The days of the strong, silent and proud North American cowboy are long gone and the mountains of Montana and Wyoming are no longer the home to these nomadic farmers of fortune and their noble steeds. Do not despair though; you need but to travel south, into the hills and plains of Brazil and Argentina and up into the mountainous Sierras of Cordoba to find their Latin cousins, the “Gauchos”. Still roaming the land year in year out, plying their trade on the vast estancias as farm hands, handy men and most importantly cattle herders, these horse-top drovers still live the true life of the “cowboy”. Of course, to a certain extent, they have been slightly modernised in this ever developing world, but this has yet to affect the magic, mystery and rough beauty of these true men and their trade.
Having become the national symbols of honesty, pride and valour against a back drop of greed and corruption from the Europeans and their supporters in the 1800s the Gauchos developed an aura which reflected in their culture. Nowadays, very little has changed. They are still a proud and valiant people who in most cases live a beautifully simplistic, rough and rustic life.
The Essentials: There are still a few remaining places in Argentina where you can witness this life first hand and even get involved. The most important aspect of the Gaucho’s world is his horse and this is immediately evident at seeing them ride and interact. Having been born to the saddle and put to work by their fathers almost from the moment they are born, they are magnificent riders who look far more comfortable astride their horse than do even on solid ground. There is something very humbling about witnessing Gauchos giving horse-breaking demonstrations and perform their magical Indian Horse-Whispering and understanding how in unison man and beast can be.
Who is the most Macho of them all?
Characterized by their pride. they take every opportunity to compete with each other to prove their prowess and sheer skill in the saddle, challenging each other at “sortija” (essentially threading needle at arms length whilst at a full gallop!) or at a game of “pato” (a mixture of Rugby, basketball and Polo!). Their skills extend well beyond that of just horsemanship, they are Dead-Eyed-Dicks with a lasso and each believes that they are the master of the “parilla” (the grill over which the famous “asado” is cooked to perfection). Sitting around the fire once the sun has gone down, creating the world renowned Argentine beef over the glowing coals and listening to the Gauchos, each one a superb balladeer (those that lack in skill certainly make up for it in enthusiasm), hum, chant, sing and bellow their way through their favourite songs and poems about their favourite horses, their most beautiful women and their most gallant victories.
Where to be in November:
Although often nomadic, moving from one estancia to another each year, they occasionally all gather together and when they do it is a sight to behold. In November in San Antonio de Areco, Gauchos gather from across the land to pit their wits against each other. They compete in the rodeos, take part in the folk dancing, parade on horseback and sell their crafts (they are superior leather workers) all in one enormous festival, before returning to life on the Pampa. There are not many places where outsiders can glimpse into the life of the gaucho first hand but trust us when we say that there is something truly special and unique about these last remaining pioneers of this ancient trade.
Feel the Gaucho twitch coming on?
Dehouche have created a personalized, authentic Gaucho Experience at one of our favourite estancias to offer a gateway into this culture and the opportunity to learn their skills and even compete against the Gauchos in their own games. Who knows, with a little luck and half a bottle of claret you may be able to teach them a thing or two! Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.