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La Rioja Province (Argentina)

La Rioja is a one of the provinces of Argentina and is located in the west of the country. Neighboring provinces are from the north clockwise Catamarca, Cordoba, San Luis and San Juan.

Among Argentines it is famous and infamous as the province where former president and controversial figure Carlos Menem was governor and caudillo.


Petroglyphs at the Talampaya National Park dated around 10,000 years BCE set original inhabitants long before the arrival of the Spanish conquerors. When they arrived to La Rioja in the 16th century they found the diaguitas, capayanes and the olongastas.

Juan Ramirez de Velazco founded Todos los Santos de la Nueva Rioja in 1591 under the government of Tucuman of the Viceroyalty of Peru. In 1630 there was an uprising of the Calchaquies aborigins that was finished by governor Albornoz.

In 1783, after the creation of the Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata the control of the province of 10,000 inhabitants passed to the Cordoba indendency. The province acquired independence from Cordoba in 1820. Following attempts by Argentina's first elected President, Bernardino Rivadavia, to impose a centralist constitution, the figure of the caudillo Juan Facundo Quiroga emerged as a popular leader in touch with La Rioja locals' preference for more autonomy, something they preserved even following Quiroga's 1835 murder. After a period of internal instability in Argentina, the province finally joined the Argentine Confederation in 1853.

The wave of immigration Argentina experienced between 1880 and 1930 was less in evidence in La Rioja than in other Argentine provinces. Among the few to adventure to the province were Syrians and Lebanese immigrants. The most well-known of these are probably the Menem family, Syrian immigrants who settled in La Rioja in the 1920s. The newcomer, Saul Menem, prospered as a traveling salesman and his eldest son, Carlos Menem, became a stauch Peronist as a young man, becoming active in La Rioja politics. Elected governor in March, 1973, he implemented a number of reforms advocated by activists in touch with the province's poor, rural majority, particularly those of Bishop Enrique Angelelli.

Removed and imprisoned following President Isabel Peron's March 1976, ouster, he was kept in illegal confinement until the end of 1980, reportedly tortured in the process. La Rioja, for its part, some of the subsequent dictatorship's worst repression, including the brutal, August 1976, murder of Bishop Angelelli. Overwhelmingly returned to office when democracy was restored in 1983, Gov. Menem pursued more conservative policies, leveraging La Rioja's dry, agreeable climate, its modest wage scale and skilled work-force to successfully attract La Rioja's first significant presence of light industry, particularly bottling and food-processing.

Presiding over a growing La Rioja economy even as the nation's languished during the 1980s, Menem secured the Peronist Justicialist Party nomination in May 1988, defeating popular Buenos Aires Province Governor Antonio Cafiero in an upset.

President of Argentina between 1989 and 1999, Menem steered billions in federal public works spending into La Rioja and though the province remains less developed than average in Argentina, its economy today compares favorably with those of its neighbors.

Geography and climate

Located in the Argentine Northwest area, its landscape is arid to semi-arid, and the dry climate receives annually 200 mm of precipitations, has short winters and very hot summers.

From the Andes at the west, with peaks of up to 6,795 meters (Monte Pissis), the relief's height descents towards the sierras of the neighbouring dry Pampas zone.

The Talampaya National Park is a dry red-soil canyon of the ancient extinguished Talampaya river, which contains many walls and rock formations that make it an interesting tourist destination.


La Rioja's economy, estimated at US$1.8 billion in 2006, is the second-smallest among Argentina's provinces. Its per capita output of US$6,280, though about 30% below the national average, makes it the most well-developed in northern Argentina.

Its economy is, likewise, very well-diversified. Agriculture adds less than 5% to its output. La Rioja's agriculture (as well as cities) lays on the shore of the few permanents rivers and oasis that allow irrigation, with only 190 square kilometres of cultivated land. Vineyards, nuts and olive plantations are the most common, followed by cotton.

The province's main crop is the grape, and its associated wine production, specially around the Chilecito area, with a production of 8 million litres per year.

Cattle and goats are secondary activities, particularly for skin and leather. Clay represents the main mining activity, and uranium is also extracted near El Colorado.

Manufacturing in La Rioja has expanded considerably since Gov. Menem began attracting investment into the province, after 1983. Limited mostly to light industry like bottling and food processing, it, nevertheless, adds about 20% to La Rioja's output. Tourism is, likewise, an expanding activity. Besides the Talampaya National Park, tourists visiting La Rioja usually go also to the Chilecito town, Cerro de La Cruz, Termas de Santa Teresita hot springs and the village of Villa Sanagasta.

La Rioja's development plan is being designed by Proyectos Innovadores

Political division

The province is divided in 18 departments (Spanish departamentos).

Arauco (Aimogasta)

Capital (La Rioja)

Castro Barros (Aminga)

Chamical (Chamical)

Chilecito (Chilecito)

Coronel Felipe Varela (Villa Union)

Famatina (Famatina)

General angel Vicente Penaloza (Tama)

General Belgrano (Olta)

General Juan Facundo Quiroga (Malazan)

General Lamadrid (Villa Castelli)

General Ocampo (Milagro)

General San Martin (Ulapes)

Independencia (Patquia)

Rosario Vera Penaloza (Chepes)

San Blas (San Blas)

Sanagasta (Sanagasta)

Vinchina (Vinchina)

See also

1894 San Juan earthquake

External links

Gobierno de La Rioja Official website

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article La Rioja Province (Argentina)

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