Earlier this week (Jan. 8) in Argentina, tens of thousands of people celebrated the life of "Gauchito Gil" ("little gaucho Gil)" on the 130th anniversary of his death. He is a thing of legend, the country's Robin Hood, hiding out in the mountains as a gentle bandit, stealing from the rich and redistributing goods to the poor. In a country with a significant amount of poverty, Gil's fame has soared.
In the fall of 2006, when my husband and I traveled in Northwest Argentina, which is populated by mostly poor, indigenous people, we were intrigued by the mysterious red roadside shrines we saw. A typical shrine consisted of a little house with a male saint inside dressed like a cowboy. Usually the house was painted red and surrounded by red flags and red banners with a text like "Gracias Gauchito Gil." Sometimes it was tiny and very basic, a foot high, painted red and with a little cowboy statue inside. Other times it was elaborate, with a load of red banners. Clearly he was revered for something.
After we got home, we read up on this Argentinian cowboy saint. Check out this Wikipedia entry and also this interesting piece on NPR's "Marketplace," which aired on the anniversary of Gil’s death.
Posted by Diane Daniel, Globe Correspondent