New Advent
 Home   Encyclopedia   Summa   Fathers   Bible   Library 
 A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z 
New Advent
Home > Catholic Encyclopedia > A > Argentina


Please help support the mission of New Advent and get the full contents of this website as an instant download. Includes the Catholic Encyclopedia, Church Fathers, Summa, Bible and more — all for only $19.99...

(Argentine Republic).

A South American confederation of fourteen provinces, or States, united by a federal Constitution framed on the same lines as the Constitution of the United States of America. The provinces are: Buenos Aires, Santa Fé, Entre Ríos, Corrientes, Córdoba, San Luis, Santiago del Estero, Mendoza, San Juan, La Rioja, Catamarca, Tucumán, Salta, and Jujuy. Each one has its own constitution, and its own autonomic government. The federal constitution was promulgated 25 September, 1860. The official name of the union, under the federal constitution, is "The Argentine Nation". In addition to the fourteen commonwealths constituting the union, there are fourteen "national territories", depending upon the federal executive, the government of which is entrusted to governors appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. These territories are called Misiones, Formosa, Chaco, Los Andes, La Pampa, Neuquén, Río Negro, Chubut, Santa Cruz, and Tierra del Fuego. There is also, and this completes the similarity between the Argentine and the American union, a "federal district", namely the city of Buenos Aires, which is also the capital of the state of the same name.

Geographical situation, area, population

The Argentine Republic is situated in the southeastern part of South America and is bounded on the north by Bolivia, Paraguay, and Brazil; on the east by Paraguay, Brazil, Uruguay, the River Plata, and the Atlantic Ocean; on the south by Chile and the Atlantic Ocean; and on the west by Chile, from which it is separated by the Cordillera de los Andes. Nearly all its area, roughly estimated by 3,000,000 square kilometers (about 1,175,000 square miles) is included between 21°30' South latitude and 54°52' South latitude. With the exception of a small strip of land on the north, which is in the tropics, the entire country is within the temperate zone. From east to west the country lies between 52° and 74° West longitude.

According to the last official census, which was taken 10 May, 1895, the total population of the Republic was 3,945,911, distributed as follows: Argentines, 2,950,384; foreigners, 1,004,527. The male population was given as 2,088,919; the female as 1,865,992. Of the foreign population, 492,636 were Italians, 198,685 Spaniards; 94,098 French; 91,167 Spanish Americans (Bolivians, Chileans, Uruguayans and Paraguayans); 24,725 Brazilians; 21,788 British; 17,142 Germans; 12,803 Austrians; and 1,381 citizens of the United states of America. Foreign immigration to the Argentine republic between 1807 and 1903 was as follows:

The immigration in 1903 was:


The territory of the Argentine republic was originally inhabited by Indians tribes of fierce disposition who were "reduced" to civilization through the Catholic religion. The missions founded in these regions were called "Reducciones" (reductions) by the Spaniards to convey the idea that these establishments were intended to tame the wild spirit of the savages and "reduce" them to a spirit of relative civilization. The first Spanish establishment in the region of the Río de la Plata, or Plate River, was the fort called La Sancti Spiritus, erected by Sebastian Cabot, a Venetian in the service of Spain, and son of John Cabot the celebrated navigator who cruised along the eastern coast of North America. This fort was erected in 1526 at the confluence of the Paraná and Carcaraña Rivers, and was garrisoned with 170 men. Four years later it was destroyed by Timbú Indians who killed the men, carried away the women and children, and burned all the buildings. Together with the report of his trip to these regions Cabot forwarded to Spain some silver jewels which the Guarani Indians had presented to him; whence comes the name Río de la Plata (River of Silver) given to the stream through the mistaken idea that silver mines abounded on its banks. In 1535 Don Pedro de Mendoza, a Spanish general in the service of Charles V, came with a powerful expedition consisting of 14 ships and 2,000 soldiers, and on 6 January laid the foundations of a city which he called Santa Maria de Buenos Aires. Some time afterward this settlement was attacked and partially destroyed by the Indians. The work of rebuilding it was begun 15 June, 1850, by Don Juan de Garay. The city of La Asunción, now the capital of Paraguay, was founded by Juan de Ayikas, a lieutenant of Mendoza, 15 August, 1536. Under the rule of Hernando Arias de Saavedra, generally called Hernandarias, who was born on Argentine soil and had been elected governor by the settlers, the Jesuits were called the civilize the Indians. The first Fathers landed at Salta in 1586, and established a college at Córdoba, from which they sent missionaries to all parts of the Argentine territory. Fathers Montoya and Cataldino went to Paraguay and settled, in 1610, La Asunción. Seven years after the landing of the Jesuit Fathers, over 100,000 Indians had been congregated in four different towns and were engaged in agricultural pursuits and useful arts and trades. They built houses, hospitals, and asylums; learned to read and write, and became acquainted with painting, sculpture, and music. Even at this early date they had established a printing office with type made by themselves. In the course of time, this work of civilization was greatly extended. The "Geografía Argentina" of Señores Urien and Colombo says that in or about 1631 there was not less than thirty centers of population under the rule of the Jesuits. Each town had a curate who was at the same time the governor, the judge, and the spiritual advisor of the inhabitants. But the expulsion of the Jesuits from the Spanish dominions by the Government of Charles III put an end to this prosperous condition. The expulsion took place in Buenos Aires, 3 July, 1767. Governor Don Francisco de Paula Bucarelli was the official entrusted with the execution of the disastrous measure. On 1 August, 1776, the Government of Spain decided to establish what it called the vice-royalty of the River Plate, under Don Pedro de Zeballos, the first viceroy. The last viceroy was Don Baltasar Hidalgo de Cisneros (1809). The revolutionary movemnet which ended in the independence of the country, began in the Argentine territory, as everywhere else in South America, in 1808, at the time of the imprisonment of King Ferdinand by Napoleon. The formal declaration of independence was made 9 July, 1816. In 1853, after the country had passed through the ordeals of several civil wars, a war with Brazil, and the Rosas dictatorship, the federal Constitution which is now in force (amended in 1860) was framed and promulgated. Since then the Argentina has developed and prospered rapidly.

Sources of wealth

The most important factors in the wealth and prosperity of the Argentine Republic may be grouped under three heads: agriculture and agricultural industries, cattle-raising and its cognate operations, and commerce. The chief agricultural pursuits are the cultivation of wheat, maize, linseed, alfalfa, sugar cane, tobacco, and grapes. The whole area of cultivation in 1904 was estimated conservatively at 7,500,000 hectares, or 18,750,000 acres (Urien and Columbo, "Geografica Argentina," Buenos Aires, 1905). According to the official information of 1901, the area of cultivation of the different projects was as follows:

Wheat — 8,449,372
Maize — 3,638,365
Alfalfa — 3,125,000
Linseed — 1,530,000
Tobacco — 131,740
Sugar cane — 115,000
Grapes — 110,825

The agricultural industries are chiefly the manufacture of flour, sugar, cigars, wines, spirits, and ales. The exportation of flour in 1901 represented a total of 71,742 tons, estimated at $2,711,208 in gold. Cattle-raising and its cognate industries constitute the most lucrative business of the Argentine Republic. Nature has endowed Argentina with advantages for agricultural and pastoral farming hardly to be found in any other country of the world.

Shipping and navigation

In 1902, the registered shipping consisted of 101 steamers of 37,700 tons and 151 sailing vessels of 38,071 tons; total, 252 of 76,841 tons. In 1904 the number of ocean-going vessels which entered the port of Buenos Aires was 2,072, with an aggregate tonnage of 3,896,197 tons, as against 1,842 of 3,461,208 tons in 1903.

The Catholic Church in Argentina

Public status of the Church

Under the second article of the federal Constitution, "the Federal Government supports the Roman Catholic Apostolic Religion". According to the last complete, official national census, referred to above, of every thousand inhabitants of the country there were 991 Catholics, 2 Jews, and 7 Protestants and dissenters of whatever kind. The total population (3,954,911) is distributed as follows: native Catholic population, 2,944,397, of whom 1,449,793 are male and 1,494,604 female; foreign Catholic population, 976,739, divided into 617,470 males and 259,269 females. The total Catholic population is 3,921,136. The non-Catholic population included 26,750 Protestants, 6,085 Jews, and 940 other non-Catholics. The federal congress appropriates every year a certain amount of money to assist the Church in meeting its expenses. For the fiscal year of 1905 these appropriations amounted to $857,420 in the national currency. Out of this sum, $617,420 were set aside for the salaries of Church functionaries and ecclesiastics of all kinds, and for defraying the necessary expenses of Divine worship. The balance ($240,000) represented "subsidies" to certain churches in the provinces.


