There's A New Pope in Town

03.14.13

A Soccer Star, a Queen, and Now a Pope! Argentina’s Having a Very, Very Big Year

Its economy might be in the tanks, but the country known for Evita and giant steaks is exporting some pretty impressive goods these days, writes David Kaufman.

If three’s a trend, then things might be looking up for Argentina—a country plagued by rampant inflation, a looming default, and a plummeting peso.

On Wednesday, Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio became the first non-European pope in more than 1,200 years. That makes him pretty much the most famous Argentine since Eva Perón.

So what if the Falkland Islands want nothing to do with Argentina, having voted nearly unanimously this week to remain a British territory?

This comes a little more than a month after Holland’s Queen Beatrix announced she would abdicate the throne in favor of her son, Crown Prince Willem-Alexander. When he becomes King Willem-Alexander, his wife, Máxima Zorreguieta Cerruti, will become the queen consort (which is like a queen, only not exactly). And guess what? She’s also Argentine!

Finally, there’s Lionel Messi, pretty much the most famous soccer player in the world right now. In January the 25-year-old forward became the first player ever to win a fourth Ballon d’Or, or the European Footballer of the Year award. The prize came barely a month after his team, FC Barcelona, re-signed Messi for a five-year, $104 million contract—the highest in professional soccer. His hometown? Rosario, a city in central Argentina, where Che Guevara was born.

So what if the Falkland Islands want nothing to do with Argentina, having voted nearly unanimously this week to remain a British territory? And sure, Argentina’s president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, has been accused of corruption and harassing the media, while her populist policies continue to erode consumer confidence and stifle foreign investment. And yes, the economy is not in a good place (though the country’s Merval stock index happily rose on the pope news).

However, as any visitor is likely to see, Argentina’s citizens remain as glamorous and resilient as ever. Blame it on the country’s unique cultural composition, says Buenos Aires–based property developer and national pop icon Alan Faena. “The country has reached a certain level of maturity and is ready to go out and mix with the rest of the world,” says Faena. “I’m not saying we’re out to conquer, but we’re certainly ready to show what we can do. The South is the new North!”

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7 awesome things about Argentina, in honor of Pope Francis.