While the 884 players may be a far cry from the 4,303 from last weekend's Grand Prix Richmond, or even the concurrently-running Grand Prix Montreal's 1,622, it still stands as a record for Latin American Grand Prix. Prior to this event, the largest Grand Prix in Latin America took place in 2011 in Santiago, Chile, which boasted an attendance of 737. The help demonstrate the growth of Magic in Latin America, the last tournament in Buenos Aires, in 2008, was only 580 players, making this a 50% increase in attendance!
Travel around Latin America can prove prohibitive, which often poses a barrier to entry to many of the Grand Prix in the region. As such, the fields of these Grand Prix tend to be overwhelmingly composed of hometown players. Still, in recent years especially, many of the larger Latin American Magic communities have begun to organize their travel and participation outside of their local Grand Prix. In addition, the increase in the number of Grand Prix that has exploded in recent years has had a massive impact on Latin America. Once upon a time, Latin American Grand Prix were a rarity, only occurring once every couple of years. This past year alone, there were multiple Grand Prix in Brazil, one in Chile, and two in Mexico. There are even more slated in the future. Magic Grand Prix have even begun to expand to countries which hadn't yet hosted a Grand Prix, such as Costa Rica's Grand Prix San José in 2012. It's an exciting time for Latin American Magic, and players have really stepped up to make it a true battleground.
Historically, Brazil has been the powerhouse of Latin America. They have produced a Hall of Famer (Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa), a World Champion (Carlos Romão), 11 Grand Prix wins, and two Pro Tour wins. No other Latin American country comes close to the pedigree that Brazil can boast, and they have brought some of their best to Buenos Aires. In addition to the aforementioned Hall of Famer Damo da Rosa, the current top Brazilian player in the world, 10th-ranked Willy Edel, has come to try pad his Pro Point total.
Jose Francisco Da Silva, winner of GP Rio de Janeiro, has also made the trip, giving Brazil one of the strongest presences in the room. Considering that Brazilian Francisco Braga was the victor of the last Grand Prix Buenos Aires, and that Argentinean Andres Monsalve was defeated by Brazilian Daniel Almeida Alves in the finals of Grand Prix São Paulo the following year, Brazil seems to have Argentina's number.
But Buenos Aires is well-defended this year. Leading the pack is Monsalve, the captain of last year's Argentinean World Magic Cup team. In addition to his finals appearance back in 2009's Grand Prix Rio, Monsalve fought through a difficult field in Rio de Janeiro early last year to make his second Grand Prix Top 8, proving that he is more than up to the task of taking the top Brazilian players on. He is joined by all three members of his WMC team, Sergio Ramadan, Fernando David Gonzales, and Javier Vassalo.
Also in the mix are two strong players from the Top 8 of last November's Grand Prix Santiago: Matias Soler and Nicolas De Nicola. De Nicola is of particular interest thanks to his performance at last month's Pro Tour Born of the Gods, where his 82nd place performance put him atop any of the players in this event, Edel and Damo da Rosa included.
In addition to the strong hometown crowd, another country has offered up a challenge to Brazil's Latin American dominance: Chile. Coming in with a team that is over a dozen strong, the Chileans are represented by one of the strongest new performers on the Pro Tour: 2013 Rookie of the Year Felipe Tapia Becerra. Becerra is a phenom, boasting a 63% match win percentage on the Pro Tour going into Pro Tour Born of the Gods, which he accrued over his four Pro Tours last year. Known affectionately by his countrymen as "Captain Rookie," Becerra has also proven adept at navigating the larger Grand Prix events, finishing in the Top 8 twice, including a finals appearance in Grand Prix Warsaw last year.
One of the other strong Chilean players to watch out for is Luis Navas, who is well on his way to becoming Silver, as well, thanks to his win at Grand Prix Santiago this last year, besting 730 other players.
There are many more countries represented, as well, with Ecuador, Peru, and Uruguay each sending members of their respective World Magic Cup teams, as well as many more players with Grand Prix Top 8 experience. It will be interesting to see how this weekend plays out. Will Chile take home its second straight South American Grand Prix? Will Brazil take yet another title in Buenos Aires? Or will one of the stalwart Argentineans rise to the top to defend their turf? It'll take fifteen rounds of Swiss and three elimination rounds before we have an answer.