Argentina is the most "European" country on the South America, as 97% of its population are descendants of European immigrants (Germans, Spaniards, Italians, Russians, Armenians, Jews, etc.). The proportion of the local, aboriginal population is only 3%. For most of its history, Argentina has been (and remains) a Christian country. The dominant religion here is Catholicism, which was brought to the country by the Spanish conquerors, and then gradually changed, experiencing the influence of immigrants from other regions of the Earth.
Argentina officially referred to as the Argentine Republic is a federal state located in the south-east region of South America. It shares the Southern Cone with Chile to the west. Paraguay and Bolivia border Argentina to the north, the South Atlantic Ocean and Uruguay to the east, Brazil to the northeast, and to the south by the Drake Passage. Argentina occupies a total area of 2,780,400 km² and it is the eighth biggest nation in the globe, the second biggest in Latin America, and the biggest country that speaks Spanish.
In Argentina, religion plays a very important part in the traditions, customs, and culture of the society. Freedom of worship in the country has been guaranteed by the Constitution. The Constitution has not enforced an official faith for the country, but it gives Catholicism a different status. The government also mostly funds the Roman Catholic Church and besides the religious freedom in place, there are certain remaining traditions and customs that make it hard for a person who is not Catholic to become president.
About 76.5% of the total population in the country are Catholic, 11.3% Atheists and Agnostics, 9% Evangelical Protestants, 1.2% Jehovah’s Witness, and 0.9% Mormons. 1.2% of the population follow other religious beliefs such as Buddhism, Judaism, and Islam. Argentines demonstrate de-institutionalization and high individualization of religious beliefs: 23.8% of the citizens claim that they always attend religious services; 49.1% rarely do, and 26.8% do not attend.
Some of these religious beliefs are briefly discussed below.
Catholicism in Argentina
According to Art. 2 of the current Constitution, "the Federal government supports the Roman Catholic Apostolic religion". Religion has traditionally played an important role not only in public life, but also in public policy in Argentina. Church hierarchs have long been consistent supporters of conservative elites, although since the 1960s they have increasingly aligned themselves with democratic aspirations.
So, the politics, culture and society of Argentina are deeply permeated with Roman Catholicism. The place of the Church in the country’s national identity, which traverses across the ideological continuum, originates from the unending capability of Argentines on diverse sides of social and political divides to find some form of back up in the Church. The Roman Catholic Church was able to solidify its hold in the region of the present-day Argentina during the era of the Spanish colonial rule from the 16th to the 19th century. The Catholic Church is split into dioceses and archdioceses. Buenos Aires, for instance, is an archdiocese due to its size and historical importance as the country’s capital. Roman Catholicism is not the country’s official religion, but Catholic representatives participate in many state functions.
Most Argentines make yearly pilgrimages to local shrines and holy sites. The most common place is Luján which is located 65km west of Buenos Aires. Every year lots of people make the pilgrimage on foot from Buenos Aires to pay tribute to the Virgin of Luján, the Patron Saint of Argentina. Salta province is another pilgrimage site where the believers go to honour “Our Lord of the Miracles”. This usually takes place on 15th September every year. The other significant pilgrimage site is Itatí, located in Corrientes Province on the Parana River. Believers go there to honour the virgin of Itatí. This takes place every 16th of July.
Catholic practices in the country, especially in the rural areas, can be seen as integrating a lot of syncretism. This is simply the merging of diverse beliefs while mixing practices of different schools of thought. An example of such practices is the religious celebrations held in the north-west provinces. These festivals incorporate Catholic symbols in, or together with old Andean local ceremonies. Pachamama worship is still very common in Jujuy and Salta provinces alongside Catholic beliefs. The Pachamama worship has not been opposed by the Catholic bishops.
There are a total of eight Catholic Universities in the country: Universidad del Salvador and Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina both in Buenos Aires, the Universidad de Santiago del Estero, the Universidad Católica de Córdoba, the Universidad de Salta, the Universidad de Cuyo, the Universidad de La Plata, and the Universidad de Santa Fe.
Protestantism in Argentina
Protestant churches have gained a lot of ground in Argentina since the 1980s. Most Protestants are Evangelicals and they account for about 9% of the country’s total population. 7.9% of these are Pentecostal, 1.2% Jehovah’s Witnesses, and 0.9% Mormon.
Islam in Argentina
Islam in the country is presented by Latin America’s largest Muslim minority population. The size of the Muslim community in Argentina is roughly 1% of the whole population. This is a representation of 400,000 to 500,000 members. There are a number of indications that the presence of Muslims in present day Argentina date all the way back to the era of the Spanish conquest and exploration when the first Berber settlers, Moorish-Morisco, explored the land with the Spaniards. Most of them settled in Argentina especially those fleeing the Spanish Inquisition.
There was an influx of emigrants from the Ottoman Empire in the 20th century. Most of them were Arabs from Lebanon and Syria and they were generically referred to as ‘Turcos’ in Argentina. Most of these Arab emigrants were Arab Christians and others were Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews, and others Muslim.
There are a number of Islamic institutions in Argentina. Some of these include the mosque on Alberti St. located in Buenos Aires built in 1989, the King Fahd Islamic Cultural Centre which is the biggest mosque in South America, and the Islamic Organization of Latin America (IOLA). This organization is the most dynamic institution in Latin America in encouraging Islamic related activities. It also organizes events that encourage the association of Muslim residing in Latin America, and also the spread of Islam.
