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A history of gaucho: the first Argentine

What was gaucho for the country? His first worker, his first soldier, his first martyr. Humiliated and extinct remained in the popular language in doing solidarity good or “a gauchada”.

gaucho argentino

The origins of gaucho date back to the birth of the same country: the pampas, hills and jungles were extensive lands and the first inhabitants ventured into the limits of the Spanish conquest, and the original peoples. Our first compatriots had nothing but a horse, a saddle and  pilchas  (clothes) on — the mate would come later from Paraguay. Native animals that populated all latitudes in large numbers, added to the wild horses and cattle that were thousands and thousands, shaped an equestrian, macho and nomadic culture, and established a Gauchesque context.  The Argentine gaucho appears only after the May Revolution,  behind his Uruguayan and Brazilian brothers, but his world was present from many before, in the days of the Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata, and not only in the countryside, “the natives of the country have the habit of carrying cow troops twice a week to the city. To gather these troops from wild cows, they carry a domestic bull... one or two of them, mounted from good runners, put themselves at the head of the troop... the other natural, keep on the side of the cow... carry in their hand long spears, armed at their ends with an iron in the crescent quarter or half moon (... they lead them to a corral very close to the city... they close the barquera, enter -the natural - on horseback with a large loop in his hand, made of cow leather, and throwing with an admirable skill on the cow that has been pointed out to him — which is sometimes in half a hundred-... the natural comes out of the barriers, always holding with force the tie that ties to the horse... another natural with the spear cuts the hocks from his hind legs, the cow falls to the ground, many instantly throw on it and cut their head” portrayed the naturalist Louis Feuillée, in 1708, a visit to the slaughterhouses in Buenos Aires. And the natives, in their field tasks, were none other than gauchos in potential.

 At that time from the Oriental Band —Uruguay— the word gaucho resounds, especially in news that complain about them, bandits and quatreros.  Although its etymology is not clear, and there are those who defend an Araucana root in the  hauchú  -orphan, what was clear from the beginning was the persecution of the authorities of any regime.  Gauderio , in its Portuguese root, or “gauchos”, pejoratively identified a social sector of the mid-18th century, of very few thousand in the Litoral, and a few hundred Buenos Aires, who basically were men who killed “illegally” cattle for the sale of leather and sebum. The indiscriminate massacres of the cowerías, ordered by the salting nascent, led to scarce the work — and food — of the humble.

In 1729 in Buenos Aires, “changadores” were documented, unlicensed pawns who live from the leather trade, in an early antecedent of the gauchos. By the end of the century,  gaucho or gauderio  were relatives of pawn, rider and camilucho in the Río de la Plata, all peasants who lived in miserable huts, dirt floors, and were generally associated with crime, four-way. This justified the forced labour force to those who were not under the orders of some farmer, driven by the first associations of livestock farmers, as it appears in this order of the  Buenos Aires Cabildo of 1790 , “the breeders narrowed with the ties of a well-regulated society, and encouraged with their own interest  will proceed to purge the fields of everything that makes them uncomfortable, causing bagos — in original, and pre-terminology to the sadly vague and ill-entertaining — to apply   the work  , or go to the new populations, that the Indians have the form with separation... and that Negros, and free Mulattos live precisely in addition to the Breeders themselves, so that they can stop their conduct and advance their work with this help, which is what the Laws order”, closes the official side. A few lines are precisely summarized the castes that existed, the roles each had to assume, and particularly who held power.

In order not to romanticize the real gaucho, and that it does not remain in the homeric centaur of Leopoldo Lugones that was riding apolineo at dawn, a historical aspect explains the appearance of gaucho for an economy that needed his talents in coweries and pens, whether he liked it or not, as had happened in the other side of the Uruguay River. And that it was also limiting its chances of progress by denying its settlement, the cost of land, distant borders and, then, wiring, or their incorporation into civil life, from the rivadavian laws of conchabo, forced labor by vague and misentertaining, no horseback riding without patron, to the solutionn Sarmiento's end, summarized in an infamous letter from Mitre, “do not economize blood of gauchos”  Let's clarify that it is not intended to polemize with the Master of America but to understand the thought of a generation that dreamed a nation for a supposed desert — for something in the “Martín” Fierro” by José Hernández, gauchos and Indians share a tragic destiny 

