The Arts in Argentina

Julie Zimmermann

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Argentina, officially known as the Argentine Republic, gained independence from Spain on July 9, 1816, and is the second largest country in South America, located between Chile and the Andes mountain range to the west, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. It is the eighth largest country in the world and the largest among Spanish speaking nations. Its largest city and capital, Buenos Aires, is the second largest metropolitan area in South America.
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In Argentina all children between the ages of 6 and 14 are required primary education by law. Free primary education is available to everyone. Among Latin American countries, Argentina has the highest levels of education and the literacy rate is over 95%. High school education is usually both affordable and available, although attendance falls by nearly half among students older than 14. General school curriculum includes Science, Mathematics, Languages, Art, History, Sport and Geography. The percentage of students completing university degree programs is 3.2% of the population, the second highest in the world after France. The country’s public university system is also free of charge. Argentina is a nation with a rich Spanish heritage, strongly influenced since the 19th century by European, particularly Italian, immigration. A lively interest is maintained in the nation's history, particularly as symbolized by the gaucho (cowboy). In the fine arts, the most important model has been France.

Artist Profile

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Ástor Piazzolla was born in Mar del Plata, Argentina in March 1921 to Italian parents. His grandfather had immigrated to Mar del Plata from in southeastern Italy. Piazzolla spent most of his childhood with his family in New York City, where he was exposed to jazz at an early age. While there, he acquired fluency in Spanish, English, French, and Italian. He began to play the bandoneon because his father wanted to encourage him to carry on their Argentinean culture’s tradition. He quickly grew into a prodigy bandoneonist, and regularly performed his own compositions with different ensembles. Piazzolla returned to Argentina in 1955 and formed the Octeto Buenos Aires. Together, the ensemble introduced a new approach to the tango, which became termed as nuevo tango, which incorporates elements of jazz and classical music. In 1992 he suffered thrombosis in Paris, and died two years later in Buenos Aires.

Program Profile

TangoVia Buenos Aires, formed in 2002, is a nonprofit organization that has brought together artists, researchers, producers and cultural institutions to contribute to the tango as a form of art. TangoVia’s mission is to preserve, educate, study and diffuse all aspects of tango culture from its origins to present day music, poetry, and dance. Members of TangoVia produce festivals, artistic seasons, books and educational tools, documentaries and recordings. All of which demonstrate the organization’s belief that the tango is a living art form which is constantly evolving. Since its inception, TangoVia Buenos Aires has worked with the Emilio Balcarce Tango Orchestra School. At the Orchestra School, young musicians learn the techniques and secrets of tango through oral transmission, directly from some of the greatest musicians of the 1940s and 1950s. Ultimately, TangoVia aims to build recognition that “tango, the popular and collective creation that best represents the multiplicity of Argentinean roots and identity, is the most important cultural contribution Argentina has made to the world.” TangoVia Buenos Aires offers a variety of different programs aimed at people of different ages, experiences, talents and interests. Master classes for those who are more experienced include a class titled “the bandoneon as a soloist instrument.” The class is taught by Master Juan José Mosalini and presents the opportunity to discover a wide range of technical and interpretative resources that establish the bandoneon as a soloist instrument beyond its normal function. Another master class given by pianist José Colángelo is called “the piano and its role in the tango orchestra.” This class includes an overview of the fundamental elements that make up the piano’s language in tango and its job as the orchestral engine.

Teacher Training Programs

Nearly half of Argentina's population lives in the province of Buenos Aires, and many of the nation's English teaching jobs can be found there. As a TEFL teacher in Buenos Aires, one will find the most work teaching English to professionals and business executives. However, the opportunity to tutor students studying for exams, families preparing for a trip abroad, or others looking to improve their English skills are also present. Most teachers involved with TEFL are training to be an English speaking teacher in core curriculum classes. After evaluation by a team of subject matter experts, the TEFL course has been proved comparable to college instruction. The International Diploma in English Language Teaching program has been recommended for six graduate-level semester hours as an elective or as a teaching workshop in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). Graduates of program are trained and certified in the latest strategies and skills necessary to teach English effectively to students from a variety of educational levels and often with specific requirements and needs in the language.

Funding of Schools

As previously mentioned, free primary education in Argentina is available to everyone. Secondary education is generally both affordable and available, and the university system is also free of charge, disregarding external costs such as class materials and transportation. As for supporting arts education programs, no official funding is given because of the stress put on core curriculum. If the opportunity for an arts education presents itself in secondary or university education, students are left to pay for tuition themselves as an additional external cost.


Argentina’s method of teaching the arts in education is much different than my own experiences in school growing up. Attending public schools until college, my education was all free, including an extensive amount of art classes that were available to choose from. Whereas in Argentina, students past the age of 14 must pay for their education. Not only does a high school education cost money, but on top of that cost, if a student is interested in pursuing an education in the arts, there is more money to be paid. I was very surprised to learn about this practice, because I have always viewed Argentina as a very culturally and artistically rich country. I immediately think of tango, dancing, and paintings with bright and abstract colors. It shocks me, and quite honestly disappoints me to think that Argentina born artists essentially had to pay to reach their high standards in art.