The culture of Argentina is as varied as the country’s geography and is composed of a mix of ethnic groups. Modern Argentine culture has been largely influenced by European immigration, although there are lesser elements of Amerindian and African influences, particularly in the fields of music and art. Buenos Aires, its cultural capital, is largely characterized by both the prevalence of people of European descent, and of conscious imitation of European styles in architecture. Museums, cinemas, and galleries are abundant in all the large urban centers, as well as traditional establishments such as literary bars, or bars offering live music of a variety of genres.
Argentine painters and sculptors have a rich history, dating from both before and since the development of modern Argentina in the second half of the 19th century. Artistic production did not truly come into its own, until after the 1852 overthrow of the repressive regime of Juan Manuel de Rosas. Immigrants like Eduardo Schiaffino, Eduardo Sívori, Reynaldo Giudici, Emilio Caraffa, and Ernesto de la Cárcova left behind a realist heritage influential to this day.
Impressionism did not make itself evident among Argentine artists until after 1900, however, and never acquired the kind of following it did in Europe, though it did inspire influential Argentine post-impressionists such as Martín Malharro, Ramón Silva, Cleto Ciocchini, Fernando Fader, Pío Collivadino, Cesáreo Bernaldo de Quirós, Realism, and aestheticism continued to set the agenda in Argentine painting and sculpture, noteworthy during this era for the sudden fame of sculptor Lola Mora, a student of Auguste Rodin’s.
The music of Argentina is known mostly for the tango, which developed in Buenos Aires and surrounding areas, as well as Montevideo, Uruguay. Folk, pop and classical music are also popular, and Argentine artists like Mercedes Sosa and Atahualpa Yupanqui contributed greatly to the development of the nueva canción. Argentine rock has also led to a defiant rock scene in Argentina.
The first thing that everyone thinks about when Argentine traditional dress is brought up is the gaucho, or the Argentine cowboy. This type of clothing is very acceptable at all times in the villages, but in the cities the aforementioned more formal dress code is followed.
Gaucho clothing is worn in villages and on special occasions all over the country. This may consist of a wide brimmed hat, a poncho and a loose pair of trousers. Trousers are tucked inside the long gumboots.
Argentineans may also wear a shoe that is made of rope and strong canvas. These shoes are very popular as they are comfortable and the inhabitants prefer them. Bombachas, or pants made from a strong black cloth and gathered at the ankle are also worn.
Argentinian cuisine may be described as a cultural blending of Mediterranean influences (such as those created by Italian and Spanish populations) within the wide scope of livestock and agricultural products that are abundant in the country. Beyond asado (the Argentine barbecue), no other dish more genuinely matches the national identity. Nevertheless, the country’s vast area, and its cultural diversity, has led to a local cuisine of various dishes. The great migratory waves consequently imprinted a large influence in the Argentine cuisine.
The spoken languages of Argentina number at least 40, although Spanish is dominant. Others include native and other immigrant languages; some languages are extinct and others are endangered, spoken by elderly people whose descendants do not speak the languages.
The most prevalent dialect is Rioplatense, also known as “Argentine Spanish”, whose speakers are located primarily in the basin of the Río de la Plata. Argentines are amongst the few Spanish-speaking countries (like Uruguay, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Honduras) that almost universally use what is known as voseo — the use of the pronoun vos instead of tú (Spanish for “you”).
Argentina has a detailed literary history, as well as one of the region’s most active publishing industries. Argentine writers have figured prominently in Latin American literature, since becoming a fully united entity in the 1850s, with a strong constitution and a defined nation-building plan. The struggle between the Federalists (who favored a loose confederation of provinces based on rural conservatism) and the Unitarians (pro-liberalism and advocates of a strong central government that would encourage European immigration), set the tone for Argentine literature of the time.
The architecture of Argentina can be said to start at the beginning of the Spanish colonization, though it was in the 18th century that the cities of the country reached their splendour. Cities like Córdoba, Salta, Mendoza, and also Buenos Aires conserved most their historical Spanish colonial architecture in spite of their urban growth.
The simplicity of the Rioplatense baroque style can be clearly appreciated in Buenos Aires, in the works of Italian architects such as André Blanqui and Antonio Masella, in the churches of San Ignacio, Nuestra Señora del Pilar, the Cathedral, and the Cabildo.
Italian and French influences increased after the war for independence at the beginning of the 19th century, though the academic style persisted until the first decades of the 20th century.
The practice of sports in Argentina is varied due to the population’s diverse European origins and the mostly mild climate. Association football is the most popular discipline and other sports played both professionally and recreatively include athletics, auto racing, basketball, boxing, cricket, cycling, field hockey, fishing, golf, handball, mountaineering, padel tennis, polo, roller hockey, rowing, rugby union, sailing, skiing, swimming, tennis and volleyball. Argentine achievements can be found both in team sports such as association football, basketball, field hockey and rugby union, and individual sports such as boxing, golf, tennis and rowing. Pato, the national sport, is not very popular.
One of the largest celebrations throughout Argentina is “Carnival”. This is a celebration just before Lent, the traditional period of fasting that begins about six weeks before Easter. Each region has its own way to celebrate Carnival. In the northern province of Salta, people dress up and dance the zamba and the carnavalito. In the northeasten provinces, people sing songs called chamamé, accompanied by accordions or harps.
There are also many regional holidays and festivals. People come from all over the world to celebrate folk traditions at the National Festival of Folklore in Cosquín in the central province of Córdoba in January.
In the province of Mendoza, La Fiesta de la Vendimia is celebrated for three days during grape harvest season in March. Grapes are blessed on the vines, a queen is crowned and wine-makers serve free red wine. The grand finale is an elaborate show of fireworks. This festival serves to remind people that their lives depend on the sun, rain and earth.
At Mar del Plata on the coast, the Harvest of Fish is celebrated with a banquet of seafood and a parade of people dressed as sea-creatures and led by the Queen of the Sea, riding in a seashell.
A livestock show and fiesta in Buenos Aires in July mark the importance of the cattle industry. Argentina’s finest bulls compete for the title of champion shorthorn bull of the year.
In the southern Andean city of San Carlos de Bariloche, a Snow Festival is held every August. Many of the early settlers in this area came from Switzerland, and Swiss cake and hot port wine with cinnamon are served during the festival.
Christmas is also a happy occasion. Argentinians celebrate New Year’s Eve with fireworks. The streets are filled with music and dancing, and in Buenos Aires there is a ticker tape parade.