Catamarca is a province of Argentina, 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, Tucumán, Santiago del Estero, Córdoba, and La Rioja. To the west it borders Chile.
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 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, . 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.