Gauchito Gil

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Gauchito Gil
Gauchito Gil Rosario 1.jpg
A mural with a traditional depiction of the Gauchito Gil in a suburb of Rosario.
Little Gaucho Gil, Gaucho Saint, Folk Saint of Argentina
Born 1840s, allegedly 1847
Pay Ubre, Mercedes, Corrientes
Died 8 January 1878
Mercedes, Corrientes
Venerated in Folk Catholicism
Major shrine Pay Ubre, Mercedes, Corrientes
Feast January 8
Attributes Red bandana and cross, poncho, Prosopis caldenia
Patronage Gauchos, protection from harm, luck, fortune, good health, love, healing, outlaws, bravery, deserters, folk heroes, cowboys, safe passage

The Gauchito Gil (literally "Little Gaucho Gil") is a legendary character of Argentina's popular culture. His full name was Antonio Mamerto Gil Núñez and he was allegedly born in the area of Pay Ubre, nowadays Mercedes, Corrientes, possibly in the 1840s, and died on 8 January 1878.[1] He is regarded as the most prominent gaucho saint in Argentina.

The legend[edit]

Popular accounts vary, but in broad terms the legend tells that Antonio Gil was born in the 1840s as a farmworker and a devout believer in San La Muerte. It is said that a wealthy widow named Estrella Diaz Miraflores fell in love, or had an affair, with him, but when her brothers and the head of the police (who was also in love with Miraflores) found out about their relationship, they accused him of robbery and tried to kill him. He enlisted in the army to escape from them. In the army, he fought against the Paraguayan army. Finally, he could come back to his village as a hero.

But, when he arrived at his village, he was forced to return to the army to fight in the Argentine Civil War. It was a brother versus brother war and "Gauchito" Gil was tired of fighting. Therefore, he decided to desert. During this time he became an outlaw and acquired a reputation as a Robin Hood figure, for his efforts to protect and help the needy, the poor and those who suffered in extreme poverty.

Traditional roadside shrine to Gauchito Gil in Santiago del Estero Province.

Eventually, the police caught him hiding in a forest, to which they tortured him and hung him from his feet on an algarrobo tree. When a policeman was going to kill him, "Gauchito" Gil said to him: "Your son is very ill. If you pray and beg me to save your child, I promise you that he will live. If not, he will die". The policeman ignored him and killed "Gauchito" Gil by cutting his throat. That was January 8, 1878.[2]

When the policemen came back to his village, the one who had killed "Gauchito" Gil learned that his child was in fact very ill. Very frightened, the policeman prayed to "Gauchito" Gil for his son. Afterwards, his son was inexplicably cured, though legend has it that "Gauchito" Gil had healed his murderer's son.

Very grateful, the policeman gave Gil's body a proper burial, and built a tiny shrine for "Gauchito". Moreover, he tried to let everybody know about the miracle.[3]

Current veneration[edit]

Gauchito Gil shrine, Argentina.
Closer view of Gauchito Gil shrine, Argentina.

"Gauchito" Gil is thought to be a folk saint for many people of the provinces of Formosa, Corrientes, Chaco, the north of Santa Fe and even the province of Buenos Aires. One can spot smaller shrines of Gauchito Gil on roadsides throughout Argentina due to the red flags and the color red associated with it. Great pilgrimages are organised to the sanctuary (located about 8 km from the city of Mercedes) to ask to the saint for favours, to which nearly 200,000 pilgrims annually head to the sanctuary.

Moreover, each January 8 (date of Gil's death), there is a celebration honoring "Gauchito" Gil. There, the people dance, sing and drink, and also play folklorical sports as tanning horses, bulls and others animals.

The Catholic Church has not declared "Gauchito" Gil a saint, but many Argentine people are promoting him for canonization.[4]


  1. ^ Burke, Hilary (2008-01-08). "Argentines seek miracles from Gauchito Gil". Reuters. Retrieved 2013-03-16. 
  2. ^ Francesca Fiorentini (2010-02-19). "O Beloved Gauchito Gil: Worshipping a Homegrown Saint". The Argentina Independent. Retrieved 2013-03-16. 
  3. ^ "Gauchito Gil: Argentina's Cowboy Saint". Retrieved 2013-03-16. 
  4. ^ "Outlaw saint rides on for pilgrims wanting miracles". NZ Herald News. 2008-01-12. Retrieved 2013-03-16. 

External links[edit]