09 September 2013

We Love Them, We Love Them Not

Playing pat-a-cake? Play nice, ladies!
In this world of ours there are rivalries galore: Coke v. Pepsi, the Mets v. the Yankees, Apple v. Microsoft, Labour v. Tory, Democrat v. Republican, the Sharks v. the Jets, not to mention plain old-fashioned sibling rivalry. And though you don’t have to be neighboring countries to be rivals — China and the United States are Olympic rivals, and they’re thousands of miles apart — sharing a border sure adds to the tensions. In that category the list is endless and ever-changing: North Korea v. South Korea, Iraq v. Iran, Syria v. Turkey, Serbia v. Croatia, and Israel v. any Arab nation. Down South America way, neighboring countries Brazil and Argentina have an extremely complex relationship that ricochets from war to friendship, and from rivalry to alliance.

"The Pope may be Argentine, but God is Brazilian" is the light-hearted way Brazil has found to lick its wounds after the Archbishop of Sao Paulo, Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer, lost the recent papal election to the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio. On the gastronomic front, the two countries argue over who makes the better barbecue, and who has the better cuts of meat. But in their soccer rivalry they are ferocious. In fact, after several violent incidents during Brazil/Argentina soccer games in 1946, the countries stopped playing each other for over a decade! And you still hear the jabs about who was the greater player, the Brazilian Pelé or the Argentine Maradona, though they played in very different eras. Back in 2005 the retired Maradona had a pleasant, but strained, interview with the retired Pelé on Maradona’s show La Noche del 10, with the two even knocking a soccer ball around, as shown in this video. But lately Maradona has been extremely dismissive of Pelé. After all, a rivalry is a rivalry.

The largest number of foreign residents in Búzios are Argentines, turning Búzios into a microcosm of this age-old rivalry. Whether they love the Argentines or hate them, there isn’t a Brazilian who doesn’t have an opinion. There are hordes of young Argentines trying to make a life here, working the restaurants as waiters and waitresses, the pousadas as receptionists, and the stores as salespeople. You can pick them out easily by the Spanish they stubbornly continue to speak. But in addition to this steady stream of hermanos, there are the Argentines who are responsible for helping make Búzios what it is today: Mario José Paz, who founded our movie theater, the Gran Ciné Bardot, and who remains the heart and soul behind the Búzios annual film festival; Marcelo Lartigue, the founder and editor of Perú Molhado, the irreverent local weekly paper; Sonia Persiani, the acclaimed chef of Cigalon, arguably the best restaurant in town; Amália de la Maria, who owns Casas Brancas, the first and still foremost pousada in town; and countless others who switched tango for samba and never looked back, all to the betterment of Búzios.

Mario José Paz

Marcelo Lartigue
Sonia Persiani

Jokes about Argentines abound in Búzios, and they go far beyond the usual How many Argentines does it take to change a lightbulb? The Argentine jokes that you hear in Búzios go straight to the heart of the love/hate relationship. Here’s the most famous one:

Two Argentines in Búzios needed money, so they decided to try their luck begging on beaches. One day they went off to their chosen spots, and met at the end of the day to compare hauls. "I can’t believe it," said the first one, "what a wasted day. I only managed to get 13 reais!" "Really?" said the second one, "I did great, I got 575 reais!" The first guy was astonished. "How did you manage that? I sat there all day with a sign saying, ‘Please help, hungry Argentine.’" The second one said, "Oh, well, my sign said ‘Please help, Argentine needs money for ticket home.’"

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