The Argentine hierarchy consists of the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, and the Bishops of Córdoba, La Plata, Paraná, San Juan de Cuyo, Santa Fé, Salta, and Tucumán. The right to appoint a bishop belongs, of course, to the Holy See; but the federal Senate has the right, when a vacancy occurs, to send three names to the President of the Union for transmission to Rome, where the choice is to be made, if made at all, out of the three nominees. Each cathedral is provided, according to Spanish usage, with a chapter, i.e., a number of canons and ecclesiastical officials appointed by the Government upon nomination of the respective bishops. There is an ecclesiatical seminary in each diocese under the control of the bishop, for the support of which an appropriation is made yearly. The Holy See is represented at Buenos Aires by an apostolic internuncio, who ranks as the dean of the diplomatic corps. The Argentine Nation has in Rome a charge d'affaires. Until lately the representative of the Argentine Republic at the Pontifical Court was entrusted to the Argentine representative in Paris. The Catholic spirit which animated the framers of the Constitution is forcibly illustrated by the provisions of article 76, which requires as a condition of eligibility for the position of President, or Vice-President, of the Union "to belong to the Roman Catholic Apostolic religion" and by those contained in clauses 15 and 20, article 67, which respectively empower the federal congress "to promote the conversion of the Indians to the Catholic religion", and "to admit into the territory of the Republic other religious orders additional to those now in existence". Article 20 of the same instrument grants foreigners the right of freedom of worship. The right of approval and ratification of concordats with the Holy See, of nomination for the ecclesiatical positions of high rank, and of allowing or refusing promulgation to the Argentine territory of decrees of councils, or bulls, briefs, and rescripts of the Supreme Pontiff are respectively relegated by clause 19, article 67, and by Clauses 8 and 9 of article 86.

Ecclesiastico-civil legislation

Though this country is Catholic, civil marriage, lay primary instruction, and purely municipal cemeteries are among its institutions. The civil marriage law which was passed, 2 Nov., 1888, and went into effect, 1 Dec., 1889, gives validity only to marriages "solemnized before the public officer in charge of the Civil register, in his office, in public, and before two witnesses" (art. 37). The ceremony may take place at the residence of either the groom or the bride, but four witnesses shall then be required. The registrar is forbidden (art. 39) to prevent the contracting parties from seeking to have "their union blessed" immediately afterwards by a minister of their religion. Article 64 of the law declares that the only divorced recognized and authorized in the Argentine Nation is the separation a mensa et toro, without dissolution of the bond of marriage.

