An expat Californian building a new life via the tango in Buenos Aires since 2003, including information on learning the tango and where to dance it in Buenos Aires.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

La Vida Gauchesca

At the top of my list of things I love about Argentina is the gaucho life and history, and especially as it relates to tango. I love the mystique and above all, the outfits. Gauchos today correspond to the American cowboy, in that they still live the life with their horses, which in the provinces of Buenos Aires, they keep at home.

You can see genuine gauchos in Buenos Aires every winter with their animals at the Fair and Exposition in La Rural, and every Sunday from April to December at the Feria de Mataderos. 

At Mataderos you can see them ride in a competition of the sortija, the winner earning a purse. And you can learn more about gaucho history in the Museo Criollo. (Read more Mataderos posts on tangocherie.)

Gauchos also have their own confederation, which you can check out in Spanish on the web.

The gaucho figures strongly in the history and life of Argentina. Centuries ago when there was wild cattle roaming the country, the gaucho made his living by herding and selling them, banding together with his comrades to get a job done, and then going off after his solitary life again. Each man was allowed to round up 12,000 heads. When a cow was killed, the gaucho threw the tongue on the fire and ate that, so as to not ruin the carcass he needed to sell. He lived on beef and mate, and had the company of a "china" (country girl) and his guitar.

When the pampas began to be fenced in and owned by grand estancias in the 19th century, the gauchos had to look for another type of work. Some took jobs at the estancias, and many came to Buenos Aires and had to wear closed toed shoes for the first time in their lives, as the gaucho boots left their toes free. See illustrations of their clothing here.

Aside from his horse, the gaucho prides himself on his skill with the  asado, or barbecue, which truly is an art. He doesn't use charcoal, but wood, and keeps moderating the temperature of the fire by adding and subtracting the coals. He adds coarse salt during the slow cooking to keep the meat from drying out right before he turns it over, bones down. All parts of the animal are eaten, including the fat.

In Argentina, it's only the men who are asadores.

Here is a famous verso gauchesco:

El Gaucho
Mi gloria es vivir tan libre como el pajaro del cielo, no hago nido en este suelo ande hay tanto que sufrir; y naides me ha de seguir cuando yo remonte el vuelo.


Katie said...

I, too, find something romantic in the history and life of the gauchos. In my corner of the province of Buenos Aires, agriculture plays a very important role in the local economy, and there are gauchos aplenty! It's great to see them dressed in their finery for parades or festivals, but it's even more interesting when I run across them in "real life." They're an interesting lot, for sure!

tangocherie said...

Yes, they are a much more "romantic" lot than our American cowboys, don't you think? Even though today's cowboys love their horse and their freedom (and their guitar if they have one) in the same way as the gaucho, the gaucho has a certain je ne sais quoi! Maybe it's his outfit, his poetry, or the Malambo!!?