Santiago Del Estero | Argentina

Santiago del Estero (Spanish pronunciation: [sanˈtjaɣo ðel esˈteɾo], Spanish for Saint-James-Upon-The-Lagoon) is the capital of Santiago del Estero Province in northern Argentina. It has a population of 244,733 inhabitants, (2001 census [INDEC]) making it the twelfth largest city in the country, with a surface area of 2,116 km². It lies on the Dulce River and on National Route 9, at a distance of 1,042 km north-northwest from Buenos Aires. Estimated to be 455 years old, Santiago del Estero was the first city founded by Spanish settlers in the territory that is now Argentina. As such, it is nicknamed "Madre de Ciudades" (Mother of Cities). Similarly, it has been officially declared the "mother of cities and cradle of folklore."

The city houses the National University of Santiago del Estero, founded in 1973, and the Universidad Católica, founded in 1960. Other points of interest include the city's Cathedral, the Santo Domingo Convent, and the Provincial Archeology Museum.

The Santiago del Estero Airport is located 6 kilometres north of the city, and has regular flights to Buenos Aires and San Miguel de Tucumán.

The climate is subtropical with a dry season, usually winter and sometimes autumn. It receives an average annual precipitation of 600 mm, and the climate is warm and dry.

Santiago del Estero and its region are home to about 100,000 speakers of the local variety of Quechua, making it the southernmost outpost of the language of the Incas. It is one of the few indigenous languages surviving in modern Argentina.

Santiago del Estero's population reached 100,000 in 1970.

The province, however, remained one of the poorest in Argentina, falling further behind. In 1993, the city made international headlines when rioting erupted around the governor's mansion. What began as a protest by government workers who had not been paid in 3 months, soon grew to 4,000 demonstrators who burned cars, destroyed government buildings and even invaded the homes of prominent politicians.

Juárez, by the 1990s, was readily ordering his opponents' deaths, notably that of former Governor César Iturre in 1996 and of Bishop Gerardo Sueldo in 1998. The 2002 deaths of two local women, however, were traced to Juárez's assassin, Antonio Musa Azar, and in an attempt to retain power, Juárez resigned (appointing his wife, Nina Juárez, governor).

The bid failed, however, as President Néstor Kirchner signed an executive order removing Mrs. Juárez from her post, in March, 2004. The Juárez couple, in their nineties, subsequently lived under house arrest in the city of Santiago del Estero; the former strongman died in 2010.

Some important figures related to the history of Santiago del Estero are Colonel Juan Francisco Borges, who led the local battalion of the Army of the North during the Argentine War of Independence (and an ancestor of writer Jorge Luis Borges), the 19th-century painter Felipe Taboada, as well as Francisco René and Mario Roberto Santucho, founders of the Partido Revolucionario de los Trabajadores (Workers' Revolutionary Party, PRT) and the Ejército Revolucionario del Pueblo (People's Revolutionary Army, ERP), the two leading guerrilla organizations during the wave of unrest in the 1970s.

The city is home to numerous important Argentine artists, such as Ramon Gómez Cornet, Carlos Sánchez Gramajo, Alfredo Gogna, Ricardo and Rafael Touriño in visual arts, and Jorge Washington Ábalos, Bernardo Canal Feijóo, Clementina Rosa Quenel, Alberto Tasso, Carlos Virgilio Zurita and Julio Carreras (h) in literature.

Santiago's musical heritage is one of the most important cultural aspects of the city, with typical folklore chacarera and zamba. Some renowned artists and groups include the Manseros Santiagueños, the Ábalos Brothers (led by Adolfo and Alfredo Ábalos), Jacinto Piedra and Dúo Coplanacu.

However, the bishop moved to Córdoba in 1699 and the government moved to Salta two years later. Furthermore, the silver route between Buenos Aires and the Viceroyalty of Peru passed through Tucumán rather than through Santiago. The combination of these circumstances drastically reduced the importance of the city and the territory and, by the beginning of the 19th century, the city had barely 5,000 inhabitants.

With the creation of the intendency of Salta, Santiago del Estero was transferred to the new intendency of Tucumán. In the middle of the national conflict, Santiago del Estero separated from Tucumán in 1820, coming under the control of pro-autonomy Governor Juan Felipe Ibarra. Among the new province's most effective advocates during its early decades was Amancio Jacinto Alcorta, a young composer of sacral music who, representing his province from 1826 to 1862, helped modernize commerce and its taxation in the unstable young nation and promoted domestic banking and credit. In 1856 the provincial constitution was formulated.

At the beginning of the 20th century Santiago del Estero acquired part of the lands that were the subject of a dispute with Chaco Province. By then the province had four cities and 35,000 inhabitants, most of whom lived in precarious conditions. The construction of the Los Quiroga dam in 1950 enabled the productivity of the otherwise arid land to be increased by irrigation.

During the 1890s, national policy makers were made aware of a little-publicized tourist route northwest of the city of Santiago del Estero, whereby, despite the abject lack of transportation or lodging amenities, a steady stream of visitors rode on horseback over craggy terrain for hours for the sake of enjoying a cluster of mineral springs rarely mentioned since Spaniards had first noticed them in 1543.

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