Saturday, March 26, 2011

Gauchito Gil

Gauchito Gil is an unofficial saint in Argentina. Images of him appear all over the place; in small shrines on the side of the highway, on little cards in the sainterias where they sell religious imagery and objects, and even painted on the side of a bridge like in this photo, close to my apartment.  If you want something, you pray to Gauchito Gil.

Upon further investigation into this semi-religious Argentine symbol, popular legend is that Gil lived between the years 1840 and 1878 (more or less).  He was a gaucho on a farm, a very good worker, and he had an affair with a beautiful widow.  The widow´s brothers and the head of police, who was also in love with her, found out about it and tried to kill Gil, so he fled and joined the army, fighting in the war against Paraguay.  He returned to his village as a hero, and was then sent to fight in the Argentine Civil War.  Tired of the senseless war he escaped and was eventually caught and strung up by his feet by the police.  Before he was killed, he told the policeman his son (the policeman´s) was very ill, and if his life was spared Gil would heal the boy and he would live.  The policeman ignored him and cut his throat anyway, but when he returned to his village his son was indeed very sick.  The policeman prayed to Gauchito Gil to make his son better, and the boy was cured.  Gauchito Gil it seemed, had healed his murderer´s son.  After this, the policeman gave Gil a proper burial and set up a shrine, spreading word of the miracle.

These days Gil is a popular saint that people pray to when they want or need something, and you often see "gracias Gauchito Gil!" written around the place.

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