Argentina is a nation of contrasting geographical landscapes and this diversity is mirrored in its culture and society. Much of the contemporary Argentine population have family backgrounds and connections with European countries (such as Italy, Germany, Spain and Ireland amongst others), due to the high influx of immigrants from this region in the 19th and 20th centuries. These groups of immigrants took on different roles and worked in different sectors of the Argentine economy - for example, the British developed the country's transport network. This intensive migration from Europe brought many negative consequences (such as the introduction of foreign diseases and oppression) for pre-Columbian cultures, wiping out large population groups. Today there are ever-growing communities of people from countries throughout Latin America and Asia (China, Japan and Korea). The capital of Argentina, Buenos Aires, is a major world city and is home to communities from continents throughout the world.
This mix of backgrounds and cultures has created an exciting arts scene reflected in Argentina's music, theatre, dance, museums and galleries. There are numerous famous galleries in the country's large urban centres which house innovative and world-renowned exhibitions. Argentine film (both mainstream and independent) is highly regarded worldwide and has produced a number of notable actors and directors. It's difficult to escape the dance, for which Argentina is most famous for, in the capital Buenos Aires, as tango dancers are seemingly on every street corner. However, tango is not widespread throughout the nation. Folkloric music and dances of different tempos are popular in the interior of the country and each province takes pride in its unique regional identity and history, some of which stems from the Amerindians. The wealth of traditional music is matched by the creativity in more modern genres such as electronic, jazz, reggae, rock, hip-hop which are all enjoyed by Argentina's younger generation.
Argentina's cities are notable for their mix of modern and colonial architecture reflecting their more recent European and Spanish histories. The vast majority of Argentina's 32 million people live in Buenos Aires and the city undoubtedly dominates the affairs of the country. The government continues to do its best to promote the interior of Argentina and certain cities are gaining ground and experiencing substantial development (Cordoba and Rosario in particular). There are small pockets of indigenous communities living in various parts of the country although these populations are generally smaller than in other Latin American countries.
Football is almost like a religion in Argentina, with every local and international match of importance being followed in just about every bar and café. Argentina has claimed the World Cup twice, once in Argentina in 1978 and again in Mexico in 1986. The national sporting idol for many Argentines is Diego Maradona although some have been more critical of his abilities as a coach of the national team. Buenos Aires hosts many top flight football clubs and competition amongst them is ferocious. Visiting one of the grounds to watch a live game is a must, if only to witness the passion and buzz of the supporters.
The official faith (i.e. not sporting) in Argentina is Roman Catholicism with many famous festivals and pilgrimages taking place in sites throughout the country. Buenos Aires has a very significant Jewish population, although Judaism is not widespread elsewhere in the country and Argentina also hosts the biggest Islamic community in the region.
The language of Argentina is Spanish, although the form of castellano spoken is quite different to other parts of the Spanish-speaking world. Many people from Buenos Aires use slang which is influenced by Italian.
Food in Argentina very often revolves around some type of meat - beef is the staple and is most traditionally barbequed on what are known as 'parrilladas'. Despite this passion for meat, vegetarian restaurants are fairly easy to find in urban areas of Argentina. Italian immigration to Argentina thankfully introduced ice cream and there are countless heladerias (ice cream shops/cafés) throughout the country. You'll almost certainly see people sharing the national drink, mate, in the plazas and streets of Argentina's cities. It's an extremely social drink and the mate container (which holds the yerba leaves) is passed between friends and family in just about every imaginable environment, indoors and out.