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Rural bandits: tombs of glory

From Martín Fierro, the stamp of the popular heroes trasabilla in legality. Rural bandits, the bloody page that began on January 1, 1872.

Bandidos rurales: tumbas de la gloria

 Rural bandits are holy in Argentina . And there is no need to refer to the eldest of them, Gauchito Gil. Popular singers of all ages, one of the last Leon Gieco, dedicate their verses to these “rebellious riders by wild winds, rural bandits, hard to catch/Like wire stars in no man's land”, indulged in the legends to the Robin Hood, steal from the rich and distribute to the poor. While historical evidence speaks rather of strategies for the protection of thieves, negotiated with the impoverished peasantry, in pursuit of clandestine shelters, and sporadic direct actions of the bandits against landowners, the myths erected these gunmen of the Pampas as involuntary fathers of the struggle against injustice. Juan Moreira went from being a Buenos Aires bully to a symbol of resistance against oppression, who received cheers and applause since his appearance in the folletín and circus. For another article there is a reflection of Argentines and the law, or a national religiosity without native gods. Now we propose a brief history that links famous rural bandits with a hypothesis of poorly discussed origin.

Pastor Luna, Black Hort, the Tiger of Quequén and the Barrientos brothers are the ones who will inspire, and frighten, a whole society that experienced strong changes, between the irresistible advancement of the agro-export model in the name of progress and alluvional immigration.  These men represent the last border of an Argentina that changed faces and hands into the future . But for those who were from before, and will remain the anonymous hands, they are a banner facing daily inequalities, displacements and miseries. It does not matter if they not only kill landowners or capitalists, sometimes fatalities are simply employees of Bunge & Born or La Forestal. In the eyes of landless peasants, reduced to paid labourers with insulting vouchers, they constitute assurances of a divine and restorative hand.  Gods for the poor. 

 One of the first sanctuaries to a rural bandit is found in Saladas, Corrientes, in the tomb of Olegario Álvarez, “El gaucho Lega”  killed in 1906 every 23 May the parade of people who invoke it, and leave the traditional correntinos “cloths de la cruz”, a custom that spread to all the Argentine popular altars.  

The first two surnames crossed by rural bandits are those of Santafesino  Juan Bautista Bairoletto  and Tucumano Segundo David Peralta, or Manuel Bertolatti, or better known, Mate Cosido.  As can be seen in surnames, it was no longer only the gauchos who delinquished in a time when the first generations of immigrants suffered the insatiable latifundia.  The largest concentration of rural bandits will be found in the National Territories of the South and Northwest, large areas in few hands, and with serious deficiencies in security and infrastructure. So serious that the rich of Patagonia organized the fearsome parapolicial Chubut Border Police, under the orders of the ungodly Austrian Major Matthew Ghebard. Among his seizures, and shootings without trial, are Uruguayan four-man Asencio Brunel, a gaucho also known as El Malvinense, and the Americans William Wilson and Bob Evans, who followed in the Argentine footsteps of famous gunman Butch Cassidy. In 1911, the icy southern lands were watered with blood in a bloody advance of Patagonia Rebelde.

 Bairoletto and Mate Sewn, brothers outside the law 

“ I am a fabrication of injustices  ,” said Mate Sewn in the Buenos Aires magazine “Ahora” in January 1940, when I was wanted by land and air - that when I was very young I understood the free persecutions of an immoral and unscrupulous policeman” of the twenties he carried a thunderous criminal route in Córdoba, Santiago del Estero, Chaco and Corrientes, even in Paraguay, which easily placed him in the region's number one public enemy. Imprisoned in 1926 in Misiones and imprisoned in Resistencia for six years, in that period in the shadows he joined a formidable band with the mythical criminals Calabres, Basque, Chilean and Vasco Noy. From 1933 he returned to the correrías and managed to knead a huge fortune stolen from corridors and banks of landowners, “in a line of justice conduct”, was justified in “Ahora”  The Great Coup film was on July 6, 1936, an assault on the train in President Roque Sá enz Pena, Chaco . Less than thirty years before he had attended that same place the last malon of the Indians displaced from the jungle, felled and plundered, and now Mate Cosido stole 15,000 pesos from the cotton company Anderson, Clayton & Cía. It is not very difficult to imagine that Mate Cosido's band could hide where it wanted in a wrongdoing that many considered divine justice.  Over the years it became known that he had sheltered in a humble ranch and, one night, a boy left with a peeling cry. Mate Sewn went to Saenz Peña and brought the doctor without fear of being stopped by the police.  And he paid the bill. The alleged unbeatability of the hampon ended on January 8, 1940 with a frustrated kidnapping of Jacinto Berzón in Villa Berthet, Chaco, and the delation of a lieutenant, Julio Centurion. A gendarmerie shooting, which had the warrant to arrest the dead or alive, killed the minions and badly hurt Mate Cosido. He managed to send the download from Rafaela to the magazine and disappeared on the same dusty roads that so devastated for three decades.  He failed to return to his old man's house in Tucumán or to the arms of his beloved Ramona in Córdoba. Or it never knew.  

