Santiago del Estero (Spanish for Saint-James-Upon-The-Lagoon) is the capital of Santiago del Estero Province in northern Argentina. It has a population of 244,733 inhabitants, (2001 census [INDEC]) making it the twelfth largest city in the country, with a surface area of 2,116 km². It lies on the Dulce River and on National Route 9, at a distance of 1,042 km north-northwest from Buenos Aires. Santiago del Estero is the oldest city founded by Spanish settlers in Argentina that still exists as such, estimated to be 455 years old, according to historical sources of Argentina. As such, it is nicknamed "Madre de Ciudades" (Mother of Cities), as it is the first city founded in the actual territory of Argentina. It was officially declared "Mother of cities and Cradle of Folklore".
The city houses the National University of Santiago del Estero, founded in 1973, and Universidad Católica, founded in 1960. Other points of interest include the city's Cathedral, the Santo Domingo Convent, and the Provincial Archeology Museum.
The Santiago del Estero Airport is located 6 kilometres north of the city, and has regular flights to Buenos Aires and San Miguel de Tucumán.
The climate is subtropical with a dry season — usually winter, and sometimes autumn. It receives an average annual precipitation of 300 mm, and the climate is warm and dry
Santiago del Estero and its region are home to about 100,000 speakers of the local variety of Quechua, making this the southernmost outpost of the language of the Incas. This is one of the few indigenous languages surviving in modern Argentina