The 9th of July in Argentina celebrates the Día de la Independencia and commemorates Argentina’s independence from Spain that was officially declared on July 9, 1816. Like many a country’s independence day, it’s a public holiday and a pretty big affair. If you’re going to be in Argentina on this historical day, here’s a little bit of background info so you can tuck into that giant bowl of locro with more meaning.

A little history

Official flag of Argentina — © Elias Butynski / Pixabay.
Official flag of Argentina — © Elias Butynski / Pixabay.

European explorers first discovered Argentina in the first part of the sixteenth century and by 1580 Spain had colonized the region and settled on the land where Buenos Aires lies today. For much of Argentina’s early history, the population was divided between the Spanish immigrants who lived in Buenos Aires and other cities and the indigenous people who lived in the rural areas.

A couple of hundred years later in the early 1800s, the British tried to invade Argentine soil and the Argentines defeated them. This planted the seed in the minds of the natives that they could win a war for independence.

This war for independence gained further momentum in 1810 when King Ferdinand VII of Spain was overthrown by Napoleon in Spain’s Peninsula War. The citizens of Buenos Aires took action against the new Spanish rulers and on May 25 1810, a day that’s become known as the May Revolution (another celebrated national holiday in Argentina), they formed their own government, the First Government Junta, that was a clear demonstrations of their intention to break free. A six-year struggle for independence ensued, led by military strategist and revolutionary General José de San Martin, today considered one of the founding fathers of Argentina and a national hero.

General Jose de San Martin — Argentine national hero — © Günter Nikles / Pixabay.
General Jose de San Martin — Argentine national hero — © Günter Nikles / Pixabay.

When Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo in 1816, Argentine delegates traveled far and wide to the city of Tucumán for a Congress, with the aim to unite and finally declare their independence. The voting ended on July 9, 1816 with a declaration of Argentina’s official independence from Spain. Uruguay, Bolivia and Paraguay were also freed from Spanish rule under this act, which created a group of nation states called Las Provincias Unidas de America del Sur (the United Provinces of South America). The family home where the delegates gathered still remains today and has been turned into the museum Casa Histórica de la Independencia.

Obelisk on Avenida 9 de julio in Buenos Aires — © Richie Diesterheft / Flickr.
Obelisk on Avenida 9 de julio in Buenos Aires — © Richie Diesterheft / Flickr.

You’re probably familiar with that very wide, very hard-to-cross road in Buenos Aires, Avenida 9 de Julio (that locals claim is the widest avenue in the world with 12 lanes). This road honors this important historic date. In fact, almost every settlement or town in Argentina has a street named 9 de Julio.

How the Argentines officially celebrate

Military parades in Buenos Aires for independence day — © anvmedia / iStock.
Military parades in Buenos Aires for independence day — © anvmedia / iStock.

Officially the day is celebrated with rallying speeches from the President and his entourage, political parades and military demonstrations that take place across all major cities in the country. If you’re in Buenos Aires, you’ll find most of the action taking place downtown around Plaza de Mayo and along Avenida 9 de Julio.

The unofficial celebrations

Locro — Typical Argentine stew — © Vera & Jean-Christophe / Flickr.
Locro — Typical Argentine stew — © Vera & Jean-Christophe / Flickr.

Unofficially, it’s a time for families and friends to enjoy their day off and eat and drink themselves into a coma. They usually unite for a long lunch that often extends well into the night.

Instead of celebrating with the customary asado as you might expect, the custom for this patriotic occasion is to eat locro, a hearty, filling stew perfect for the winter weather that’s made with onion, garlic, corn, potato, pumpkin and beans, and meat, of course. Depending on the household and their preferences, the meat can be beef or pork with the addition of smoked bacon or chorizo for extra flavor. And no meat-heavy Argentine meal would be complete without a good bottle of Malbec or two. But don’t fill yourself too full of locro as there’s more to come. For dessert, pastelitos are traditionally served that are deep fried pastries stuffed with sweet potato or membrillo (quince jam) and enjoyed with mate or coffee. Since it’s a feriado (public holiday) and an excuse to indulge, churros and hot chocolate will often follow later in the day, setting you up for a long siesta if you haven’t had one already.

If you don’t get an invite to anyone’s home for 9 de julio in Buenos Aires, you can still get your fill of locro and pastelitos at one of the city’s local restaurant as most will be serving these dishes. And since there’s no work or Spanish classes that day, it’s also the perfect excuse to go out and party the night before.

Got any more interesting trivia to add about the 9th of July in Argentina? Share your comments with our readers below.

Originally published on Ailola by Sophie Lloyd on July 4, 2019.