 A year later the era of rural bandits in Argentina would end.  Surrounded by police in Mendoza, and also betrayed by a hillside, Vicente Gazcón, Bairoletto committed suicide in the arms of his beloved Telma “San Rafael. September 14. In his law, according to his own life, fell this morning, in front of a large police commission, the banditero with romantic rims, perhaps the last of his kind, Juan Bautista Bairoletto - appeared in Graphic News, quotation from Francisco Juárez's investigation - On a ranch where had established his lair, in some camps in San Pedro de Atuel, General Alvear department, had a meeting with the police. Bairoletto fell forever and hurt his buddy. The police did not leave me... located the ranch at 5 in the morning, was besieged by the police... a force of 20 men”... against Bairoletto, a pawn named Asia and the woman with his two little daughters. Taken retired almost a five years at Telma's request, calling himself Francisco Bravo, and with the supposed protection of some politicians and policemen. Even  his last criminal act was the assault on La Forestal in Cote Lal, a frustrated event planned side by side with his outlaw brother, Mate Cosido.  Both were admired although Bairoletto privately envied the fortune his colleague amassed. John the Baptist was never more than a small bandit, with oral stories where little does a real robinhoodism appear, although that does not prevent devotees pilgrimage to his tomb in General Alvear in September.

Bairoletto begins her foja with the murder of Cape Farach in 1919, who had unjustly arrested her for a problem in a brothel of Eduardo Castex, La Pampa, and in the company of a pupil of a brothel transforms into the terror of the rich Pampeans - and the hero of displaced peasants and workers beaten in the Tragic Week. Anarchists transform it into the example of the acrat after the attack on a radical warlord, Pedro Cometta. The truth is that Bairoletto was also a hired bully for the political inmates and did not hesitate to shoot who used to serve him.  The first half of the twenties find the bandolero entering and leaving provincial prisons until from 1926 he threaded some heists of lean loot and several fatal victims between Mendoza and Rio Negro. Even a documented rape in La Pampa in 1929. This is a bit complicated to explain by the romantic and social size that accompanies Bairoletto.  One of the few facts recorded in the oral tradition once narrate that settlers called the “friend of the poor” when an “Arab usurer” sought to collect a promissory note, and Bairoletto at the end of Winchester, the preferred rifle of the ranchers and the bandits, fast and forceful, forced the lender to burn on a log the documents.  Córdoba, San Juan, San Luis and Mendoza worship Gaucho Bairoletto. Even in Eduardo Castex, La Pampa, there is the Bairoletto Circuit, which for tourist purposes recreates the scenarios its first crime and the family farm.  With this rural bandit, who seems in the roles so distant to a social hero, is once again patented the Argentine tendency to put certain social claims in the wrong places, I would say  Gonzalo Bonadeo  in the interview with 

 Was the Tandil massacre the beginning of the era of rural bandits? 

In the early morning of January 1, 1872 at the cry of “Long Live Religion”, “Long Live the Republic” and “Die the Gringos and Freemasons”  a group of fifty men instigated by Tata Dios, a messianic Geronimo G. de Solané, massacred 36 people, in his  mostly immigrants  from a thriving Tandil,  Buenos Aires province. Tata Dios gathers acolytes under millenary delusions in Ramón Gómez's “La Argentina” estancia and at the tip of sharp tacuaras and currency punzó pass to the slurry workers and storereros who interrupt the trance towards the powerful estanciero Ramón Santamaría, who saves his life as a miracle by changing his daily routine. The next day a commission of neighbors and police officers who intercept the killers in the Langueyú stream and  most surrender because they don't want to “fight with Argentines”  A few days later “mysteriously” the Tata God is finalized in prison. by Tandil. And in an “expeditive” trial, the firing in the public square of his accomplices is decided. Juan Fugl, a Danish settler, would explain this unmysterious mystery in his memoirs, “ some of the estanciers felt that immigration and land cultivation were a misfortune for the country and a usurpation of the rights of the landlords ... Tata God was protected by GD.oacute; mez and Judge Juan Figueroa... they wanted to give foreigners a scare to diminish immigration” In the pampas of the saladeros, and the grazing without limits before the golden fields and refrigerators, the farms of the gringos were at first the clear enemies. But there is another flame to stoke gauchaje, the “lazy and ill-entertaining”, in crime.

“What is the past, what is the present of my defenders and any child in the campaign?”, claimed the defense lawyer of Tata Dios' followers, Uruguayan Tomás Aguirre, in the rescue of Juan Carlos Torre, “from parents to children have passed successively from one yoke to another.  Some suffered colonial, the others were tyranny, the more the judges of the peace and the commanders... neither before nor now have justice,” he ended in a similar tone to  José Herná ndez  that Martín Fierro is incubating in angry contemporary journalistic notes. Expanding the lens, Tandil's murders are a primal slap of drowned, manipulated can be, of a  movement of declassados, without a future, and that in the new century will have those who will condesamorate helplessness and fury, rural bandits. To them, prints and ribbons, and protect us.

Sources: Torre, J.C.  The crimes of Tata Dios. Messiah Gaucho.  In Todo es Historia magazine. Year I No. 4. 1967; Juarez, F.  Rural bandits.  In The Life of Our People Volume 1. Buenos Aires: CEAL. 1982; Caimari, L.  The city and crime. Crime and daily life in Buenos Aires. 1880-1940. Buenos Aires: South American. 2009; Chumbita, H.  Bairoletto, record book and legend.  Buenos Aires: Marlona. 1974.

Publication Date: 07/01/2021

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Gaucho Cubillos Gaucho Cubillos: the martyr of the poor
Gauchito-Gil-1 Gauchito Gil: the popular saint



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