 Rise and fall of the Argentine gaucho 

As the sun peered out of May 25, 1810, the gauchos added other more positive assessments. The British invasions of 1806-1807 left numbers testifying to the courage of those gauchos, who were among the first Argentines who understood perfect what it was before even pronouncing Patria.Sir Walter Scott said impressed how some “savages Christians,” whose furniture was “bones and skulls” and fed on “raw meat and water,” as those “gauchos” repeated, had defeated the Queen of England's divisions. Twice.  “ Unfortunately they prefer their national independence to cotton and muslin,” concluded the writer of the English classic Ivanhoe , who also understood what it was.

The legend of gaucho began to transcend borders with the Wars of Independence and the Spaniards feared the encounter with these brave lancers, especially those of the North,  hierarchized by  Belgrano  and  San Martín , “-the gauchos de Salta - alone are making a war so terrible that they have forced them to dispatch an entire division for the sole purpose of protecting the extraction of mules and “Months later the Liberator said to Nicolás Rodríguez Peña, “you laugh at joyful hopes... the North is a defensive war and... - for that - the brave gauchos of Salta are enough”  he assured in the preparations for the liberation of a Continent. By the way, San Martín supported the Regulation of the Militias of the Gaucho de Martín de Güemes, a first bill of rights and obligations, in tune with Belgrano, which already in 1796 defended the importance of gauchos, “when meat establishments, tasajo, sebum, etc have been set up, have the people of this country refused to offer their arms? The public works, the houses, who does it?“The Creator of the Flag advocated that instead of persecuting them, harassing them, they had to offer land and instruction.

The story was different. Even in Buenos Aires that recognized the heroism of gauchos, denials continue, and the Gazeta publishes the words of San Martín but replaced by a “peasant patriots”. And he does not hesitate to associate with the Portuguese who crush the only experiment of an agrarian society of gauchos, in the Oriental Band of  Artigas.  It also legalizes greater penalties, longer cams, to “every country man who does not prove property.” In the process of anarchy that began in 1816, and erupted in 1820, farmmen, working poor, would also be recruited into meansavy in the internecine quarrels between warlords, something which would continue in the time of the compadritos and the committees of alsinism and roquism, prior to the federalization of Buenos Aires.

Rivadavia authorizes police chiefs and magistrates of the peace to determine who is “vague” and who can be sent to the War against Brazil; or to confiscate their farm, although carved, due to suspicion of “theft of treasury” Juan Manuel de    Rosas  is a fan of the order that does not come to change but to consolidate the privileges of the landowners and the legal tangle that punishes any rights of the gaucho.  But he understands the social problem that only involves punishment and implements certain measures that value gauchaje, the militias one of them — which escaped from his hands in the end. The Colorados del Monte not only pursued opponents, at first their function was to incorporate rural workers into arms and repress the unenrolled “Viva el gaucho surero” became another war cry of the Cob and, discounting the obvious demagoguery of a Roses that attacked “pawns doctors”, in respect of a wealthy farmer by the popular classes, one who knew about the Creole what few ruling classes knew, remains a profound key to the argentinity that beats in the mass political movements.

 To synthesize the later story of Caseros until 1880 is a horror tale. Because the Argentine State perfected the harassment of gaucho almost from the beginning:  in 1853 the battle of San Gregorio faces five thousand men, some for the Argentine Confederation, another by the secessionist Buenos Aires, and hundreds of both sides died, gauchos and Indians forced to fight improvised. And as a reward to those who fought for the defeated Buenos Aires, their bosses deny the work, and the essential roles, adjudging lack of courage (in fact, they defected for not wanting to shoot at other gauchos). They automatically condemn them to be “lazy and misentertaining” and, in the end, gauchos matreros — outside the law. It is estimated that after the fray there were about two thousand in this condition, a fact provided by a certain José Hernández, the writer and journalist who begins to twinned with the suffering -and reasons- of those gauchos. A few years later he would publish the “Martín Fierro”, “epic of crimes carefully highlighted as heroic acts,” the Buenos Aires press roam in 1880.

