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Argentina, History

Compared to the Native American populations in the Andes and the Amazon region, the area of South America that is now Argentina was sparsely populated before the arrival of Spanish explorers in the 1500s. Some of these inhabitants were members of nomadic tribes, while others were engaged in agriculture.

In February 1516, the Spanish navigator Juan Diaz de Solis, then engaged in search of a southwest passage to the East Indies, piloted his vessel into the great estuary now known as the Rio de la Plata and 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 ascended the river later called the Parana to a point near the site of modern Rosario. They constructed a fort and then pushed up the river as far as the region now occupied by Paraguay. Cabot, who remained in the river basin for nearly four years, obtained from the natives quantities of silver. The river system was named Rio de la Plata (Spanish for “river of the silver”) after the precious metal found there.

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