The gaucho remains a rebellious and elusive emblem in the 21st century.

The gaucho remains a rebellious and elusive emblem in the 21st century.

San Antonio de Areco (Argentina) (AFP) – Eternal and at the same time incomprehensible: 150 years after his “birth” in literature, gaucho continues in the heart of “Argentina”, somewhere between legend and testimony of how the country was built, perceived and transformed.

A whirlwind of dust surrounds the frenzied cavalry regiment of hundreds of horses. At the centre, riders demonstrate equestrian virtuosity, trying to hold together a herd of seven or eight horses without losing one or interrupting the careers of the others.

It is the “entrevero de tropillas” that is key to the Festival of Tradition, celebrated annually in San Antonio de Areco.

Just 120km from modern and cosmopolitan Buenos Aires, this town looks like another country: men on horseback, pampas, gaucho tradition. Beret, espadrilles, guitar and facón on the belt.

Every December 6, Argentina celebrates National Gaucho Day.

The facón of a gaucho at the Festival of Tradition, celebrated annually in San Antonio de Areco, Argentina. Luis ROBAYOAFP

The numeral is equally present in Uruguay and variants in Paraguay and southern Brazil, Bolivia and Chile. But in this 2022, the 150th anniversary of the publication of Argentinean José Hernández’s main poem “Martín Fierro” in 1872, commemorations have multiplied with exhibitions, lectures and questions about identity.

“Here I start to sing

to the rhythm of the viguela,

than the man who exposed it

It’s an extraordinary pity

like a lonely bird

she consoles herself by singing”.

(…)

“My victory is to live so freely

like skybirds,

I don’t nest on this floor

there is much to suffer;

and no one has to follow me

when I fly back”.

not so white

“Martín Fierro” combines sextilla stanzas and four verses to sing the melancholy epic of a gaucho who, as he enjoys a free and nomadic life from the first half of the 19th century, suffers injustice and discrimination because of his mestizo origin.

Rebel, reluctant to authority, cattle thief and sometimes belligerent, Martín Fierro is also brave, supportive and loyal.

A gaucho prepares his horses during the Festival of Tradition in San Antonio de Areco on November 12, 2022.
A gaucho prepares his horses during the Festival of Tradition in San Antonio de Areco on November 12, 2022. Luis ROBAYOAFP

“Gaucho became a popular idol long before intellectuals and the state recommended him as a national emblem,” historian Ezequiel Adamovsky, a researcher at the National Council for Scientific and Technical Research, told AFP.

The poem, now translated into 50 languages, was published in cheap pamphlets and was “sales rage” at the time. It was consecrated as a national poem in 1913.

Most nationalist sections tried to present “gaucho” as the direct heir to the Spanish conquerors, which is an untenable fantasy, and he did not interbreed with any local inhabitants. They tried to project on Gaucho’s body an image of what is white and what is white. “confirmed that.

In contrast, anarchists, because they reject authority; Historian, communists in the name of class struggle, and Peronists for support of farm workers, throughout history have embraced the spirit of gaucho; this is a debate that has somehow continued until now, the historian described.

A gaucho during the Festival of Tradition in San Antonio de Areco on November 12, 2022
A gaucho during the Festival of Tradition in San Antonio de Areco on November 12, 2022 Luis ROBAYOAFP

– Gaucha and Gaucha –

With a little touch of feminist rebellion, Gabriela Cabezón Cámara published the novel “The Adventures of China Iron” in 2017, recreating the figure of Martín Fierro from the point of view of her partner who was abandoned by gaucho and left the farm. She leaves with a friend to explore the country and freedom.

The image of the gaucho was also recreated in San Antonio de Areco, but above all it was preserved by magnificent horses, which were skillfully ridden by both children and the elderly.

A herd of Gauchos during the annual Tradition Festival in San Antonio de Areco, Argentina
A herd of Gauchos during the annual Tradition Festival in San Antonio de Areco, Argentina Luis ROBAYOAFP

“The man on horseback continues to work and it’s impossible to replace him, because although he often gets in a vehicle, there are places that are impossible to get in any other way,” said Victoria Sforzini, Director of Culture and Heritage. the municipality told AFP from San Antonio de Areco.

“There are also many uses and traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation, such as the practice of tying an animal or herding cattle,” Sforzini says.

It is difficult to determine who the gaucho is in 2022: the horsemen who show off their skills for tourists in estancias, or the rural workers with modest salaries? Or maybe it’s gauchos’ son, grandson and nephew, mason Julio Casaretto, who taught his little girl how to ride horses on the weekends “because we carry it in our blood”.

Dressage in San Antonio de Areco on 12 November 2022
Dressage in San Antonio de Areco on 12 November 2022 Luis ROBAYOAFP

“Gaucho has always been a literary figure from the very beginning,” adds Adamovsky, “and there remains a vision of a chivalrous, brave, loyal figure to his friends. ‘do me a favour’.”

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