Argentina, the world's eighth largest country, is the second largest in South America. One third of it 40 million inhabitants live in its capital, Buenos Aires. Originally known as Rio de la Plata, Argentina was first labeled as such in a 1536 atlas, after the Latin word for silver.
Governed by the Spanish for 300 years, most of Argentina's native population, susceptible to European diseases, did not survive. Since its independence in 1816, the country's population is predominantly of European descent. Spanish, the official language of Argentina, is spoken with an accent similar to Neapolitan Italian, reflecting the influx of Spanish and Italian immigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries.
A narrow, coastal strip of Chile borders Argentina and the Andes to the west. Bolivia and Paraguay border the country to the north and Brazil and Uruguay to the northeast. The Andes' Aconcagua peak at 22,834 feet is the highest mountain in the Western hemisphere. Northeast Argentina is known for the 1.6 mile drop of Iguazu Falls. Argentina includes the world's southernmost city, Ushuia, which is just over 2,400 miles from the South Pole and the departure point for several Antarctic cruises.
The gauchos who moved across the country's Pampas plains herding cattle, often seen to represent the country's fight for independence, and the tango, originating in Buenos Aires with African and European musical influences, are iconic symbols of Argentine culture.