The Ethnography of Argentina is somewhat peculiar and distinct from that of other countries in the Americas. Argentina, along with other areas of new settlement like Canada, Australia or the United States, is considered a country of immigrants and a melting pot of different peoples Most Argentines are descendents of colonial-era settlers and of the 19th and 20th century immigrants from Europe, with almost 90 % of the population being of European descent for generations, the majority of these immigrants came from Italy and Spain, as well as other European countries. The most common ethnic groups are Italian and Spaniard (mostly Galicians and Basques). There are also significant Germanic, Slavic, British and French populations.
An estimated 7% of the population is mestizo. The last national census, based on self-identification, counted about 600,000 Argentines (1.6%) of Amerindian heritage. A further 3-4% of Argentines were of Arabic or East Asian extraction.
Waves of immigrants from European countries arrived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The main contributors were Spain, Italy, France (mostly settled in Buenos Aires city and province), Eastern European nations such as Croatia, Poland, Russia, Romania, Ukraine and the Balkans (especially Greece, Serbia and Montenegro), Switzerland, Germany, the United Kingdom and Ireland (Buenos Aires and Patagonia), and Scandinavia (especially Sweden). Smaller waves of settlers from Australia, South Africa and the United States are recorded in Argentine immigration records. By the 1910s, over 30 percent of the country's population was non-native Argentine after immigration rates peaked, and half of Buenos Aires' population was foreign-born.
The overwhelming majority of Argentina's Jewish community (about 2% of the population) derives from immigrants of Northern, Central, and Eastern European origin (Ashkenazi Jews). Argentina's Jewish population is by far the largest Jewish community in all of Latin America and is the fifth largest in the world. Buenos Aires itself is said to have 100,000 practicing Jews, making it one of the largest Jewish urban centers in the world (see also History of the Jews in Argentina).
Small numbers of people from Asia have also settled Argentina, mainly in Buenos Aires. The first Asian-Argentines were of Japanese descent, but Koreans, Vietnamese, Chinese and Laotians soon followed.
Most of these immigrants were largely from Italy and Spain, and in lesser number from the United Kingdom, France (mainly Occitania), Germany and Switzerland. Contingents also arrived from Russia, Hungary, Romania, Ukraine, Poland, Libya, Syria, Armenia, Portugal, Greece, Ireland, Netherlands (mainly from Frisia), Belgium, Japan (mainly Okinawa), Cape Verde, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, and Norway.
Italian immigration to Argentina began in the nineteenth century, just after Argentina won its independence from Spain. Italian settlement in Argentina, along with Spanish settlement, formed the backbone of today's Argentine society. Argentine culture has significant connections to Italian culture, also in terms of language, customs and traditions. Italians became firmly established throughout Argentina, but the greatest concentrations are in the Province, the City of Buenos Aires, the Province of Santa Fe, the Province of Entre Rios, the Province of Córdoba, the Province of Tucumán, the Province of La Pampa and, in the nearby country of Uruguay.
There are many reasons explaining the Italian immigration to Argentina: Italy was enduring economic problems caused mainly by the unification of the Italian states into one nation. The country was impoverished, unemployment was rampant, certain areas witnessed overpopulation, and Italy was subject to significant political turmoil. Italians saw in Argentina a chance to build for themselves a brand new life. The Italian population in Argentina is the second largest in the world, by numbers, outside of Italy. By concentration, along with Uruguay, it is the highest outside of Italy.
Between 1857 and 1940 more than 2 million Spanish people emigrated to Argentina, mostly from Galicia, Basque Country, Asturias, Cantabria, and Catalonia in northern Spain, and also from Andalusia in southern Spain.
Today, around 10% of the Argentine population descend from Basque people, both Spanish and French, and are described as Basque Argentines. They gather in several Basque cultural centres installed in most large cities in the country.
The city with the second greatest number of Galician people is Buenos Aires, where immigration from Galicia was so important that today all Spaniards, regardless of their origin within Spain, are often referred to as gallegos (Galicians) in Argentina. Galicians make up 70% of the Spanish population in Argentina.
Although many Argentines have Spanish blood and because Argentina and Spain share common cultural aspects (the language, religion which is Roman Catholic Christianity, and traditions), Argentine elites diminished the Spanish culture from their culture in the newly independent country and made Argentine culture. Spanish settlement dates back to 1500s and from that, many Spaniards intermarried with non-Spaniards. This is because prior to its independence, Spaniards in Argentina who were against the Spanish Empire and desired their independence came to be known as Argentines and those who were opposed to independence continued to be identified as Spaniards. A few generations after independence, all began to see themselves as purely Argentine.
During the second period, from 1870 until 1914, Argentina experienced a massive boom in immigration due to or causing massive economic expansion in the port of Buenos Aires and in the wheat and beef producing pampas. In this time frame, the German speakers of Argentina established themselves and developed several institutions, which are often examined in academic studies, such as newspapers, schools and social clubs. Despite originating from all over German speaking Europe, once in Argentina, a new, Germanic Argentine identity developed. One example of this can be found in the studies of Das Argentinische Tageblatt (newspaper); it was founded by Swiss immigrants but, by the 1930’s, became the primary forum for exiles from Nazi Germany.
As well as those who went to Argentina as Industrialists and major landowners, others went as railway engineers, civil engineers and to work in banking and commerce. Others went to become whalers, missionaries and simply to seek out a future. English families sent second and younger sons, or what were described as the black sheep of the family, to Argentina to make their fortunes in cattle and wheat. English settlers introduced football to Argentina. Some English families owned sugar plantations.
The mestizo composition is clear in some sectors of lower classes throughout the country. There exist more than 750,000 persons with Bolivian origins whose composition is 90% native, and a similar number of Paraguayan origin with a clearly mestizo composition. It's common to observe the ethnic dichotomy in the beggars of the city of Buenos Aires as an example. In the sectors of higher resources the mestizo population is a minority, and it is not uncommon to hear pejorative comments towards someone of non-European features.
Finally, there is also a strong social categorization that connects the dark-skinned mestizo with poverty, illiteracy, and crime.
In 1871 an epidemic of yellow fever fell over Buenos Aires which seriously affected the lower class neighbourhoods of the city where most of the remaining black individuals lived, reducing their numbers even further. By 1880 there were still some thousands of black inhabitants (mostly women) in Argentina. Many of these had children with newcomers from Spain and Italy, but individuals of European origin, being so many in comparison with those of African ancestry, soon became genetically dominant. The African genetic contribution is so small that it is very difficult for a phenotypic manifestation to emerge in the current Argentine population as a result it stands as non-existent.
Uruguayans represent a special case; many have crossed the Río de la Plata to live in Argentina, mainly in Buenos Aires, searching for opportunities in the bigger country. Given their cultural resemblances with the porteños, they are rarely discriminated against.