Far up in the dusty plains of northern Argentina, away from the hustle and bustle of city life in Buenos Aires, lies the city of Salta which away from the metropolis of the masses has been able to retain much of its colonial feel. Each year on June 17th however, the city takes one step further back towards the past with the arrival of almost 3,000 gauchos who come to commemorate the anniversary of the death of General Güemes, the famed leader who led the North to victory in the War of Independence against Spain.
Know the Story
Salta was the epicentre of the Army of the North in Argentina who were fighting against the Spanish and pro-Spanish Royalists for control of the north of the country. General Güemes was the leader of Gauchos who played a vital role in helping to secure victory for the country in the Battle of Salta ensuring Argentine control over most of the Northern Territories. Although it was General Manuel Belgrano who controlled the army the role of General Güemes is thought to have been so important that a huge celebration is put on each year to remember him by.
The festivities actually start the night before with an all-night vigil at the foot of General Güemes’ monument in the city to commemorate the fatal moment in which he was injured when trying to flee the city, he heroically made it back to their base camp where he gave his men their final orders. To this day his loyal followers gather at the base of San Bernardo Hill where they light bonfires and wait for the sun to rise, all dressed in the traditional red and black poncho of the gauchos. It is tribute to Güemes’ popularity that the people are prepared to sit out the cold Argentine winter.
On the anniversary of his death itself, Gauchos from all across Argentina come on horseback to parade through the city, they follow behind the ‘Lady of Miracles’ who is also on horseback and is said to inspire hope with each step she takes. As darkness begins to draw in, the gauchos begin to gather in around bonfires where they sing traditional folkloric songs and remember their national hero’s last words, “Dying for our fatherland is glory.” The parade in some aspects resembles a military parade and this is goes someway to help demonstrate just how highly regarded General Güemes is by the people of Salta and the Argentine President has also been known to attend in recent years.
How to do it in Style
Whilst the gauchos may be happy to wait out for the sun to rise in the chilly winter nights, not all of us will be quite so keen. Dehouche’s favourite boutique hotel to retreat to is Legado Mitico, located in the historic centre of Salta in a manor house that once belonged to a wealthy aristocratic family. The hotel has been lovingly transformed to its current day glory, ensuring that it hasn’t lost its authentic feel. Each room has been carefully styled to represent a character from the traditional Argentinean Northwest and to keep in theme we recommend staying in the Gaucho room which personifies the heroes on horseback so well. If you want to escape the stampede of the Gauchos for a while then head just outside of town to Finca Valentina, a beautiful country house where you can relax poolside. Whilst Malbec may be the wine most often associated with Argentina, Salta’s high altitude lends itself perfectly to producing Torrontes. This exotically perfumed white grape is grown here on some of the world’s highest altitude vineyards – doctors may disagree but we are a firm believer that a chilled bottle of Argentina’s finest Torrentes is the best cure for any slight shortness of breath inspired by these lofty climes. After helping to commemorate General Güemes head out south of Salta down to Cafayate to spend a couple of days in the heart of the wine country. Staying at the luxurious Cafayate Wine Resort surrounded for miles around by vineyard after vineyard you are in the prime location to explore all that the region has to offer.