"Cult hero" Top 5 Page for this destination Argentina Local Custom Tip by TheWanderingCamel

Argentina Local Customs: 99 reviews and 82 photos

  Shrine to the Gaucho Gil
by TheWanderingCamel
 
 

Faded red flags and streamers fluttering over little red roofs caught our eye as we drove across the Uspallata Valley high in the Andes near Mendoza. Getting out to look closer, we found broken toy cars, messages tucked into bottles, red candles and plastic flowers, all sorts of mostly red rubbish and small wooden crosses, in an odd sort of fairy garden or tattered shrine. A bigger, more orderly one had a sign "El Gaucho Gil" . Who was he and what was it all about? The girls at the hotel didn't know but googling at home found an answer.

Antonio Gil, 19th century gaucho-turned-bandit has become something of a cross between a local saint and Robin Hood figure to the poor and dispossessed of rural Argentina. A folk healer whose refusal to fight in a provincial civil war made him an outlaw, Gil was known to rob the rich to help the poor. After his execution (unjust maybe, a pardon seemed likely) a legend grew that attributed the miraculous recovery of a young boy to his intervention. More "miracles" followed and the shrines proliferated, all distinguished by their red flags and streamers and the small offerings people leave behind - candles and long red ribbons from those praying for a safe journey; cars and models of houses and such from those seeking more tangible improvements to their lives.

Thousands flock to Corrientes to a huge shrine at the place of his execution where shops sell readymade votives to the believers in the way of all places of pilgrimage, but it's these strange, makeshift shrines and their sad little offerings that speak more tellingly of the dreams of those who come to them.

Review Helpfulness: 4 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Dec 13, 2007
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