Wednesday, June 2, 2010
A little more on the History of the Gaucho
The Day of the Gaucho on 10 November is celebrated every year in San Antonio de Areco and across Las Pampas. Horse displays and polo tournaments, silverwork, ceramics and colonial carpentry and a (tourist)-glimpse of the humble gaucho lifestyle.
During the 19th century when the first European settlers arrived in
they brought their horses and cattle with them. Some animals escaped domestication and quickly populated the fertile pampas, and from these free resources emerged the gaucho, relying on the cattle for food and clothing and the horses for transportation. It is said that the real gaucho is recognized by his bandy legs as he is seldom out of the saddle! Argentina
The name gaucho, history has it, is derived from the Quechua language and means, 'orphan' or 'vagabond'. Quechua is the indigenous language of the Andean region of South America and is spoken by approximately 13 million people today in
Bolivia, Peru, northern Chile, southern Colombia and . It was also the official language of the Inca Empire. The first recorded use of the term gaucho dates from around the time of Argentine independence in 1816 although gauchos, as such, were known to have wandered the countryside as early as the 1600s. The gaucho was nomadic and did not need to reside in a formal settlement to have a code of conduct of his own. Argentina
Gauchos shunned social interaction and were hardy and uncompromising, but famously kind to weary travellers, always sharing their food or what little shelter they had. If the mood took them they would work on the massive cattle estancias (estates) for a season, before moving on. Their wandering existence meant those who might have had homes, with a common law wife and even offspring, spent little time there.Sons of gauchos invariably became gauchos too. Early account of the gauchos describe them as uncouth, with plenty of time on their hands, much of which was spent drinking mate (a mildly narcotic herbal concoction drunk from a gourd), and gambling.
In the 18th century, leather was a more prized commodity than meat and became the major trading item between the old world and the colonies. Thus, once the cattle had been slaughtered for their skin, the rest was discarded to be purloined by the gauchos. The meat was quickly cooked on an open fire before it went bad and today this means of cooking meat - asado, has become a national dish. Not only were the gauchos independent and tough; they knew the terrain of the interior intimately and were consummately skilled horse handlers and so became ideal conscripts into the army for the wars of independence and subsequent civil wars.