Prior to European contact, Argentina’s indigenous peoples were far less numerous and generally had less-developed cultures than indigenous peoples in Mexico and Peru. Most were hunter-gatherers. Some highly developed indigenous peoples lived inland, far away from the coast. The Diaguita of western and northwestern Argentina practiced agriculture. Their societies and cultures bore traces of influence from the Inca Empire. In northeastern Argentina, bordering on contemporary Paraguay, the Guaraní peoples practiced slash-and-burn agriculture, clearing forestland by cutting down and burning the existing vegetation.
In 1516 the Spanish navigator Juan Díaz de Solís, then searching for a southwest passage to the East Indies, piloted his ship into the great estuary now known as the Río de la Plata. He claimed the surrounding region in the name of Spain. Sebastian Cabot, an Italian navigator in the service of Spain, visited the estuary in 1526. In search of food and supplies, Cabot and his men went up the Paraná River close to the site of the modern city of Rosario. They constructed a fort and explored up the river as far as the region now occupied by Paraguay. Cabot, who remained in the river basin for nearly four years, obtained small quantities of silver from the native peoples. He named the estuary the Río de la Plata, which is Spanish for “silver river.”
In 1536 Pedro de Mendoza, a Spanish soldier appointed as the military governor of all land in South America south of the Río de la Plata, founded Buenos Aires. The members of his expedition encountered hostile indigenous peoples, severe hardships, and great difficulties in obtaining food. They abandoned the site in 1541.
In 1537 Domingo Martínez de Irala, one of Mendoza’s lieutenants, founded Asunción (now the capital of Paraguay), which became the first permanent settlement in the La Plata region. In 1553 Spanish settlers from Peru established the first permanent settlement on Argentine soil at Santiago del Estero in the Andean foothills. The Spanish founded Santa Fe in 1573, and in 1580 they resettled Buenos Aires. Administratively, the La Plata region formed part of the Viceroyalty of Peru, based in Lima. Throughout the 17th century and most of the 18th century Spain funneled all overseas trade with its colonies through Lima, where the viceroy resided. Despite the advantages of Buenos Aires as a more direct link between Europe and the colonial settlements east of the Andes, the Río de la Plata area was legally closed to all overseas trade. The Spaniards in the area lived on small subsidies from the Spanish government and from an illegal silver trade with Peru.
They exploited the enormous herds of wild cattle descended from animals the Spanish brought to the region decades earlier.
In 1776 Spain made Buenos Aires the capital of the newly formed Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata, a region comprising present-day Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Spain also allowed trade. Free at last from the control of Lima, Buenos Aires began to prosper, not only through legal trade with Spain and other Spanish colonies, but also through a brisk illegal trade. The La Plata region then began exporting Peruvian silver and cattle hides from the wild herds of the Pampas, and Buenos Aires became a major port for importing African slaves. These changes attracted Spanish merchants and a large number of senior Spanish administrators to Buenos Aires. "Argentina" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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