From the northern border to the far south, pre-Columbian Argentina was inhabited by nomadic tribes of Indians of different cultures, who lived autonomously and separately in groups with demographic density differing from region and region. Many tribes were at a stage of civilization corresponding to the European Neolithic; only the northwestern edges of the country’s current borders were part of the Inca empire and thus fell within the scope of a relatively advanced state organization, with sedentary populations at a more advanced level.
The Spaniards arrived in Argentine territory in the first half of the 16th century, when they had already consolidated their presence in the Caribbean and other parts of the New World. The history of European penetration begins in 1516, the year in which Juan Díaz de Solís touched the common Atlantic estuary of the three navigable rivers Paraguay, Paraná and Uruguay, in search of a passage from the Atlantic to East Asia. With the same intent in 1520 Ferdinando Magellano explored the estuary and the neighboring coasts. In 1526 Sebastiano Caboto went up the rivers for a stretch until the confluence of the Pilcomayo, believing on the basis of the silver ornaments of the natives that vast deposits of that material were found in the interior of the region. It was for this supposed wealth that
According to a2zdirectory, the road opened by Caboto was traveled by Pedro de Mendoza, leading an expedition to colonize the banks of the estuary. Appointed adelantado (‘governor’) of the territories he would occupy, Mendoza landed in 1535 on the right of the Río de la Plata, where he founded the city of Santa María de Buenos Aires (1536), which however could not prosper and was abandoned for the hostility of the natives. In the second half of the 16th century, geographical knowledge proceeded hand in hand with colonization and the various strongholds or cities founded marked the stages of the conquest (Santiago del Estero, Mendoza, Tucumán, Córdoba, Corrientes, Buenos Aires rebuilt in 1580 by Juan de Garay). The original populations were decimated or reduced to small groups; the lands were almost all occupied.
The possessions of the Río de la Plata (official name under which today’s Paraguay was also included until 1617), permanently occupied by the Spaniards from 1536, were governed by the adelantados system. The political-administrative organization was similar to that applied to the other Spanish colonies, with representatives of various powers, judicial, political, military and religious, while the economic framework was based on land ownership (encomienda), which gave the owner almost feudal prerogatives. Livestock farming and grain production quickly formed the basis of solid agricultural wealth. The export permit obtained from Spain (1602) favored the development of the colony, which in 1776 was elevated to viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata, and then divided into eight stewardships, each headed by a governor.
With the development of the colony the first aspirations for independence were outlined, which matured in the Napoleonic era. Manuel Belgrano and Mariano Moreno, proponents of liberal and democratic ideas borrowed from Europe, demanded political reforms capable of easing the conditioning of the colonial regime. In Buenos Aires, as indeed in other South American cities, nationalistic circles were formed that supported the redemption of Argentina and all of South America from Spanish domination. The process was accelerated, in the years 1806-07, by the landing in Buenos Aires of an English contingent, in an operation aimed at conquering new bases on the American continent to be transformed, after the loss of the northern colonies following the proclamation of independence of the United States, in large supply and outlet centers for the British economy, put in crisis by the war with Napoleon. Buenos Aires was proclaimed a possession of the British Crown, and free trade was enacted only with England. The resistance was led, successfully, not by the viceroy’s forces, but by local militias and by the separatists – led by Jacques de Liniers and the Legión de patricios – already hostile to Spanish monopolistic practices and now to the constraints of London.
In May 1810 the patriots replaced the last viceroy, Baltazar de Cisneros, with a ‘Provisional Government Council of the Río de la Plata’, in the name of Ferdinand VII, the legitimate ruler. But in fact, this decided the definitive detachment from Spain which was no longer able to control the Argentine territory.