Since very ancient times, a wide range of Indian tribes whose culture is still being studied have dwelled the area.
Among the peoples who inhabited the territory of Tucumán, the most outstanding were the diaguitas calchaquíes, who had experienced a strong influence by the Incas. Settled in the mountain range area in Western Tucumán, they were skilled weavers and potters. They would grow corn, gourd and quina in a system of irrigated terraced crop fields. They would raise guanacos, llamas and vicuñas which would provide them meat, milk and wool. They would practice mining in a very rudimentary fashion and they were quite well organized under the command of a chief. Essentially peaceful, they were good warriors when the occasion demanded.
The Quilmes were other people who suffered persecution, death and banishment (they were moved to the Province of Buenos Aires in the times of the colony with the purpose of forcing them to lose their identity as a people so that they could be dominated and deprived of their land). They still preserve elements of their rich and ancient culture: they practice rituals for the Pachamama, ways of cooperation and singing with percussion, which has great cosmic power (bagualas, tunes and vidalas).
The Spaniards arrived in these shires from the West, from Perú, in search for the mythical City of the Caesars.
It was Diego de Almagro who, in 1536, explored the region today occupied by the Province of Tucumán for the first time without founding any city.
In May 1565, Diego de Villarroel, under the patronage of Saint Michael the Archangel, settled down San Miguel de Tucumán on one of the tributaries of the Salí River in a spot called Ibatín in the natives' tongue. The city was finally settled in 1585.
During the rest of the XVI century, San Miguel de Tucumán contributed tirelessly to the entire work of the conquest. Its neighbors became soldiers in all the foundation expeditions, whereas its forests provided the wood to the only vehicle of those times: the carreta cart. That is why it was called ”carretera tucumana" (Tucumán's road).
The village lay by the mountain, where the Calchaquí Indians settlement was located. The natives attempted to set it on fire more than once, but the neighbors knew well how to resist.
Eventually, what the Indians and hardships could not manage, was attained by the fall into disuse of the road crossing San Miguel and leading to Buenos Aires and the malarial waters of a nearby river. The city became unsalubrious and was kept out from the commercial route.
In September 1685, the city was moved away from its original site -near present Monteros- to a higher place, known as La Toma. The task, which took 5 years, was in charge of Fernando de Mendoza Mate de Luna. Since those days, the city of Tucumán became a communication center, especially for its location on the road joining the Río de la Plata with Upper Perú.
In the XIX century, the Revolution for Independence took place. For Tucumán, it implied significant changes.
When the Tucumán Town Council heard about the Mayo events in Buenos Aires in June 26, 1810, with only one vote by Juan Bautista Paz, it chose the patriots' band and appointed priest Manuel Felipe de Molina as its representative before the First Government Assembly.
In 1812, Manuel Belgrano, defeated and retreating into Córdoba, arrived in the city. Encouraged by the support of the people of Tucumán, he resolved to strengthen his forces there and face his pursuers.
On September 24 in the same year, Belgrano defeated the realista general Pío Tristán in the Battle of Tucumán.
Four years later, the situation in the Río de la Plata was very difficult: the defeat of Sipe-Sipe, the disastrous economic situation resulting from the war and the tottering Independence cause in Latin America gave shape to the prevailing panorama.
In 1816, Tucumán was the venue for another memorable event: the Congress of the United Provinces, which legally reinforced the pronouncement of 1810 by declaring Independence from Spain and any other foreign domination.
San Miguel de Tucumán became the head of a new province which would bear the same name and upon which Catamarca and Santiago del Estero would depend, whereas Salta and Jujuy were separated from it.
During the civil wars that took place in the 1820s, its territory was reduced to its present jurisdiction when Catamarca and Santiago del Estero were detached from it.
During the last third of the XIX century, the people from Tucumán inaugurated the trapiche (sugar mill), the first machine known in the country, used for the sugar industry. This defined its prosperity over the years, which was explosively strengthened since 1876 with the arrival of the railway system, which connected the provinces with the port of Buenos Aires. Their cars brought the machines that would replace the rustic wood trapiche pulled by oxen.
It is important to point out that Tucumán entered the scene of national history through many of the children of its soil, who acted as ideologists or protagonists of our history, such as Juan Bautista Alberdi, who was the author of the Argentinian Constitution or Nicolás Avellaneda and Julio Argentino Roca, both Presidents of modern Argentina, who were related to the railway system and immigration.
"Porteños from the provinces" was the name given by a reporter to the tucumanos of the turn of the century.