Santiago del Estero

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Santiago del Estero
(From top to bottom; from left to right) Aerial view of the city; Santiago del Estero Cathedral; Plaza Libertad; Santiago del Estero Cultural Complex and Monument to Belgrano
(From top to bottom; from left to right) Aerial view of the city; Santiago del Estero Cathedral; Plaza Libertad; Santiago del Estero Cultural Complex and Monument to Belgrano
Coat of arms of Santiago del Estero
Coat of arms
Nickname(s): Mother of Cities
Santiago del Estero is located in Argentina
Santiago del Estero
Santiago del Estero
Location of Santiago del Estero in Argentina
Coordinates: 27°47′S 64°16′W / 27.783°S 64.267°W / -27.783; -64.267Coordinates: 27°47′S 64°16′W / 27.783°S 64.267°W / -27.783; -64.267
Country Argentina
Province Santiago del Estero
Department Capital
 • Mayor Hugo Orlando Infante (Frente Cívico)
 • Total 2,116 km2 (817 sq mi)
Elevation 182 m (597 ft)
 • Total 244,733
 • Density 120/km2 (300/sq mi)
Demonym(s) santiagueño
Time zone ART (UTC−3)
CPA base G4200
Dialing code +54 385

Santiago del Estero (Spanish pronunciation: [sanˈtjaɣo ðel esteɾo], 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. Santiago del Estero is the oldest city founded by Spanish settlers in Argentina that still exists as such, estimated to be 455 years old, according to historical sources of Argentina. As such, it is nicknamed "Madre de Ciudades" (Mother of Cities), as it is the first city founded in the actual territory of Argentina. It was officially declared "Mother of cities and Cradle of Folklore".[1]

The city houses the National University of Santiago del Estero, founded in 1973, and 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 this the southernmost outpost of the language of the Incas. This is one of the few indigenous languages surviving in modern Argentina.


Petit Palais
Santiago del Estero Cathederal c.1970
Front of the General Belgrano Railway train station.
Complejo Juan Felipe Ibarra

After a series of exploratory expeditions from Chile starting in 1543, Santiago del Estero del Nuevo Maestrazgo was founded on July 25, 1553 by Francisco de Aguirre (although some historians consider its true foundation to be in 1550). Although it is the oldest city in Argentina, it preserves little of its former Spanish colonial architecture, except for several churches.

In 1576, the governor of a province in Northern Argentina commissioned the military to search for a huge mass of iron, which he had heard that Natives used for their weapons. They called the area "Heavenly Fields," translated into Spanish as Campo del Cielo. (This term now refers to a protected area situated on the border between the provinces of Chaco and Santiago del Estero, where a group of iron meteorites were found, estimated as having fallen in an Holocene impact event some 4,000–5,000 years ago. In 2015, Police arrested four alleged smugglers trying to steal more than a ton of protected meteorites.[2])

The city was the capital of the Intendency of San Miguel de Tucumán during the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata, and first seat of its bishop; those were later moved to Salta and Córdoba respectively.

Santiago del Estero stands in the middle of an extensive but largely semi-arid agricultural region. Originally a dry forest area, the abundance of quebracho attracted timber industries of British capital during the 19th century, leading to extensive deforestation; the British-owned Central Argentine Railway reached the city in 1884.[3]

The province, in 1948, elected a young Peronist activist, Carlos Juárez, as its Governor. Santiago del Estero's central political figure during the second half of the 20th Century, he soon became indispensable to local politics (even out of power). A true Caudillo (strongman), his amiable demeanor belied a record of ruthlessness towards opposition figures.[4]

The construction of the nearby Quiroga Dam (on the Río Dulce) in 1950, eased the city's chronic water shortage and spurred the growth of local agriculture, based on cotton and olives. The city's first school of higher education, the Instituto Superior del Profesorado (a normal school), was established in 1953. The city developed a sizable manufacturing sector based on textile mills and other light industry from the 1950s on, though the public sector remained the largest employer. Santiago del Estero's population reached 100,000 in 1970.[3]

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.[5]

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).[4]

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.


Road bridge between Santiago del Estero and La Banda

The Vicecomodoro Ángel de la Paz Aragonés Airport airport was built in 1959 and currently has flights to and from Buenos Aires operated by Aerolíneas Argentinas and its subsidiary Austral Líneas Aéreas. In recent years it has undergone refurbishment and expansion given that it was operating at full capacity.[6]

The city has historically been connected through the General Belgrano Railway and General Mitre Railway. An elevated commuter rail line known as Tren al Desarrollo is under construction in the city, connecting it to the city of La Banda.[7]

The city's main road connection to other provinces is National Route 9, which connects it to the cities of Cordoba, Rosario and Buenos Aires to the south and San Miguel de Tucumán, Salta and San Salvador de Jujuy to the north. National Route 64 connects the city to San Fernando del Valle de Catamarca, the capital of Catamarca Province. In November 2008, a new long distance bus terminal was inaugurated, replacing the previous bus terminal in the city.[8]


Monument to Manuel Belgrano

Santiago del Estero lies in a transition zone between more temperate climates, typical of the Pampa, and the hotter climates of the Chaco region: while daytime highs are decidedly very hot, nights tend to cool down more than most locations in the Chaco. It has a humid subtropical climate (Cwa) under the Köppen climate classification.

