Europeans arrived in the region with the 1502 voyage of Amerigo Vespucci. Spanish navigator Juan Diaz de Solias visited what is now Argentina in 1516. Spain established a permanent colony on the site of Buenos Aires in 1580. They further integrated Argentina into their empire following the establishment of the Vice-Royalty of Rio de la Plata in 1776, and Buenos Aires became a flourishing port.
Buenos Aires formally declared independence from Spain on July 9, 1816. Argentines revere General Jose de San Martin, who campaigned in Argentina, Chile, and Peru, as the hero of their national independence. Following the defeat of the Spanish, centralist and federalist groups waged a lengthy conflict between themselves to determine the future of the nation. National unity was established and the constitution promulgated in 1853.
Two forces combined to create the modern Argentine nation in the late 19th century: the introduction of modern agricultural techniques and the integration of Argentina into the world economy. Foreign investment and immigration from Europe aided this economic revolution. The investment, primarily British, came in such fields as railroads and ports. The migrants who worked to develop Argentina's resources came from throughout Europe, but mostly from Italy and Spain.
Conservative forces dominated Argentine politics until 1916, when their traditional rivals, the Radicals, won control of the government through a democratic election. The Radicals, with their emphasis on fair elections and democratic institutions, opened their doors to Argentina's expanding middle class as well as to elites previously excluded from power for various reasons. The Argentine military forced aged Radical President Hipolito Yrigoyen from power in 1930 and ushered in another decade of Conservative rule.
Using fraud and force when necessary, the governments of the 1930s attempted to contain forces for economic and political change that eventually helped produce the governments of Juan Domingo Peron. New social and political forces were seeking political power. These included the modern military and the labor movement that emerged from the growing urban working class.
The military ousted Argentina's constitutional government in 1943. Peron, then an army colonel, was one of the coup's leaders, and he soon became the government's dominant figure as minister of labor. Elections carried him to the presidency in 1946. He aggressively pursued policies aimed at giving an economic and political voice to the working class and greatly expanded the number of unionized workers. In 1947, Peron announced the first five-year plan based on nationalization and industrialization. He presented himself as a friend of labor and assisted in establishing the powerful General Confederation of Labor (CGT). Peron's dynamic wife, Eva Duarte de Peron, known as Evita (1919-1952), helped her husband develop his appeals to labor and women's groups. Women obtained the...