Who is that man in red? Ask an Argentinian

Yesterday [Jan. 8] in Argentina, tens of thousands of people celebrated the life of “Gauchito Gil” (“little gaucho Gil)” on the 130th anniversary of his death. He is a thing of legend, the country’s Robin Hood. As Argentina’s economy has plummeted, Gil’s fame has soared.

In the fall of 2006, when Wessel and I traveled in Northwest Argentina, which is populated by mostly poor, indigenous people, we were intrigued by the mysterious red roadside shrines we saw. Wessel, of course, had to stop for a photo session at about 30 of them until Diane finally said, “enough already!”

Here is Wessel’s report:
I was fascinated by the red shrines along the highway. Roadside chapel for Gauchito GilA typical shrine consisted of a little house with a male saint inside dressed like a cowboy. Usually the house was painted red and surrounded by red flags and red banners with a text like “Gracias Gauchito Gil.” Sometimes it was tiny and very basic, a foot high, painted red and with a little cowboy statue inside. Other times it was elaborate, with a load of red banners. Clearly he was revered for something.

After we got home, I read up on this Argentine cowboy saint. The following is compiled from several sources, including Wikipedia entry and this interesting piece on NPR’s “Marketplace” on the anniversary of Gil’s death.

Gauchito Gil’s image on bannerLegend has it that Antonio Gil, a farm worker, was an army hero in his village. But when forced to return to battle, he deserted and fled to the mountains. He lived there as a gentle bandit, stealing from the rich and redistributing goods to the poor. In the end the police caught him. When he was about to be executed, he told one of the police officers his son would soon fall ill and that the father would pray for Gil’s forgiveness. The day Gil was executed, the police officer returned home to find that his son dying. He begged for Gil’s forgiveness. His son made a miraculous recovery, and Gil became a national hero.

Advertisements

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: