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Catamarca is a province of Argentinamarker, located in the northwest of the country. The province has a population of 334,568 as per the , and covers an area of 102,602 km². Its literacy rate is 95.5%. Neighbouring provinces are (clockwise, from the north): Salta, Tucumánmarker, Santiago del Estero, Córdoba, and La Rioja. To the west it borders Chilemarker.

The capital is San Fernando del Valle de Catamarca, usually shortened to Catamarca. Other important cities include Andalgalá, Tinogasta, and Belén.


Most of Catamarca’s territory of 102,602 square kilometers (2.7% of the country total), is covered by mountains (80%), which can be grouped into four clearly differentiated systems: the Pampean sierras, in the east and center; the Narváez-Cerro Negro-Famatina system, in the west; the cordilleran-Catamarca area of transition, in the western extreme; the Puna, an elevated portion, in the northwest.

Located in an arid and semi-arid climatic zone, Catamarca shows an evident scarcity of superficial hydraulic resources; this fact accounts for human activities and settlements. Advantage has been taken of intermontane areas, such as pockets and valleys, for agricultural activities. To the east of its territory there are several water courses, distributed through canals and irrigation ditches, around which the population is concentrated, with the most efficient network of facilities and services.

Average temperature recorded in the east and the capital city is 20°C/68°F, with extreme variations up to 45°C/113°F. Total precipitation for the same region ranges from 400 to 500 mm.

Highest point: Nevada Ojos del Salado (Salt Springs Peak) 6908 meters.


Before the arrival of the Spanish conquest, most of today's Catamarca was inhabited by the Diaguitas indigenous people, including the fierce Calchaquí tribe. In 1558 Juan Pérez de Zurita founded San Juan de la Ribera de Londres, but since it was constantly under attack of the indigenous people it was not very populated, it was re-founded, changed its locating, and renamed several times. For its 6th foundation, on July 5 1683, Fernando de Mendoza Mate de Luna founded the city of San Fernando del Valle de Catamarca.

When the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata was created in 1776, Catamarca obtained the title of Subintendencia under the Salta intendency. In 1821, the province claims its autonomy, and Nicolás Avellaneda y Tula (grandfather of Nicolás Avellaneda) is elected as the first governor of the province.

Archaeological remains of the Pucará civilization, Santa Maria del Yokavíl.

There are two versions of the origin of the name. The Quechua version form words "cata" ("slope") and "marca" ("fortress") forming "Fortress on the slope", and the Aymara version from words "Catán" ("small") and "marca" ("town or moose") resulting in "Small town or moose".

Catamarca remained isolated from the rest of Argentina by its mountains until 1888, when the rapidly expanding railways first appeared in the province. Attracting immigrants with its spacious, fertile valleys and dry, agreeable weather, Catamarca was soon favored by immigrants from Lebanonmarker and Iranmarker, who found Catamarca reminiscent of the fertile, orchard-lined mountain valleys of the homes they left behind.

One such family, the Saadis, became prominent in local commerce and politics (much as the Syrianmarker Menems in neighboring La Rioja). In 1949, the newly designated province elected Vicente Saadi as governor. Eventually, Saadi, a Peronist, would become indispensable to local politics (a Caudillo), exerting influence mostly by proxy. Passing away in 1988, he was succeeded by his son, Ramon. In 1990, however, close friends of the Saadis were involved in a brutal murder involving a local, 15-year-old girl. Quickly becoming a cause cèlebre, the death of Maria Soledad Morales cost Gov. Saadi much of his popularity and, in 1991, his office, when Catamarca (for the first time) voted in a Radical Civic Union (UCR) candidate, Arnoldo Castillo. Elected by his still considerable following to the Senate, Saadi is today an ally of President Cristina Kirchner, though the governor's seat remains in the UCR's column.


Annual growth rate is 23.5‰, while density amounts to 2.6 inhabitants per square kilometer. Urban population represents 70%. (1991).


Catamarca's economy is Argentina's smallest, though not its least developed. Its 2006 economy was estimated at US$1.7 billion, or, US$5,280 per capita, 40% below the national average.Less diversified than most in Argentina, agriculture has never played an important role in the Catamarca economy (contributing less than 5% to its output). The province's livestock includes around 200,000 bovine heads of cattle, 100,000 bovine, and 150,000 goats, with an annual production of 7,000 tonnes of beef, 5 tonnes of sheep meat, and 10 tonnes of pork, although outbreaks of foot and mouth disease has kept at times the production from reaching full potential.

Mining, however, has been unusually relevant in the past and, after becoming somewhat inactive in the early 1990s, grew to prominence again by the year 2000 (now accounting for over 20% of the economy). Catamarca is home to one of the largest copper gold mines in the world, Bajo de la Alumbrera which produces approximately 600,000 ounces of gold and 190,000 tonnes of copper annually. The mine directly employs over 1,000 people and contributes hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes and royalties to the federal and provincial governments.

Its agriculture focuses on wood (walnut), vineyards, olive, citrus, cotton and tobacco, to which the government gives tax cuts to facilitate economic growth so far with failing results and no oversight.
Tourism is a surging economy in Catamarca, with more than 3,465 beds in hotels and other types of accommodation. Although high hopes are focused in this industry, lack of infrastructure, service oriented and trained businesses and an overall endemic corruption culture, tourism has yet to become a real option for the local economy. Mountains and geological formation are the main attraction, with sights such as Antofagasta de la Sierramarker, Balcones del Valle, the Snow-Covered Summits of Aconquija, and the Pass of San Francisco. The San Francisco Pass, an endeavor developed during the Castillo Administrations (1991-2003) at a tremendous cost to public funds has failed to bring trade and tourism to underdeveloped Tinogasta county.Large numbers of cattle, fattened in the alfalfa fields of Pucara, Tinogasta and Copacabana, were driven into northern Chile across the San Francisco pass and mules were bred for the Bolivian market in 1910's. Cultural attractions include the city of Catamarca, the archaeological park Las Huellas del Inca, prehistoric petroglyphs, local music, handcrafts and wines.


Major highways include Ruta 33 from Catamarca 98 km south to San Martin, 38 from Catamarca north via San Pedro 228 km to Tucuman, 60 north-west from Cordoba province 577 km from La Guardia north-west (partly through La Rioja) to Chilemarker by the Passa de San Francisco (4722 m), 64 west from Santiago del Estero to join 38 and 157 north from La Guardia 103 km to Frias where it connects with 89 west from Villa San Martin (Santiago del Estero), and north to Tucuman province at San Pedro, connecting with 64 near Las Cañas.There is an airport at Catamarca.

Government and politics

Since its foundation in 1991 by the Catamarcan branch of the Radical Civic Union and minor local parties the Civic and Social Front of Catamarca has dominated state politics. It has held the governor's house in Catamarca, first with Arnoldo Castillo (1991-1999), then with his son Oscar Castillo (1999-2003), and now with the present governor, Eduardo Brizuela del Moral.

Political division

Mount El Manchao.
The province is divided into sixteen departments ( ).

Department (Capital)

  1. Ambato Department (La Puertamarker)
  2. Ancasti Departmentmarker (Ancastimarker)
  3. Andalgalá Department (Andalgalá)
  4. Antofagasta de la Sierra Department (Antofagasta de la Sierramarker)
  5. Belén Departmentmarker (Belén)
  6. Capayán Department (Huillapimamarker)
  7. Capital Department (San Fernando del Valle de Catamarca)
  8. El Alto Department (El Altomarker)
  9. Fray Mamerto Esquiú Department (San Josémarker)
  10. La Paz Department (Recreomarker)
  11. Paclín Department (La Mercedmarker)
  12. Pomán Departmentmarker (Saujil)
  13. Santa María Department (Santa María)
  14. Santa Rosa Department (Bañado de Ovantamarker)
  15. Tinogasta Department (Tinogasta)
  16. Valle Viejo Department (San Isidromarker)

Notable people


  1. I.A.D.E.R

External links

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