Panamericana roadtrip memories

| Johan van Rijswijck

Who is Gauchito Gil?

In 2011 - 2012, I drove the Panamericana Roadtrip together with 83 classic Volvo's. During this trip we kept track of our experiences, which we later compiled in the book 'Panamericana Roadtrip'. So this story is about Gauchito Gil. Gauchito Gil is a kind of Argentine Robin Hood and patron saint of travellers in Argentina. Throughout the country you'll come across memorials of this figure. A special story that I would like to share with you again on this blog.

The legend of Gauchito Gil

We won’t meet him on day 1. We're still in the middle of civilization and drive from village to village, passing junction after junction. Because of the distance of almost a thousand kilometres on day 1 we're actually busy with nothing else than eating asphalt. We're still under the illusion that we'll arrive this day before dark. On day 2 on the other hand, we have a very short and easy ride ahead of us. We leave Viedma and continue our way south towards Puerto Madryn. Soon we notice that we are leaving the inhabited world behind us and get acquainted with the endless Argentine pampa.

We pass the first memorials. They are of a local hero so it seems. At first I still think it's an outburst from a local political party. Asking at a gas station the man tells me that these are memorials of the Argentine legend 'Gauchito Gil'. According to tradition, Antonio Mamerto Gil Nuñez, better known as Gauchito Gil, came from the town of Mercedes in Corrientes, the far north of Argentina. He fell in love and got an affair with a very rich widow. When the wife's brothers and the chief of the local police discovered this, they accused him of theft. They wanted to kill him. To escape this, Gauchito joined the army. Not much later, when the civil war broke out, Gauchito refused to fight against his own people and he deserted. From that moment on, he became an outlaw. He stole from the rich and gave to the poor, as a Latin Robin Hood.

The miracle of the policeman and Gauchito Gil

Fate finally brought him back to the local police chief and he captured him. Gauchito was tortured and hung upside down on an Algaro tree. Just before the officer wanted to cut his throat, he told the policeman that if he was killed, the policeman's son - who was seriously ill - would die. If he spared Gauchito's life, the son would continue to live. The chief cut Gauchito's throat without pardon. When he came home and found his seriously ill son, he prayed to Gauchito. The boy healed.

The policeman then respectfully buried Gauchito Gil and created a shrine. The officer told everyone about the miracle. The legend of Gauchito Gil was created. Every year on January 8th, many pilgrims travel to Corrientes to pay his respects to Gauchito Gil. Throughout Argentina you will find along the side of the road the memorial places decorated with many red flags. Gauchito Gil, a real folk hero for all truckers on the endless roads over the Argentine pampas and now also a little bit for us.

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