The E-Bike Diaries

Gauchito Gil

/ Argentina

Miguel Leivan
Miguel Leivan and his family are about to prepare a barbecue in honour of Gauchito Gil
A Gauchito Gil shrine in Chile’s alto Bio Bio region

A site is announced by red cloth fluttering in the distance on the roadside, somewhere in the mindboggling Argentinean vastness where a view can hold the whole of Switzerland. Get closer and you see a small chapel, look inside and you’ll find invariably the statue of Gauchito Gil standing in front of a cross. 36-year-old Miguel Leivan and his family came to the shrine to prepare a parrillada “barbecue”. That was the promised that Miguel made to the Gauchito if he made his wish and prayers come true. The wish and prayers had something to do with the health of a relative that got better. We would have been welcome to eat and celebrate with the family had we arrived a few hours later. The Gauchito Gil is a popular saint that has its origin in the province of Corrientes. Born around 1840 and killed on the 8th of January 1878, 8km from the town of Mercedes. He was killed for deserting in the army, hung by his feet on a tree and beheaded. Not much more is known of the figure that is not part of the catholic liturgy. Still perhaps because of his popularity and the fear of the church to lose followers on his remembrance day, mass is given in his name. A devotee tells me, that now with an Argentinean Pope hopes are running high for canonization: “he makes miracles and on top he’s Argentinean why shouldn’t he be canonised”? Hundreds of thousands of Argentineans are devotees and a massive manifestation of religious fervour (that I have witnessed years back) takes place at the site of his killing. From nearby thousands of pilgrims arrive on horses and from afar busloads are unloaded everything turns red. It’s a festive atmosphere in the blazing sun, people drink, eat, dance, sweat and wait in line to get to the spot where the Gauchito Gil was killed in order to light a candle pray and place a wish.