The figure of the gaucho emerges in Argentina's history in the late 1.600s, soon after the Spaniards brought the horse to the New World.
Its name comes from Quechua language "huachu", which means vagabond or orphan.
Originally it was a loner, a wanderer, free spirited character that roamed the Pampas (prairie lands of around 800.000 square miles located north of Patagonia), with no possessions apart from his horse, facon (long knife), rebenque (riding whip) and boleadoras (three leather bound rocks tied together with approximately 3 feet long leather straps).
His typical outfit reflected his lifestyle on a horseback: hat, baggy loose pants called bombachas, a woolen poncho and boots (botas de cuero crudo), that were made using the hide of a calf wrapped around his legs and feet.
His only bed was a sheepskin, that was fasten over the saddle when riding.
For his meals, he would butcher a cow and cook it over an open fire. That was the beginning of the asado, a very popular Argentina food even today.
They were skilled horsemen, rough, tough and honest. Silent types, with a strong sense of justice and capable of violence when needed. First, they worked tracking down cattle for their patrons. Later, they played a relevant role in the war of independence against Spain.
They became an important political force for caudillos in local nationalisms and brave and respected soldiers in countless battles.
There is an extensive literature in Argentina that portrays his life and philosophy.
The most internationally known are the epic poems ofMartin Fierro:(1872) and La Vuelta de Martin Fierro:(1879), by Jose Hernandez.
There is also a famous novel written by Ricardo Guiraldes: Don Segundo Sombra, in 1926.
The gaucho's gradual disappearance was marked by the arrival of immigrants, mainly European farmers, in the late 19th. century. They lost their vagabond existence and became employed in the estancias (ranches), where their skills were put at work.
Today, they still play a very important role in the rural workforce, not only in Argentina but also Uruguay and the whole American continent: they are called cowboys in USA, vaqueiros in Brazil and llaneros in Colombia and Venezuela.
Please don't miss San Antonio de Areco in your next trip to Argentina, is only 113 km. away from Buenos Aires and you'll have the chance to come across to gaucho life and customs....and to eat your best asado, ever.
This picturesque town is ideal to visit in November, when Argentina celebrates its traditional week (Semana de la Tradición)...