You don't have to listen to a lot of the jokes that Brazilians tell about their neighbors the Argentines to figure out what it is that ticks Brazil off about the Argentines so much. "What's the definition of ego? It's the little piece of Argentina that we all carry within us." "What's the world's best business deal? Buy an Argentine for his real value and sell him for what he thinks he's worth." And then, the jokes aside, there's that relentless Argentine needling about how (their) Maradona is greater than (our) Pelé, (their) Messi is greater than (our) Neymar.
No war is brewing between the two countries, and no local Donaldo dreams about putting a fence up at the border. Brazilians will often in fact generously refer to the Argentines, in their own language, as the hermanos—not that there aren't some undercurrents of irony there along with the fraternal feeling. But Argentines are, unquestionably, a thorn in the Brazilian side, and all the more so here in Búzios, where many Argentines are long-time residents (and continue, most of them, to speak with heavy accents), many young Argentines come for a season or two and work in restaurants (and continue, irritatingly, to greet their customers in Spanish, as if we were still in Recoleta) and thousands of Argentines pass through every year on brief sun-and-sand vacations and go about their admittedly completely intelligible gracias-ing when they could just as easily make the simple effort to express their thanks for this and that with an obrigado — and seduce.
In Búzios, the situation is particularly complicada, since, though the Brazilians don't like to acknowledge it, Búzios to a large extent has come to depend on a collaboration between Brazilians and Argentines. Our one movie theater, where the bill of fare is more likely to be an Iranian film festival contender than a Hollywood blockbuster, was founded, and for decades has been overseen by, the Argentine cinephile Mario Paz.
Of our many restaurants, the one that most resembles an old-line European establishment, by name Cigalon, was created by, and continues to be lovingly fine-tuned by, the Argentine lawyer and foodie Sonia Persiani.
Our great satiric newspaper, the Perú Molhado, was published and edited for many decades, with insouciant genius, by the Argentine photographer-writer Marcelo Lartigue.
I have inevitably been thinking about the Argentine contribution to Búzios because Amalia of Casas Brancas died just a couple of weeks ago. She had been sick. She decided to go off to Croatia with her husband, José, also an Argentine, for a last fling. She flung. She expired there. In other days, there would have been pages and pages about her in Perú Molhado—biography, celebration, irreverent nonsense. But Marcelo, the careless genius of the Perú, himself died about a year ago. Underlying cause of death: too much high living. In Marcelo's absence, the Perú has gone to pot and, when Amalia died, the new management published a small picture and a graceless caption. Some day Barbara or I — one of us — should write a memoir of our dear, dear Búzios-residing Argentine friend Hugo Oks. It is painful for Barbara and me to think how many years it has been since Hugo passed on.
Mark and Barbara to Buenos Aires: Send reinforcements! Send reinforcements urgently! Please!