San Juan is the capital city of the Argentine province of San Juan in the Cuyo region, located in theTulúm Valley, west of the San Juan River, at 650 m (2,133 ft) above mean sea level, with a population of around 112,000 as per the 2001census [INDEC] (over 500,000 in the metropolitan area).
It is a modern city with wide streets and well drawn avenues with wide sidewalks and vegetation of different species of trees irrigated by canals, from which it derives its nickname oasis town.
It has an important accommodation infrastructure and transportation. It highlights modern buildings and the surroundings, the reservoir and Ullum dam, spas, museums, large plantations of vines, and various types of agriculture, with wine being the most important.
San Juan de la Frontera was founded on June 13, 1562 by Juan Jufré at the shore of the San Juan River. In 1593 flooding damaged the town, for which reason its setting was moved 2.5 kilometres (1.6 mi) south to its current location.
San Juan was a sleepy, provincial town during colonial times (1562–1810) and took practically no part in the internal wars that devastated Argentina in its so-called Organizational Period (1820-1860.) Two of the most prominent members of the 1816 Congress of Tucumán which declared Argentina's independence from Spain, however, came from San Juán: Francisco Narciso de Laprida, who was president of the congress, and San Juan's bishop Friar Justo Santa María de Oro, a Dominican friarand an eloquent speaker whose persuasive oratory was largely responsible for Argentina becoming a republic and not a monarchy like Brazil.
Probably the most important and famous city son was Fray Justo's nephew, and president of Argentina between 1868 and 1874, Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, whose birthplace was turned into a National Historical Monument in 1910, during the administration of president Roque Sáenz Peña.
On January 15, 1944, a powerful earthquake devastated the city, killing around 10,000 people and leaving half of the provincial population homeless. Another quake, 7.4 in the Richter magnitude scale, struck 80 km northeast of the city on November 23, 1977, causing considerable damage and killing 65 people around the province.
After the disaster of 1944, the city was reconstructed on concentric boulevards, with straight, well-lit, tree-lined avenues and modern housing. It has mostly lost its colonial aspect, but retains an open, sunny Mediterranean look.
The city of San Juan completely changed its appearance from a colonial one to one of the most modern in the country after the earthquake of 1944, with well-drawn and wide paved streets, ample sidewalks of tiles or mosaics, and lined with acacias, moreras and paradise trees irrigated by quaint canals.
The city is located within the Capital District, which was planned in the form of a checkerboard anchored by Las Heras Avenue (from North to South), 25 de Mayo Av. (East to West), 9 de Julio Av. (east to west) and Guillermo Rawson Avenue (north to south). These four avenues form a perfect rectangle of 16 blocks in width (going from east to west and vice versa -horizontally-) by 10 blocks long (going up and down or North to South, and vice versa). This center of this rectangle is a square of 7 blocks in length by 6 blocks wide, delimited by Leandro N. Alem, Córdoba, Libertador San Martín and Rioja Avenues. This area is the city's downtown and, as such, is the most densely populated and concentrates most of the city's commercial, financial and institutional activities.
The most important perpendicular avenues are Mitre (known for its cinemas and cyber cafés), José Ignacio de la Roza (built after the 1944 earthquake), commercial Santa Fe Avenue, Rivadavia street (the easternmost two blocks of which have been pedestrianized), and San Martín Avenue (which leads to most access routes towards Greater San Juan). The more important parallel arteries are Mendoza Avenue (leading to Villa Krause), General Mariano Acha Av. and Rioja Avenue.
Some of the city's most important landmarks are:
Designed by architect Daniel Ramos Correa, the cathedral was inaugurated on December 16, 1979. The bell tower is a steeple of 51 meters (170 feet) in height, and features a British clock and a German carillon which sounds every 15 minutes. The interior is accessed through a bronze vestibule crafted Faenza, Italy with bas-reliefs of Saint Rose of Lima, Saint Louis of France, the Apostle Santiago, Saint Anne and several shields and emblems. In the basement of the church is the crypt, the pantheon of the bishops and the chapel of Friar Justo Santa María de Oro.
This is the city's principal urban park, providing a green space with a colorful variety of flora. The park also features 19th century-era monuments to President Domingo Sarmiento and Friar Justo Santa María de Oro. The central fountain, dating from 1871, was remodeled on several occasions.
Named for a former Governor, the park features a monument to its namesake (Antonio Aberastain).
The city's most important, pedestrianized streets, their well-landscaped setting and variety of retail outlets make them favorites among both locals and tourists.
Named to commemorate the May Revolution of 1810, the park a children's section, an artificial lake with an island, fish and aquatic birds, a velodrome, and numerous sculptures and monuments to General José de San Martín, Governor Federico Cantoni, and to sports.
The old cathedral, an 18th-century Jesuit style building, was destroyed in the 1944 earthquake, but has been replaced by a modern-Tuscan-romanesque building with acampanile. San Juan is the seat of a Roman Catholic metropolitan Archbishop and a Catholic University. San Juan possesses one of the most modern and active concert halls in Argentina, as well as many leafy parks and squares, including Parque de Mayo with its vast artificial lake.
Tourism to San Juan is centered around wine production and dégustation as well as the rock formations in places like the Ischigualasto National Park (which includes the Valle de la Luna), 330 km north of the city, and the Quebrada de Ullum Dam (18 km from the city).
An integral attraction to the province is its large Triassic period fossil record, believed to be one of the largest in the world.
There is also the Mariano Gambier Archeology museum at La Laja, Albardón county, some 25 km from the center of the city. It concerns itself with the many cultures that inhabited San Juan from Pre-History till the arrival of the Spaniards in 1560. It has a priceless collection of Indian artifacts, cave paintings and other elements of agriculture and life in the Tulum valley from the last 8500 years.
Museums in the city include: