This article challenges two traditional interpretations of the genesis of Mercosur. First, the literature is evenly divided among those who trace back the beginning of the process to the military administrations of both Brazil and Argentina, and those who entirely credit their newly democratic administrations. By contrast, this paper argues that integration was initially discussed in a situation of regime asymmetry, Argentina having already returned to democracy and Brazil being still in the final stage of transition. Second, the creation of the common market is generally associated with the 1988 Treaty of Integration signed by Presidents Alfonsín and Sarney of Argentina and Brazil respectively, while Presidents Menem and Collor are deemed to have simply reduced the period for its implementation from ten to five years. By contrast, this article suggests that in 1988 the project of a common market was still just an aspiration and that in fact that treaty only established a free trade area, its actual progression into a common market being undertaken by the latter two leaders. The first argument tempers the democratic mysticism surrounding integration, the second suggests a partial rehabilitation of the now discredited neo-liberal presidents.