Historically, the Catholic religion played
a very important part in politics and law. Before changes were made to
the Constitution in 1994, the two top leaders of Argentina had to be Roman
Catholic. Today, although officially 90% of Argentinians are Roman Catholic,
fewer than 20% attend church regularly. Most go for weddings, funerals
and major feast days.
Many Argentinians make annual pilgrimages to holy sites
and local shrines. The most popular place is Luján, 65 km west of
Buenos Aires. Each year, thousands of people make the pilgrimage on foot
from Buenos Aires to honour the Patron Saint of Argentina, the Virgin of
Luján. According to tradition, in 1620 a statue of the Virgin was
being carried from town to town in a cart. The cart got stuck at Luján
and could not be moved. The people built a chapel for the Virgin to protect
the statue. Today there is a large basilica where the chapel once stood.
Most provinces and cities have a patron saint. In the
northern province of Salta, people make pilgrimages to honour "Our Lord
of the Miracles" on September 15. In 1592, a statue of Jesus Christ was
washed up out of sea and was carried inland to the city of Salta. This
statue, the people of Salta believe, has saved them from earthquakes and
other dangers. During the fiesta, people parade through the streets of
Salta carrying the statue of Jesus Christ. Another important pilgrimage
site is Itatí on the Parana River, where people honour the Virgin
of Itatí every July 16. The statue of the Virgin was carved by a
Although the Constitution states that the federal government
is Roman Catholic, it also guarantees freedom of religion for all. Argentina
has many Jews and Muslims, as well as members of Russian, Greek and Syrian
Orthodox churches and Protestant denominations.
Some indigenous people follow the customs of the Catholic
Church, others have kept their traditional beliefs. Many of the Colla people
in the northwestern provinces of Salta and Jujuy attend Catholic churches
and also follow traditional forms of worship. In Catamarca province, there
is an annual festival to honour Pachamama, who represents mother earth.