That year would symbolically mark the extinction of the Argentine gaucho. Between the wires that extend against his freedom and the 54 million hectares that pass into the hands of a few Argentines and foreigners, and the successive conflicts that put him with cannon meat, civil wars and international wars, the War against Paraguay and the self-called Conquest of the Desert, are remaining few in the pampas and mountains. A few. It was the time of transfiguration into myth, in legend, in customs recreated without living models, by a Creolism that faced another problem, an unwanted immigration. The industrious and imagined Saxons did not get off the ships, instead they were humble Southern Europeans, Spaniards and Italians, Jews and Arabs as well. Many outcasts on their own continent like gaucho.  León Pomer, one of the main researchers of the Argentine gaucho, wrote, “the gaucho was killed twice: the first as a social presence; the second as the object of expired yearnings: they made him the center of a nativist cult.” 

 An Argentine gaucho for the 21st century 

 In our tight synthesis we went through several postcards from the gaucho: a liberrime man who could feel the owner of the pampa, matrero, tramp, leatherer, soldier of the struggles of Independence and Civil Wars, Baquiano, tamador, resero, soguero, and finally, pawn de campo.  What is interesting now is to immerse ourselves in some of the supposed values and customs of the gauchos, which have been printed in the chronicles of foreign travelers, and illustrated from Carlos Morel and Mauricio Rugendas, among the first.

E. M. Brackenridge says, on a quote from León Benarós, that once in a village during the Rosas government ran into a mob surrounding two boys at the beating, and among them, a gaucho said,  “Aren't you ashamed to fight between you? Does the Fatherland have no enemies?“Then the fight ended with the cry “Viva la Patria”. To gaucho we also owe the first feelings for Argentina. 

 Another strong feeling that persists is the desire for freedom of gaucho . The alluvial immigration further relegated gaucho's field of action and was circumspect to few irreplaceable tasks, Baqueano or only resero. And despite his conversion to a pawn of stay, Ricardo Güiraldes pointed out that for the “resero arrive is nothing more than a pretext for departing.” And Horacio Quiroga in El Chaco pointed out other gauchos that “they do not want to be slaves to anything or anyone”, in a way of life condemned to disappear. The gaucho never saved, nor had economic forecast, nothing wanted to force him to a pre-established situation or social laws. Therefore the game, luck and truth in a taba, or cards, chance and fatalism, seduced their mentality. Something so Argentinean, of course.

The much-minded “vagrancia”, an Andalusian heritage and closer to when the cimarronas cows abound, almost exterminated in the Colonia, is a great prejudice because when society is organized — and reprime- the gaucho is nothing more than a pawn of stay that works hard, with zero pay or useless vouchers, and that of viejo is still exploited by the patron in the room of the ropes, “there is no one who desraids it”, paya con vigüela -guitar- Martín Fierro. Gaucho was our first worker in the cowerías and saladeros, the pioneering Argentine industries, and then put sweat and blood on the first bricks of the so-called Argentina, barn in the world.

Hospitality and courage are the traces that are most rescued from the gaucho, who gave roof on his miserous ranch to whom he wanted to rest, “the hospitality of gaucho is very wide and a traveler who crosses the country, can stop at any stay along the way and share the table cordially with the family... that vivÍ an with the minimum sustenance,” says J. A. Beaumont in 1827 Courage? In the gaucha war in Salta, a soldier from Güemes arrives at a realistic outpost and with his rope links the enemy sentinel, armed with a musket, dragging him to the patriotic lines.  

“It still seems to me to see the old gaucho walking away through the pajonales of the lagoon, inhabited by herons and flamingos, while the sun set to sunset” — Bonifacio del Carril painted in 1978 a literary print - “So, too, slowly, as he passes his tired horse, he moved away from his tired horse.oacute; the gaucho of Argentine life in a way that we will always have to remember with some nostalgia” A last endless horseback ride that continues to  vice—glimping-  the same Pago, ours.

Sources: Benarós, L.  What did gaucho give?  in magazine “Todo Es Historia” No. 242 July 1987. Buenos Aires; Pomer, L.  El Gaucho.  Buenos Aires: CEAL. 1971; Slatta, R. W.  The gauchos and the sunset of the border.  Buenos Aires: South American Publishing House. 1985; Ripodas Ardanaz, D.  Travellers to the Rio de la Plata 1701-1725  . Buenos Aires: ANH. 2002.

Publication Date: 06/12/2020

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