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Social Issues in Argentina

On December 10, 2008, Argentina commemorated the anniversary of the appointment of Raul Alfonsín, the first president to be elected by the Argentine people after the end of the seven-year military dictatorship. While Argentina celebrates 25 years of democracy, the country is still recovering from the repression, mistrust, and injustice that pervades from the 1970s military rule and the Dirty War, in which 30,000 people disappeared.

With a population of around 40,000,000, Argentina is a multiracial society with a large European presence, most notably from Italy and Spain. The minorities are made up from Mestizo, Amerindian and non-white groups. Housing some 36% of Argentina's population, Buenos Aires stands as the cultural and political capital and is the epicenter of European immigration and important European trade.

In the last quarter-century, the country has been enjoying relative growth and stabilization, boasting the 23rd largest economy in the world, a free public-education system, and relatively high-access to healthcare, which has raised life expectancy and lowered infant mortality. However, while the country boasts an adult literacy rate is 97%, and prides itself on being one of the best educated nations in Latin America, high rates of illiteracy still exist among marginalized indigenous communities.




Remaining Issues

Poverty and Racial Discrimination

Even today, Argentina remains a country very much divided by poverty and racial discrimination. The cosmopolitan city of Buenos Aires alone is surrounded by 14 sprawling slums without running water, garbage collection, or job opportunities. These shantytowns have a growing population of more than 235,000—the majority of which with indigenous backgrounds.

Though article 75 of the national constitution recognizes the "ethnic and cultural pre-existence" of indigenous people in Argentina, and "recognizes the legal capacity of these communities to the possession and property of land that they have traditionally occupied," this article has been consistently ignored and violated as it is seen as a barricade to economic development. For years, private multinational corporations and government interests have continued to push indigenous communities off of their ancestral lands which are of both cultural and spiritual importance to make way for agricultural expansion and new factories. Many indigenous groups have been displaced to urban shantytowns where they struggle to find work.

While Argentina was once one of the world’s wealthiest countries with a fairly equal income distribution, it is now estimated that roughly 20% of the population is living on or below the poverty line. The gap between the rich and the poor is growing, polarizing society between the impoverished shantytowns and the wealthy barrios cerrados (gated communities) going up across the street, where IDs are often needed to get past the guards and barbed wire.

While the rights of indigenous communities are often disregarded in Argentina, a historic gathering took place in the city of Rosario in 2007 for The First National Meeting of Indigenous Nations and Peoples of Argentina, calling for the end of oppression and discrimination against them and their legal rights. There is a movement to form a single organization to represent the various indigenous communities of the country and unite the work of advocacy groups such as the Council for Aboriginal Events, the Commission of Indigenous Jurists of the Argentine Republic, the Community of Students of the First Nations of America (CEPNA), the Indigenous Association of the Argentine Republic (AIRA), Organisation of Indigenous Nations and Peoples in Argentina (ONPIA) and the Association of Indigenous Communities (ACOIN).

Though indigenous rights are not at the forefront of politics, President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (2007-present) launched a $21 billion public spending plan in December of 2008, which includes a Social Redistribution Program that supports investments in rural housing and roads, and will create 30 new hospitals and more than 300 health-care centers.




Unemployment has slowly improved since the economic turbulence of 2001, which culminated in the biggest economic crash the country had ever seen. The recovery of Argentina has since been most prominent in Buenos Aires where an increase in construction works and low prices have attracted large numbers of foreign tourists. However, still standing at a rate of 8.7%, unemployment remains a challenge to President Cristina Kirchner, who continues to address such problems in her domestic policy. The unemployment rate has caused tensions among Argentina's lower and lower middle classes. This in turn has resulted in problems in drug abuse and prostitution, although travelers are not likely to see it. Poverty appears to be the most prominent in more rural areas of the Argentine countryside where racial prejudice is prevalent toward the indigenous communities.

Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Argentina: What’s in A Name?, Tips for Budget Travelers, Shopping, Money and Costs, Departure Tax, Safety, Getting To and Away , Wiring Money , Climate in Argentina and Getting Around.

By Karen Nagy
Karen Nagy is a staff editor/writer at V!VA. She studied travel writing and learned the joys of Mediterranean island-hopping in Greece, and went on...
11 May 2009

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