||This article needs additional citations for verification. (March 2013)|
|— Province —|
|Capital||San Fernando del Valle de Catamarca|
|• Governor||Lucía Corpacci (Justicialist - FPV)|
|• Legislature||Chamber of Deputies (41)
|• National Deputies||
|• National Senators||Oscar Castillo, Blanca María del Valle Montllau, Lucía Corpacci|
|• Total||102,602 km2 (39,615 sq mi)|
|• Density||3.6/km2 ( 9.3/sq mi)|
|Time zone||ART (UTC−3)|
|ISO 3166 code||AR-K|
Catamarca (Spanish pronunciation: [kataˈmarka]) is a province of Argentina, located in the northwest of the country. The province has a population of 334,568 as per the 2001 census [INDEC], and covers an area of 102,602 km². Its literacy rate is 95.5%. Neighbouring provinces are (clockwise, from the north): Salta, Tucumán, Santiago del Estero, Córdoba, and La Rioja. To the west it borders Chile.
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 climate zone, the scarce water resources determine the human settlement pattern. Agricultural activities are concentrated in the pockets and valleys between the mountains. In the east the population is concentrated around a number of water courses, water being distributed by canals and irrigation ditches.
The province is noted for its quite extreme weather, ranging from tropical in the east (and almost sub-humid in some particular east-facing slopes) to absolutely desert-like in the west. Temperatures vary widely with altitude, but the low-lying areas are noted for the extreme summer heat: average high temperatures go from 33ºC to 35ºC (91F to 95F) and can sometimes be above 45ºC (113F), albeit with significant cooling at night and low humidity. Almost all the scarce precipitation falls as intense, sporadic thunderstorms in this season.
Fall is short and pleasant, while winters are extremely dry. Daytime temperatures vary, but they usually stay in the 18ºC (64F) to 22ºC (72F) range, while nights are quite cold at 0ºC (32F) to 7ºC (45F). Days over 30ºC (86F) or nights below -6ºC (21F) cannot be ruled out, even during the same week. In the desert, or in higher areas, frost occurs every night, and temperatures as low as -10ºC (14F) are not rare. In the high Andes, of course, under -30ºC (-22F) may be recorded, but snow is scarce because of the dryness.
Springs arrive quickly in August, and a tremendous drought is to be expected. Daytime temperatures may soar to unexpected values very early, only to fall quickly to wintry levels and then recover. Overall, a few days over 40ºC (104F) are to be expected yearly.
Rainfall ranges from over 650 mm in some mountains in the East, to a general 400 mm in semiarid eastern regions, to about 100 mm in the driest spots.
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 claimed its autonomy, and Nicolás Avellaneda y Tula (grandfather of Nicolás Avellaneda) was elected as the first governor of the province.
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") resulting in "Small town".
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 Lebanon and Iran, 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 Syrian 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 2.35‰, while density amounts to 2.6 inhabitants per square kilometer. Urban population represents 70%. (1991).
Catamarca's economy is Argentina's smallest, though still 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 head of cattle, 100,000 sheep, and 150,000 goats, with an annual production of 7,000 tonnes of beef, 5 tonnes of mutton/lamb, and 10 tonnes of pork, although outbreaks of foot and mouth disease has kept at times the production from reaching full potential. 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.
Mining was important in the past. After becoming less active in the early 1990s, grew to now account 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 employs over 1,000 people and contributes hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes and royalties to the federal and provincial governments.
The agriculture of Catamarca focuses on wood (walnut), vineyards, olive, citrus, cotton and tobacco, for which the government gives tax cuts to facilitate economic growth, but so far with poor results and no oversight.
Tourism is a lesser contributor to the 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 strong element the local economy. Mountains and geological formation are the main attraction, with sights such as Antofagasta de la Sierra, 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 high cost in public funds has failed to bring trade and tourism to the underdeveloped Tinogasta county. 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[disambiguation needed], 38 from Catamarca north via San Pedro 228 km to Tucuman, 60 north-west from Córdoba Province 577 km from La Guardia north-west (partly through La Rioja) to Chile 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 
- Ambato Department (La Puerta)
- Ancasti Department (Ancasti)
- Andalgalá Department (Andalgalá)
- Antofagasta de la Sierra Department (Antofagasta de la Sierra)
- Belén Department (Belén)
- Capayán Department (Huillapima)
- Capital Department (San Fernando del Valle de Catamarca)
- El Alto Department (El Alto)
- Fray Mamerto Esquiú Department (San José)
- La Paz Department (Recreo)
- Paclín Department (La Merced)
- Pomán Department (Saujil)
- Santa María Department (Santa María)
- Santa Rosa Department (Bañado de Ovanta)
- Tinogasta Department (Tinogasta)
- Valle Viejo Department (San Isidro)
Notable people 
- Calu Rivero, first actress from Catamarca to appear in national television
- Emilio Caraffa - Post-impressionist painter
- Daniel Díaz - Footballer
- Mamerto Esquiú - Friar
- Vicente Saadi - Justicialist Party politician
- "Censo 2010 Argentina resultados definitivos: mapas". 184.108.40.206. Retrieved 2012-08-15.
- Official site (Spanish)
- History (Spanish)
- Important Historical Dates (Spanish)
- CatamarcaWeb Portal (Spanish)
- Guide to Catamarca (Spanish)
- CatamarcaTotal Info about hotels (Spanish)
- Hospital Interzonal de Niños Eva Peron (Spanish)