Judaism in Argentina
The Jewish population in Argentina is the largest in Latin America. Their History in the country dates back to the 16th century after their expulsion from Spain. The Sephardi Jews fled persecution and migrated with colonists and explorers and settled in what is presently Argentina. Most of the Portuguese merchants in the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata were also Jews. Other Jews from France and other regions of Western Europe, running away from the economic and social disturbances of revolutions also settled in Argentina.
Currently, the Jews make up less than 1% of the country’s population. The Jews are roughly 181,500 in number. 80% of them are Ashkenazi Jews, and Mizrahi and Sephardic Jews are the minority. Most of them live in Rosario, Córdoba, and Buenos Aires. The main Jewish holidays have been recognized by the government. The government allows the Jews to have a vacation of two days each to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and the first two and last two days to celebrate the Passover. There are a number of Jewish structures in the country such as the Central Synagogue of Buenos Aires, the Sephardic Temple in Barracas district, Buenos Aires, and a Jewish school in Moisés Ville, Santa Fe.
Buddhism in Argentina
Buddhism has been practiced in Argentina from the early 1980s. The religion was first established by the Chinese emigrants who built the first Chinese temple in 1986. Emigrants from Korea also established their temple and since then a lot of groups have been giving teachings in the country. Most of these teachings are embedded in the well known Japanese Sōtō tradition. The teachings are also taught in Tibetan organizations to encourage the practice of meditation.
In addition to traditional religious rituals, there are also a number of non - traditional-usually originating from local folklore. One of the most famous is the veneration of La Difunta Correa ( “the deceased Correa”).
Deolinda Correa was a woman whose husband fought in the civil war in 1840. Correa, along with his underdeveloped son, followed the battalion husband. While in San Juan, the Correa family suffered from hunger and thirst, and eventually they all died. A group of soldiers found her body a few days later, her son was still alive and fed on milk from her dead chest. Because of this apparent miracle, people built a temple of her name in Vallecito, where she was found. Her followers believe that Deolinda Correa has supernatural powers to heal the sick, read people's minds and raise the dead, and every year they make a pilgrimage to her grave, where they give each other gifts, to thank her for miracles.
Another popular cult is the cult of Gauchito Gira (Antonio nuñez Mamerto gir, born in the province of Corrientes presumably in 1847). He was forced to fight in civil war, however deserted and became outside of law, and La Robin hood.
The son of the Mapuche, Kachik Manuel Namuncura from the province of Rio Negro, also revered throughout Patagonia. He died of tuberculosis very early-at the age of 18, during his Catholic education in Italy. He was canonized at the Vatican.
There is also the popular cult of Miguel angel Gaitan, from the city of Villa Union in the La Rioja region. He is known as” El Angelito Milagroso", who died of meningitis just before his first birthday as a baby. People ask him for healing and miracles.
There are many other Theotokos, saints and other religious symbols existing throughout the country that are locally or regionally popular.
The Argentine Constitution declares freedom of belief for the citizens. The statement of the purposes of the Constitution comes to an end - “we refer to protection of God, a source of all reason and justice”.
The Constitution contains a number of references to religion. The fourteenth article, which describes the rights of citizens, includes a paragraph on freedom of religion: “all the inhabitants of the country have the right to the following rights: ... freely profess their religion ...”.
The government gives the Roman Catholic Church special privileges, based on the second article of the Constitution:
“The Federal government supports the Roman Catholic Apostolic religion.”
However, this privilege does not mean that the Roman Catholic religion has been elevated to the position of the state religion in Argentina-the Supreme court has ruled that the Roman Catholic Church is not granted the status of an official religion by the Constitution or Federal law.
Officially speaking, the support provided to the Roman Catholic Church in Argentina is economic (the state pays the salaries of bishops and cardinals) as well as organizational (for example, military structures have special positions for Catholic priests). In addition, the state subsidizes many private schools, most of which are linked to the Catholic Church. The total economic support of the Church is 12 million Argentine pesos per year (about $ 4 million). USA.) Each Bishop receives a monthly salary, which is set by law as 80% of the judge's salary, which is about 4,300 pesos,or $ 1,430. Older seminarians and priests who have retired receive minor pensions, and parishes in conflictive and border areas are subsidized with 335 pesos per month (112 USD). After recent conflicts with the Argentine national government, the episcopate is considering abandoning such support in favor of full independence.
The Constitution had previously stated that the President must be a believer of the Roman Catholic Church. This requirement was removed from the text as a result of the 1994 constitutional reform. The old text also included the goal of " maintaining peaceful relations with Indians and facilitating their conversion to Catholicism”, which was removed in the reform process
Attitude to religion
Catholicism is part of the cultural heritage of most Argentines. A study by Marita Carballo (Board member of Gallup International) in her book “cultural values at the turn of the Millennium” (1999) showed that 78% of Argentines call themselves Catholics. However, as elsewhere, only 8% attend Church more often than once a week, and 16% only once a month; among Catholics, only 28% attend weekly services, and a quarter of them do not attend services at all. In most cases, they attend Church from time to time for weddings, funerals, and major religious holidays. In addition, very few Argentines adhere strictly to Catholic ideology (for example, on contraception).
Studies show a decline in the authority of the Church, but in fact, the number of people who consider themselves “religious” increased from 62% in 1984 to 81% in 1999. There is, however, a tendency towards moral relativism: 54% of respondents expressed the view that “there is no clear dividing line between good and evil” because “they are completely dependent on circumstances”.
A separate survey by Gallup International in Latin America (2000) showed that 93 per cent of Argentine residents are followers of a particular religion (83 per cent of them are Catholics) and that regular Church attendance is related to ideological considerations, as well as gender, age, educational level and status (women and the elderly go to Church more; educated people and those with higher socio-economic status go less). The remaining 7% of Argentines can be regarded as non-religious.
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