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The Viceroyalty of la Plata consisted of present-day Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay, an area of 1,693,800 square miles or about 48% of the size of the United States of America. It had been created in 1776 because of increased smuggling in the Río de la Plata area. Buenos Aires, the seat of the viceroyalty, grew from a village with mud huts into a sizable city as it prospered from the influx of government money and trade. It became the chief rival, and eventual victor, over the old Argentina centered in the Northwest.
The Spanish Empire largely ignored the coastal regions, including Buenos Aires, in the colonial period.There was no geographical unity in the viceroyalty.
Buenos Aires was a city and a province. Most of the province was rural and served as the hinterland of the city.
Buenos Aires became important for political reasons—because the Spanish king decided to make it a viceregal capital—not because it had the best harbor. It didn't. Better harbors were found at Paraná, up the Río de la Plata or further south on the coast at La Plata.
It was the river system—the Río de la Plata, the Río Paraná, and the Río Paraguay—which made the region valuable because they were transportation routes. Ocean going ships could dock at Paraná.
We define Argentina by what it became which assumes that this was inevitable. This is a grievous error. It could have become the entire viceroyalty and there were some people who wanted that. However the people in Upper Charcas (Bolivia) and Paraguay quickly convinced the imperialists in Buenos Aires that such was not to be the case. Upper Charcas was a region whose population was largely Indian and most of the people lived in the rugged Andes Mountains. Uruguay (the Banda Oriental as it was known in the colonial period, would have been part of present-day Argentina had Brazil and then Great Britain stopped both Argentina's and Brazil's efforts to annex it. Nevertheless, Argentina continued to intervene in Uruguay with hopes of annexing it or, failing that, making it a satellite state. One reason was the imperialistic urge; another to to prevent Brazil from controlling the little country; and the third was to prevent Montevideo from becoming the principal port on the Río de la Plata
Even if one uses the current definition of Argentina, there are geographical difficulties to nation forming in the early 19th century. There were at least five (5) Argentinas:
2. The frontier beginning in Buenos Aires province and stretching southwards through Patagonia, a region that was cold, wind swept, and controlled by fierce nomadic peoples. The northern part had rich land and would be conquered in the nineteenth century. 3. The Littoral provinces of Santa Fé, Enter Ríos, Corrientes, and Chaco which were served by the river system.
4. Buenos Aires province which shared more in common with the other rural, ranching states than with its city.
5. Buenos Aires city, which was more internationalist and modern with a distinctly European frame of mind.
The Argentine nation was defined in steps.