Politics and economics
Argentina has a tumultuous economic history, one marked by fleeting golden ages and tainted by corruption and hard times. But it’s also an illustrious economic history, a story of a country that was once one of the world’s economic powerhouses, a country that has a literacy-rate equal to that of the US, a country that gave birth to some life-changing innovations: the public bus service, the coronary bypass, fingerprint identification and the ballpoint pen to name but a few.
Argentina benefits from rich natural resources, a highly educated population, a globally competitive agricultural sector and a diversified industrial base.
Geography and climate
Argentina is the second largest country in South America, covering an area of 2.8 million square km, constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, Buenos Aires. It is the eighth largest country in the world by land area and the largest among Spanish-speaking nations, though Mexico, Colombia and Spain are more populous. Its continental area is between the Andes mountain range in the west and the Atlantic Ocean in the east.
The north is characterized by very hot, humid summers with mild drier winters, and is subject to periodic droughts. Central Argentina has hot summers with thunderstorms (western Argentina produces some of the world's largest hails), and cool winters. The southern regions have warm summers and cold winters with heavy snowfall, especially in mountainous zones.
People and society
As with other areas of new settlement such as Canada, Australia and the United States, Argentina is considered a country of immigrants. Most Argentinians are descended from colonial-era settlers and of the 19th and 20th century immigrants from Europe. Over 6.2 million Europeans emigrated to Argentina from the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries when Argentina was second only to the United States in the number of European immigrants received, and at the time, the national population doubled every two decades. The majority of these European immigrants came from Italy and Spain.
Religion and the church
A huge nine out of ten of the population firmly believes in God, and most are nominally Roman Catholic. About three quarters of Argentinians call themselves Roman Catholic, but only two in ten practice regularly. Just under one in ten is Protestant. Buenos Aires has the second largest population of Jewish people in the Americas, second only to New York City. Argentina also has the largest Muslim minority in America, and the largest mosque.
Many locally or regionally popular beliefs in saints and other religious characters exist throughout the country, and religious festivals in the provinces feature Catholic icons in or along with ancient Andean indigenous ceremonies.
The state grants the Roman Catholic Church special privileges, but the Supreme Court has ruled that this does not imply the status of official state-religion.
In 1986, a group of evangelical pastors in Buenos Aires wanted to mark a ‘testimony of faith’ by planning a mass-rally in the Vélez Sársfield stadium. To assure a large audience, the organisers invited evangelist Luis Palau – ‘the Argentinian who has spoken to most people in the world’ – to preach. Press reports the next day estimated attendance figures at 5,000. Seventeen years later, Luis returned for two open-air campaigns, this time stunning the press by attracting around 400,000 people.
In Argentina, the postmodern Anglican with laptop and cellphone belongs to the same denomination as a pre-modern Amerindian who hunts and fishes for survival. Among the indigenous people in Northern Argentina, the Anglican church and the Bible Society reached a historic milestone in 2002 with the publication of the first complete Bible translated into the language of the earliest known tribe.
While Protestants have engaged in many local educational and social action initiatives, traditionally there have been few inroads into the public market-square. With their numerical increase and rising profile in a time of economic crisis, and with widespread disillusionment with the traditional party-politics, Protestants are venturing into the political arena.
Latin Link's work in Argentina
Members of our current team are involved in a variety of ministries up and down the country, including pastoral work, theological education, working with children at risk and families with disabled children, facilitating cross-cultural mission, youth and prison work. Despite large distances, we have an active desire to support each other as a team.
We would like to expand all of these areas up and down the country, working alongside Argentina’s churches. Many resources are concentrated in the big cities like Buenos Aires and Córdoba, leaving huge areas of the country relatively unattended. The church perceives itself as still relatively young and recognises the need for well-grounded Bible teaching and theological education. With a huge percentage of the population being less than 25 years of age there is a need for holistic work with teenagers and young adults. We would also like to develop our sending of Argentinians on Step and Stride.
Argentinian culture is based on ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’. Relationships are very important. This is a culture where there is still a basic acceptance of God’s existence, and a popular spirituality, where there is a need for an apparent greater integration of faith into daily living. We welcome both well-trained professionals, and those with vocational or fewer qualifications, but who want to serve. It should be noted that in some cases health professionals, for example, may not be able to practise without a lengthy revalidation process. We need people who are people-oriented, flexible, able to listen, creative people with initiative, people with a servant heart and a holistic approach to mission.