THE STORY OF THE GAUCHO

Gauchos

Gauchos are known to be nomadic and colorful horseman and cowhand of the South American Pampas (grasslands), who by the mid 18th to 19th century flourished as folk hero from mestizo descent. Similar to the American West’s Cowboy, in the romanticized figure amongst herds and tends of cattle from Rio de la Plata. These characters turned legends though music and literature, to be come an important part of the Argentinian cultural tradition.


Gauchos arose to hunt the large herds of escaped horses and cattle that had roamed freely, bred prodigiously, and remained safe from predators on the extensive Pampas. Gaucho weapons were the lasso, knife, and boleadoras (or bolas), a device made of leather cords and three iron balls or stones that was thrown at the legs of an animal to entwine and immobilize it. Gauchos subsisted largely on meat. Their costume, still worn by modern Argentine cowhands, included a chiripa girding the waist, a woolen poncho, and long, accordion-pleated trousers, called bombachas, gathered at the ankles and covering the tops of high leather boots. The gauchos lived in small mud huts roofed with grass mats and slept on piles of hides. Their marriages were seldom solemnized, and their religious beliefs consisted mainly of age-old superstitions varnished with Roman Catholicism. Their pastimes included gambling, drinking, playing the guitar, and singing doggerel verses about their prowess in hunting, fighting, and lovemaking.


Although migration of large numbers of European farmers to the Pampa in the late 19th century led to the gradual disappearance of gauchos, their reputation remained a daring, skillful horseman and plainsman. As fighters, revolutionary soldiers, and campaigners in frequent internal struggles, they played a significant role in national life. They were an especially strong political force in the early years of the Argentine republic.

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