Buenos Aires

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Buenos Aires (BWAY-noss AH-rez) is the capital city and commercial/industrial centre of the nation of Argentina. It is located at the mouth of the Plata River (Rio de la Plata), on the east coast of the South American continent.

With a population of approximately 12 million people, Buenos Aires is the largest city in Argentina and one of the largest in South America. Its population consists primarily of Argentinians of Spanish descent, although there are sizables communities of people with Italian origins. A small percentage are of indigenous descent. The majority of inhabitants are Roman Catholic, and Spanish is the primary language.

Bueons Aires is the financial, industrial, commercial, and social centre of Argentina. Buenos Aires has one of the busiest ports in the world, and an enormous inland river system connecting it to the majority of Argentina as well as with Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay. As a result, it serves as the distribution hub for a vast area of the south-eastern region of the continent. Due to the enormous economic significance of this port, inhabitants of Buenos Aires nickname themselves porteños (people of the port).

To the west of Buenos Aires is the Pampa, the most productive agricultural region of Argentina. As a result meat, dairy, grain, tobacco, wool and hide products are all processed or manufactured in Buenos Aires. Other leading industries are automobile manufacturing, oil refining, metalworking, machine building, and the production of textiles, chemicals, paper, clothing, beverages.

The site of the present city was first settled in 1536 by a Spanish gold-seeking expedition under Pedro de Mendoza. However, attacks by indigenous peoples forced the settlers away and in 1541 the site was abandoned. A second (and permanent) settlement was established in 1580 by Juan de Garay, after he departed Asunción. From its earliest days the success of Buenos Aires depended on trade, although this trade was initially illegal. The Spanish administration of the 17th and 18th centuries insisted that any and all trade to Europe initially pass through Lima so that taxes could be collected. This extravagant deviation frustrated the traders of Buenos Aires and a thriving contraband industry developed. Unsurprisingly, this also instilled a deep resentment of the Spanish authority within the inhabitants of Buenos Aires.

Sensing this instability, Charles III of Spain progressively eased the trade restrictions and finally declared Buenos Aires to be an open port in the late 1700's. These placating actions did not have the desired effect however, and the portenos became even more desirous of independence from Spain. Ultimately, on May 25, 1810, armed citizens of Buenos Aires successfully expelled the Viceroy from Spain and established a provincial government (this date is now celebrated as a national holiday). Spain officially recognised the independence of Argentina on July 9, 1816.

Railroad construction during the 19th century only increased the economic power of Buenos Aires as raw materials flowed into its factories. By the 1920's Buenos Aires was a favoured destination for immigrants from Europe, and extensive shanty towns developed in and around the city's industrial areas, leading to extensive social problems. An aggressive campaign of slum elimination, combined with the development of a effective public transport system in the 1970's and 80's alleviated many of these problems.

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