San Juan is a province of Argentina, located in the western part of the country. Neighbouring provinces are, moving clockwise from the north, La Rioja, San Luis and Mendoza. It borders with Chile at the west.
The province has an area of 89,651 km2, covering a mountainous region with scarce vegetation, fertile oases and turbulent rivers. Throughout the entire province there are an important number of paleontological sites.
Similar to other regions in Argentina, agriculture is one of the most important economic activities, highlighting wine production and olive oil. Additionally, a variety of fruits and vegetables are produced in the fertile valleys irrigated by artificial channels in the western part, close to the Andes mountain range. This is the second province in volume of wine production at the national level and in South America, and possesses outstanding varietal wines. It is also an important center of mining and oil production.
In 1776, San Juan was annexed to the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata, becoming one of the cities of the Province of Cuyo. In the same year, the first recorded earthquake caused massive damage to the city.
The father of Argentine independence, Gen. Jose de San Martin, was appointed Governor of the Province of Cuyo in 1814. From there, San Martin began his legendary crossing of the Andes, one of military history's great tactical decisions. San Juan, then a small town, was a great supporter of the expedition supplying gold, men and mules.
In 1820, San Juan was granted autonomy from the Province of Cuyo, thereby becoming an autonomous province. The remainder of Cuyo region became Mendoza Province.
Following an era of international isolation for Argentina, the advent of new, more liberal government in 1853 attracted a number of exiled intellectuals back into San Juan. Among these, was a San Juan military officer and novelist named Domingo Sarmiento. Sarmiento was eventually elected governor in 1862, pursuing sorely needed public investments and enacting Argentina's first law mandating compulsory education (at that time about 80% of the adult population lacked any form of education). Once elected President of Argentina in 1868, those policies became national law.
In 1944 a moderate, yet highly destructive earthquake near the capital destroyed most of the city and killed 10,000 people. A fundraiser was organized to raise money for the victims of the quake where Colonel Juan Perón met his eventual wife and political companion Eva Duarte.
A more powerful earthquake stuck the same city in 1977; however new construction codes put in effect following the 1944 incident kept damage to a relative minimum. The most noteworthy loss following this event was the destruction of the Cathedral of San Juan (image, at top). A new, modernist house of worship was quickly put up in its place and inaugurated in 1979.
Among the most rapidly growing provinces in Argentina after 1945, the national government began the construction of the , which opened its doors in 1973. Congress further responded to the needs of San Juan's growing agricultural sector by breaking ground in the mid '70s for the largest hydrostructural project in the province up to that point, the . Inaugurated in 1980, it has contributed to the province's production of irrigated desert crops, like olives, figs and, most importantly, wine grapes.
In 2005, Barrick Gold Corporation, one of the world's largest gold-mining conglomerates, announced the purchase of large tracts in the San Juan Andes where a gold mine was started. These have, so far, been yielding over 11,000 ounces of gold yearly, though evidence suggests these activities may be having an adverse impact on San Juan's glaciers.
In 2007, the same company installed the world's highest-situated wind turbine at the Veladero mine in San Juan Province at nearly 4,200m elevation.