The city is notorious for its very hot summer weather: the average high is 34 °C (93.2 °F) and 40 °C (104.0 °F) are attained on a regular basis; the highest temperature on record is 46.5 °C (115.7 °F) on November 1, 2009.[9] Nighttime temperatures are 20 °C (68.0 °F) in midsummer. There is a very short, wetter season in December and January, with up to 140 millimetres (6 in) monthly; however, this rain falls during a handful of very strong thunderstorms, and so the amount that falls on a given year is extremely variable.

Fall is still warm, with average highs of 27 °C (80.6 °F) in April, and lows of 14 °C (57.2 °F). Temperatures can still soar to 40 °C (104.0 °F) in this season. Rainfall is scarce, and becomes practically 0 for 5 months: in July, only 3.7 millimetres (0 in) are expected. Winters bring very pleasant days (20 °C (68.0 °F)) with markedly colder nights (under 6 °C (42.8 °F)). Nonetheless, these averages are obtained through an alternance of heat waves and cold waves: short periods of 28 to 35 °C (82.4 to 95.0 °F) are followed by frosty days with highs around 12 °C (53.6 °F), and sometimes the thermometer fails to reach 8 °C (46.4 °F). The thermometer does descend below −5 °C (23.0 °F), and the record low is −9.0 °C (15.8 °F) on July 18, 1975.[9]

Late in the winter, heat waves become much more common, and in September, 40 °C (104.0 °F) are already possible. The pattern of intense heat waves followed by cool, windy weather is typical of spring, which is also very dry in Santiago. The high temperatures, extreme dryness and high winds create a very dusty environment. In October, the average high is already 31 °C (87.8 °F), and rainfall only arrives in late November. December is as hot as January, and the abundant rains make the landscape green for a few months. Total precipitation is low, 609 millimetres (24 in), and varies from one year to another.

Climate data for Santiago del Estero (1961–1990, extremes 1931–present)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 44.5
Average high °C (°F) 33.9
Daily mean °C (°F) 26.8
Average low °C (°F) 20.3
Record low °C (°F) 5.0
Average precipitation mm (inches) 135.5
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.1 mm) 10 8 9 6 5 3 3 2 3 5 7 9 70
Average relative humidity (%) 67 70 75 76 75 73 67 57 54 56 59 62 66
Mean monthly sunshine hours 241.8 223.2 192.2 174.0 145.7 135.0 158.1 207.7 189.0 210.8 234.0 226.3 2,337.8
Percent possible sunshine 57 60 51 51 43 43 48 60 53 53 57 53 52
Source #1: NOAA,[10] Oficina de Riesgo Agropecuario (October record high only)[9] Meteo Climat (record highs and lows)[11]
Source #2: Servicio Meteorológico Nacional (precipitation days),[12] UNLP (sun only)[13]


The Ábalos Brothers, whose folklore records have sold well across South America, since their 1952 debut.

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 Raly Barrionuevo.



  1. ^ Boletín Oficial
  2. ^ Four arrested in Argentina smuggling more than ton of meteorites
  3. ^ a b Historical Dictionary of Argentina. London: Scarecrow Press, 1978.
  4. ^ a b Unofficial biography of Carlos Juárez.
  5. ^ "Santiago del Estero Journal; With Fire and Fury, Argentine Poor Make a Point" New York Times. December 22, 1993.
  6. ^ Ya están habilitadas las obras realizadas en las instalaciones del aeropuerto de Mal Paso - El Liberal, 13 February 2012.
  7. ^ Obra pronta a ser inaugurada, el Tren al Desarrollo - Gobierno de la Provincia de Santiago del Estero, 14 April 2015.
  8. ^ Inauguran terminal de ómnibus en Santiago del Estero - Presidencia de la Nacion, 26 November 2008.
  9. ^ a b c "Santiago del Estero, Santiago del Estero". Estadísticas meteorológicas decadiales (in Spanish). Oficina de Riesgo Agropecuario. Retrieved June 11, 2015. 
  10. ^ "Santiago del Estero AERO Climate Normals 1961–1990". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved March 29, 2015. 
  11. ^ "STATION Santiago del Estero" (in French). Météoclimat. Retrieved June 11, 2015. 
  12. ^ "Valores Medios de Temperature y Precipitación-Santiago del Estero: Santiago del Estero" (in Spanish). Servicio Meteorológico Nacional. Retrieved March 29, 2015. 
  13. ^ "Datos bioclimáticos de 173 localidades argentinas". Atlas Bioclimáticos (in Spanish). Universidad Nacional de La Plata. Retrieved April 8, 2014. 

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