and didn’t buy anything from it. Land was used basically as a means to economic and political power. Nonetheless, both the interior and the metropolitan bourgeois classes aspired to emancipate from Spain. While the portenos were free traders who used the language of liberalism to rationalize their own self-interest, the rural caudillos (local magnates) of the interior supported independence because they wanted more political autonomy. However, the war of independence was not even over before conflict broke out between the interior and the littoral regions. he reasons for this conflict were that, with independence, the estancieros and comerciantes controlling the government opened all of Argentina to free trade (with the support of the English government and foreign capitalists). Salted meat exports increased rapidly from 1810 to 1820, and British manufactured goods entered the country. When imported foreign goods entered the interior of the country, however, the manufacturing businesses concentrated there were devastated. Indeed, the handicrafts of the interior could not compete with the cheap European products. Overall, the interior of the country wanted to protect their internal market. Because the rural “interior” areas relied upon protectionism and self-sufficiency, therefore, their interests demanded the political creation of a federal nation-state.

Two political/economic positions emerged: that of the Unitarios versus that of the Federales. he Unitarios wanted a unifled nation-state without provincial autonomy. hey supported central control from Buenos Aires and emphasized free trade. hey presented themselves as political “liberals" and used the terminology of democracy and rationalism. he Federales, on the other hand, were for a federalized nation-state, without central control and with provincial autonomy. hese two divisions based upon different economic interests would later expand their political and economic contest into one that encompassed culture as well.