Celebrating Gauchito Gil with dance and food.
That’s the Gauchito Gil legend: Guacito Gill a legendary character of Argentina’s popular culture. The legend tells that Antonio Gil was born in the 1840s as a farmworker in a ranch and a devout believer in the folk saint San La Muerte. It is said that the owner of the ranch, a wealthy widow named Estrella Diaz Miraflores, fell in love, or had an affair, with him, but when her brothers and the head of the local police (who was also in love with Miraflores) found out about their relationship, they accused him of robbery and tried to kill him. He enlisted in the army to escape from them, fighting against the Paraguayan army. When the war ended, he returned home and was welcomed as a hero.
But when he arrived at his village, he was forcibly recruited by the Colorados to return to the army and fight in the Argentine Civil War against the Liberal parties. After he tired of fighting, he decided to desert and became an outlaw. In the years following his desertion, he acquired a reputation as a Robin Hood figure, for his efforts to protect and help the needy, the poor, and those who suffered in extreme poverty. Many locals stated that “Gauchito” Gil had miraculous healing powers and the ability of hypnosis, and that he was apparently immune to bullets.
On January 8, 1878, the local police, led by Colonel Velázquez, caught him hiding in a forest after a party and took him about 8 kilometers away from Mercedes. There, they tortured him over a fire and hanged him from his feet on an algarrobo tree, preparing to execute him. When the police sergeant was about to kill him, “Gauchito” Gil said to him: “You are going to kill me now, but you will arrive in Mercedes tonight at the same time as a letter of my pardon. In the letter they will also tell you that your son is dying of a strange illness. If you pray and beg me to save your child, I promise you that he will live. If not, he will die.” The sergeant laughed at this, and responded, “I don’t care,” and killed “Gauchito” Gil by slitting his throat. When the sergeant returned to his village, he found a soldier there with a letter of pardon for “Gauchito” Gil. The letter also said that the sergeant’s son was very ill and on the brink of dying. Frightened, the sergeant prayed to “Gauchito” Gil for his son to be saved. The next day, his son was inexplicably cured, though legend has it that “Gauchito” Gil had healed the son of his murderer. Very grateful, the sergeant gave Gil’s body a proper burial, and in his honor built a shrine in the form of a red cross. Moreover, he tried to let everybody know about the miracle.