Argentina means in Italian “(made) of silver, silver colored”, probably borrowed from the Old French adjective argentine “(made) of silver.” The first written use of the name in Spanish can be traced to La Argentina, a 1602 poem by Martín del Barco Centenera describing the region. Although “Argentina” was already in common usage by the 18th century, the country was formally named “Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata” by the Spanish Empire, and “United Provinces of the Río de la Plata” after independence.
Europeans first arrived in the region with the 1502 voyage of Amerigo Vespucci. The Spanish navigators Juan Díaz de Solís and Sebastian Cabot visited the territory that is now Argentina in 1516 and 1526, respectively. In 1536 Pedro de Mendoza founded the small settlement of Buenos Aires, which was abandoned in 1541. Further colonization efforts came from Paraguay, Peru and Chile, and as such it became part of the Viceroyalty of Peru until the creation of the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata in 1776 with Buenos Aires as its capital.
On 9 July 1816, the Congress of Tucumán formalized the Declaration of Independence. One year later General Martín Miguel de Güemes stopped royalists on the north, and General José de San Martín took an army across the Andes and secured the independence of Chile.