Churches of Buenos Aires

The cathedral of Buenos Aires is a magnificent edifice, erected on the site of the first church of the settlement built by Don Juan de Garay in 1580. This church and all the others thereafter built, depended upon the ecclesiastical authorities of Paraguay until 1620, when Pope Paul V, at the request of King Philip III of Spain, erected the Diocese of La Plata River. The parochial church of Buenos Aires, then an humble structure of mud walls and thatched roof, was turned into a cathedral, and put in charge of Fray Pedro Carranza, the first Argentine bishop. Such repairs and improvement as were possible at that time were made in the building, and it was solemnly dedicated, 26 June, 1622. The construction of the present cathedral began in 1791. It was built on the same plan as most of the Spanish cathedrals, and attracts the attention of visitors on account of the beauty of its interior, and the fine tomb of General San Martin erected in a chapel at the right side of the building. The church and convent of La Merced are almost contemporary with the foundation of Buenos Aires. There is no record showing the exact date of their construction, but there is evidence that they were in existence in 1580, when Juan de Garay founded in their immediate neighborhood, as he said, the hospital which he called St. Martin. Until 1821, the convent was the home of the Fathers of Mercy. The church is now one of the most sumptuous of the city and the center of a parish. The church of St. Ignatius, another noted ornament of the city of Buenos Aires, dates from 1722. It construction, begun in that year, was entrusted to the Jesuit Fathers Andrés Blanqui and N. Primoli, who brought experts architects from Europe for that purpose. Many rich citizens, among whom Don Antonia Costa was distinguished by his liberality, contributed large sums for this work. The church was the home of the Jesuits in Buenos Aires, until their expulsion from the Spanish dominions in 1767. The church and the convent of St. Francis are still the home of the most ancient religious order in the country; there is evidence that the Franciscan Fathers had come to that part of South America prior to 1580. The church and the convent of St. Dominic, still occupied by the Dominican Fathers, are also worthy of mention. The construction of the present church of St. Francis was begun in 1731. The cornerstone of the church of St. Dominic was laid in 1751. The convent of St. Francis contains a rich and well-arranged library of more than 7,000 volumes, free to all on application to the Father Superior. One of the remarkable churches of Buenos Aires is the church of the Savior (El Salvador) built in 1872 by the Jesuit Fathers, burned 28 Feb., 1875, by a group of "liberals", and rebuilt in 1884. Attached to the church is the Jesuit college. The so-called "Chapel of Mount Carmel" (Capilla del Carmen), favored by the higher classes for the celebration of marriages, and the chapel of the Passionist Fathers are counted among the attractions of the city.

Education, collegiate, and university

It is well known that the Jesuits were the pioneers of progress and public instruction in all the vast region which extends on both sides of the River Plate, where they founded schools and novitiates, and propagated learning as well as Christian faith. Their College of St. Francis Xavier, established at Córdoba in 1611, and completed in 1613, soon became the Colegio Máximo of the Jesuit province of La Plata, which embraced what is today the Argentine Nation and Chile. This institution, where grammar, Latin, philosophy, and theology were taught, and whose first rector was a Jesuit, Father Alvir, became a little later, the University of Córdoba, still in existence, and in the order of time, the second university established in South America; the first was that of San Marcos at Lima (1551). Public schools in the Argentine Republic as in the United States are absolutely secular. But the law of public instruction provides that, "after official hours, religious instruction (Catholic or otherwise) may be given to the children who voluntarily remain in the schools for the purpose of receiving it. This religious instruction in the public schools shall be given only by authorized ministers of the different persuasions, before or after school hours.

Sanctuary of Luján and Christ of the Andes

In the city of Luján, about two hours and a half by rail from the federal capital, is the celebrated shrine of Our Lady of Lujan, since 1630 a center of intense religious fervor. It is to be made part of the monumental basilica of Lujan, still in the process of construction. When finished this will be one of the most imposing buildings of its kind in Spanish America. How closely woven the Catholic faith is with the life and ideas of the Argentine people may be seen by the monument known as El Cristo de los Andes (The Christ of the Andes), erected on the summit of that range, chiefly by the efforts of an Argentine lady and Monsignor Benevente, Bishop of San Juan de Cuyo. It is a colossal statue of Our Lord, with a cross in his left hand, and the right raised as if blessing the world. The statue is made from old bronze cannon left by the Spaniards, and is the work of a native sculptor, Mateo Alonso. It stands at 14,000 feet above sea-level, on the line which divides the Argentine republic from Chile, and commemorates the arbitration by both nations of the boundary questions that more than once endangered their mutual peace.

Non-Catholic populations

The small non-Catholic portion of the population has five Protestant houses of worship, as follows: One Anglican Episcopal, one Lutheran, one Methodist Episcopal, one Scotch, and one in which the worship varies according to the time of day in which it is offered. The first Protestant church was built in 1829.

About this page

APA citation. Rodríguez, J.I. (1907). Argentina. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Rodríguez, José Ignacio. "Argentina." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by M. Donahue.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. March 1, 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

Contact information. The editor of New Advent is Kevin Knight. My email address is webmaster at Regrettably, I can't reply to every letter, but I greatly appreciate your feedback — especially notifications about typographical errors and inappropriate ads.

Copyright © 2023 by New Advent LLC. Dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.