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18 March 2013

I’m not a Catholic myself but I remember watching the rolling TV coverage last week during the papal conclave and thinking that a Brazilian Pope would be a shoo-in, because Cardinal Odilo Scherer was among the favourites to win. But to my surprise, the Pope ended up being an “Argentino”. Ouch.

We do have the World Cup and the Olympics though – at least that’s what many Brazilians said on the day. But let’s be honest here, we may have a sort of jokey rivalry but Brazil and Argentina actually get on really well. And I’m sure my fellow Brazilians would prefer a Latin-American Pope to another European one.

When Argentinians need a place to stay in the sun they go to lovely Búzios in Rio or to the southern beaches of Brazil, especially Florianópolis, where in the summer you hear as much Spanish spoken as you hear Portuguese. And during winter Brazilians pack their bags to enjoy the Argentinian slopes.

This is confirmed by the stats. In 2011 Argentinians accounted for 29 per cent of the number of foreign visitors in Brazil and we Brazilians are by far the largest group of visitors to Argentina.

We also have two strong female leaders, which is remarkable for Latin America, and they too get on very well. They have completely different ways of behaving and even in terms of fashion they differ. Cristina Fernández de Kirchner sticks to the glamorous “Eva Perón” look while Dilma Rousseff is more diplomatic and austere. But they both belong to centre-left parties and are accelerating social change in both countries on issues such as gay marriage.

To my great regret, I’ve only been to Argentina once, it was a ski trip to Bariloche where I became a fan of the country’s lovely alfajores – a caramel-filled dessert which has also become popular in Brazil. It hurts me to say it but Argentinian barbecues are becoming quite popular in Brazil nowadays too, the meat is softer.

If this all sounds too polite and positive, let me end with a quote used by many of my fellow Brazilians: The Pope might be Argentinian but God is Brazilian.

Fernando Augusto Pacheco is a researcher for Monocle 24.


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