Gaucho

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The bravest gaucho ever.

The Gaucho is the archetypical character in the gauchesque poetry and fiction, a quintessential inhabitant of The Pampas, and a common stereotype of the Argentinian and Uruguayan peasant even today. In the simplest terms, a gaucho is merely a native inhabitant of the South Cone countryside, a common worker of the fields, maybe even a rural soldier or policeman. But in the early days of the revolution, they became an archetype of the Argentinian character.

The Gauchos play a nationalistic symbol in both Argentina and Uruguay. They became greatly renowned in legends, folklore and in literature and became an central point of their regional cultural tradition. They are traditionaly depicted as brave, a bit lazy, free and violent folk that inhabited the pampas, with many similarities with Cowboy, but very different at the same time.

The Gauchos historically are very diverse, as they came from diferent regions and provinces of the Spanish colonies in South America. They are similar to the Chilean huasos, the cuban guajiros and the venezuelan llaneros, as they descend of Spanish commoners that went to the countryside and mixed with Indians (even the women of the gauchos are called chinas for the Indian eyes), forming the main native population of many lands. They were primarily cattle herders, hunters and soldiers, minor owners of the fields surrounding the small towns in the Southern Cone, specifically the Center and North of Argentina, the South of Brazil (Gaúcho is also the common denomination of the current inhabitants of the Brazilian State of Rio Grande do Sul), Southern Paraguay and the entire Uruguay. They were superb horseriders and cattle herders, as their main possession is a horse.

In the Independency Wars, and later in the Civil Wars, the most basic unit in the armies were cavalry composed entirely by gauchos, using the "montonera" tactic: a sort of horseback guerrilla, they swarm over an enemy army, strike and retreat faster than lightning. This tactic was a major drawnback for the "civilized" Spanish armies, that were unable to fight them. The typical "montoneros" were armed with lances or spears for charges, boleadoras (bolas) for ranged or melee attacks, and facones note  for close-quarter fights.

The gauchos usualy wore "ponchos", -long, thick blankets which doubled as a saddle blanket and as sleeping bag,- loose-fitting trousers called bombachas belted with "tiradores", and a chiripá, a type of loincloth. In the head, they often used a vincha (a type of bandana) or a medium-sized hat. The common gear was very similar to the military equipment of the montoneros, but lacking the spear. The bolas and the facón were very important as tools and weapons for the gaucho, as guns weren't very common yet. The bolas were the main hunter's Weapon of Choice, as they can trap easily the legs of the prey, or knocking them down by the mere impact of the hit, and the facón was the primordial weapon and tool for everything else.

After the civil wars, they became a problem for the modernization idealists, as they were the backbone of the provincial and rebel armies of the caudillos. People like Sarmiento had a love-hate relationship with them, as they admired them by their horse prowess and bravery, and hated them by his "barbaric" looks and behavior. For the 80's generation, the Gauchos were ignorant, illiterate, murderous, lazy scumbags, an anthem for their "civilized" and European views. note  Obviously, the problem, like the Indian Question and the Black people Question had a solution. The Argentinian government sent them to the Frontier as soldiers in the wars against the Indians, and the Argentinian, Brazilian and Uruguayan governments sent them against Paraguay. Then, later they were replaced in the countrysides by the large amount of new population brought mainly from Italy and Spain.

They are usually depicted as long-haired, bearded badasses with tanned skin that raid the Pampas prosecuted by the law, or sitting in a pulpería (a sort of bar and general store) or a fogón (bonfire) drinking mate and playing a guitar. They may be represented both as noble, proud, tragic and free warrior poets; or as hideous, treacherous and murderous "malevos", opposing to fair, gentle and well mannered "european" heroes.

This trope appears mainly in the South American literature, and depictions of the Southern Cone culture. Compare with the Cowboy, relate with The Pampas, and contrast with Latin Land and Mayincatec views of Latin America.

Works containing this tropes

In Literature

  • Amalia, a long novel by José Mármol, depicted them as derangeus and treacherous murderers.
  • Facundo is a work of the former Argentinan President Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, that goes all Tsundere about his cousin Facundo Quiroga, a caudillo that leaded armies entirely composed by gauchos.
  • There is an entire literary genre called "Gauchesca", with plenty of works both of poetry and narrative.
  • Of course, the main archetype of the Gaucho is Martín Fierro, by José Hernández. Here, the gaucho is a victim of the cruel governemt, that sends him to the Frontier to fight the Indians. He later deserts and rages when he sees that his farm has been abandoned by his family, and spreads death to anyone that crosses his path.
  • La Guerra Gaucha is a novel of the praised author Leopoldo Lugones about the Independence Wars in Salta province.
  • The works of the Uruguayan Bartolomé Hidalgo, named generically "Un gaucho de la Guardia del Monte", are mostly praised as the first works of the Gauchesque genre, belonging to the early XIX century. Hidalgo goes by the Warrior Poet stereotype.
  • Ricardo Güiraldes' Don Segundo Sombra plays a modern version of this trope. There, The Boy is educated in the traditional ways by a ancient gaucho, working in an estancia(ranch).
  • Many works of Jorge Luis Borges depicts gauchos as antiheroes, violent but noble folk.

In Comic Books

In movies

  • La Guerra Gaucha is an awarded 1942 Argentinian film based in the novel by Leopoldo Lugones.
  • La Tierra En Armas depicts the life of Martín de Güemes, a Caudillo and national hero of the independency wars, that leads an army of gauchos against the spanish army.
  • Saludos Amigos has a short animation called El Gaucho Goofy, were the character travels to the Pampas to learn the ways of the gauchos
  • The Three Caballeros goes further and makes a short story called The Flying Gauchito, depicting a young gaucho from Uruguay.
  • The Way Of The Gaucho Hollywood film is a 1954 "western" depicting an Alternate Version of Martín Fierro, were The Hero deserts the Army and leads a group of bandits that attacks the railroad lords.

In Theater

  • El Gigante Amapolas is a XIX century play from Alberti that depicts the armies of the Buenos Aires' dictator Rosas with an army of cowardly gauchos.
  • El Fausto is a parody in wich two Gauchos discuss about the play Faust from Goethe. Hilarity Ensues
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