Argentine President Offends With Comment on Race: ‘Brazilians Emerged from the Jungle’

BUENOS AIRES — During a current go to to Argentina by the prime minister of Spain, President Alberto Fernández tried to attach along with his visitor by paying homage to Argentina’s European immigrant heritage.

Instead, with an announcement that was broadly seen as xenophobic and offensive, Mr. Fernández managed to trigger offense at residence and throughout Latin America — together with in the area’s strongest nations.

“Mexicans emerged from Indigenous people, Brazilians emerged from the jungle but we Argentines arrived on boats. On boats from Europe,” Mr. Fernández stated on Wednesday, throughout a televised look subsequent to Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, who was visiting Buenos Aires.

The video of the assertion, which Mr. Fernández stated was a quote of the Mexican Nobel Laureate Octavio Paz, went viral on social media, producing widespread information protection in addition to a deluge of criticism and astonishment from politicians and bizarre residents in neighboring Brazil and in Mexico.

“He forgets the millions of people who were abducted from Africa over the course of three years, precisely by the Europeans that Fernández is so proud to be a descendant of,” Jeff Nascimento, a human-rights activist and lawyer in São Paulo, Brazil, wrote on Twitter.

Eduardo Bolsonaro, a member of Congress and a son of President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, referred to as the assertion racist and mocked the state of the Argentine financial system, which has been in a recession for years.

“Argentina is a sinking ship,” he wrote.

The president, Mr. Bolsonaro, additionally responded with mockery by tweeting the phrase “JUNGLE!” and the Brazilian flag together with a photograph of himself and a gaggle of Indigenous individuals.

Argentines have lengthy had a repute in Latin America for relating to themselves as distinct from others in the area, partially due to the giant proportion of the nation’s inhabitants that traces its ancestry to European settlers, primarily from Spain and Italy. Its neighbor, Brazil, is a majority Black and Indigenous nation.

Now a era of younger researchers in Argentina, together with Black students, are questioning their nation’s nationwide narrative, and saying it’s each racist and erases the presence of Argentines of Indigenous and Black roots.

The Mexican actor Gael García Bernal stated Mr. Fernández’s comment “perpetuates the noxious narrative of extractivist colonialism,” and lamented that it mirrored a view that “unfortunately is very common.”

Mr. Fernández, a leftist chief who was elected in 2019 and has drawn criticism over gaffes in the previous, attributed the quote to Mr. Paz.

The precise quote from Mr. Paz is: “Mexicans descended from the Aztecs, Peruvians from the Incas and Argentines from boats.”

Mr. Fernández seems to have confused the Paz quote with the lyrics of a track made well-liked in the 1980s by the rock singer Litto Nebbia, whom Mr. Fernández admires and has described as a “friend.” The president’s quote was taken nearly verbatim from the track.

The comment overshadowed the agenda of the assembly between heads of state, which centered on commerce negotiations and vaccine diplomacy.

After the criticism, Mr. Fernández wrote on Twitter:

“I didn’t set out to offend, but in any case, if anyone felt offended or made invisible, I offer an apology.”

But he added, “It’s been said more than once that “‘Argentines descended from boats.’” Mr. Fernández continued: “In the first half of the 20th Century, we received more than five million immigrants that lived among our native people. Our diversity is a source of pride.”

Daniel Politi reported from Buenos Aires. Ernesto Londoño reported from Rio de Janeiro.