Gaucho (Spanish: [ˈɡautʃo]) or gaúcho (Portuguese: [ɡaˈuʃu]) is a term commonly used to describe residents of the South American pampas, Gran Chaco, or Patagonian grasslands, found principally in parts of Southern Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, eastern and southern Bolivia and Southern Chile. In Brazil, gaúcho is also the main gentilic of the people from the state of Rio Grande do Sul.
Gaucho is a loose equivalent of the North American "cowboy" (vaquero, in Spanish). Like the North American word cowboy, the Chilean huaso, the Cuban guajiro, the Venezuelan or Colombian llanero or the Mexican charro, the term often connotes the 19th century more than the present day; then gauchos made up the majority of the rural population, herding cattle on the vast estancias, and practicing hunting as their main economic activities.
There are several conflicting hypotheses concerning the origin of the term. It may derive from the Mapuche cauchu ("vagabond") or from the Quechua huachu ("orphan"), which gives also a different word in American Spanish, guacho and Brazilian Portuguese gaúcho. The first recorded uses of the term date from around the time of Argentine independence in 1816.
Cattle were brought to the Pampas from Paraguay in 1580, by the colonial expedition of Juan de Garay. In the 18th century, the gauderios, who lived by hunting wild cattle, were recorded, most famously by the travel writer Alonso Carrió de la Vandera, when he passed through what is now northern Argentina. Commercial cattle ranching began in the second half of the 18th century.
Gauchos were generally nomadic, and lived in the Pampas, the plain that extends north from Patagonia, bounded on the west by the Andes and extending on the east to Uruguay and the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul. These nomadic riders lived by hunting wild cattle. Most gauchos were of mixed Spanish, Portuguese and Amerindian (native American) ancestry. There are also gauchos of African or part African ancestry as well.
An inconclusive genetic study conducted by FAPESP (Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo) in 2007 detected an Amerindian with a, perhaps, stronger Spanish than Portuguese admixture in Brazilian gaúchos. A small African admixture was also found. The area that is Rio Grande do Sul belonged to the Spanish Crown for over two centuries before it became a Portuguese possession in 1750, though, beyond some missionary activity that included the introduction of agriculture and cattle, the Spanish never established any lasting settlements in the area. The results of the study were not conclusive, and raised questions that will require further attention. The study clearly showed that their MtDNA has much stronger affinities with Amerindian MtDNA in Argentina and Uruguay than with Amerindian MtDNA from other parts of Brazil and suggests that this is probably due to genetic ancestry from the now extinct Pampean Indians (Charrúa, Minuano).
The gaucho plays an important symbolic role in the nationalist feelings of this region, especially that of Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay. The epic poem Martín Fierro by José Hernández (considered by some the national epic of Argentina) used the gaucho as a symbol against corruption and of Argentine national tradition, pitted against Europeanising tendencies. Martín Fierro, the hero of the poem, is drafted into the Argentine military for a border war, deserts, and becomes an outlaw and fugitive. The image of the free gaucho is often contrasted to the slaves who worked the northern Brazilian lands. Further literary descriptions are found in Ricardo Güiraldes' Don Segundo Sombra. Like the North American cowboys, as discussed in Richard W. Slatta, Cowboys of the Americas, gauchos were generally reputed to be strong, honest, silent types, but proud and capable of violence when provoked. The gaucho tendency to violence over petty matters is also recognized as a typical trait. Gauchos' use of the famous "facón" (large knife generally tucked into the rear of the gaucho sash) is legendary, often associated with considerable bloodletting. Historically, the facón was typically the only eating instrument that a gaucho carried.
Also like the cowboy, as shown in Richard W. Slatta, Cowboys of the Americas, gauchos were and remain proud and great horseriders. Typically, a gaucho's horse constituted most of what he owned in the world. During the wars of the 19th century in the Southern Cone, the cavalries on all sides were composed almost entirely of gauchos. In Argentina, gaucho armies such as that of Martín Miguel de Güemes, slowed Spanish advances. Furthermore, many caudillos relied on gaucho armies to control the Argentine provinces.
The gaucho diet was composed almost entirely of beef while on the range, supplemented by yerba mate, a tea made from the leaves of the yerba tree, a type of holly rich in caffeine and nutrients. Argentine cooking draws influence from the simple recipes used in gaucho meals.
Gauchos dressed quite distinctly from North American cowboys, and used bolas or boleadoras - in Portuguese boleadeiras - (three leather bound rocks tied together with approximately three feet long leather straps) in addition to the familiar "North American" lariat or riata. The typical gaucho outfit would include a poncho (which doubled as a saddle blanket and as sleeping gear), a facón (large knife), a rebenque (leather whip), and loose-fitting trousers called bombachas, belted with a tirador, or a chiripá, a loincloth. In the wintertime, gauchos wore heavy wool ponchos to protect against cold. Nowadays, working gauchos are as likely to be found in overalls and wellington boots as in their traditional dress.
Modern influences 
Gaúcho is also the common denomination of the current inhabitants of the Brazilian State of Rio Grande do Sul.
In popular culture 
- Way of a Gaucho 1952 film starring Gene Tierney and Rory Calhoun.
- "The Gaucho" was a 1927 film starring Douglas Fairbanks.
- La Guerra Gaucha was a 1942 Argentine film set during the Gaucho war against Spanish royalists in Salta, northern Argentina, in 1817. It is considered a classic of Argentine cinema.
- DC Comics owns two characters named El Gaucho.
- Gaucho is the name of the 1980 album by American jazz fusion band Steely Dan, which featured a song by the same name.
- Some teams are called the Gauchos, such as the University of California, Santa Barbara Gauchos athletic teams, the San Diego Gauchos and the San Diego Gauchos Women soccer teams, the sport teams that represent El Cerrito High School and the youth basketball program "New York Gauchos" managed by the non-profit organization Teamwork Foundation.
- Gauchos of El Dorado was a 1941 American Western "Three Mesquiteers" B-movie directed by Lester Orlebeck.
- "Gaucho" is the fourth track on the 2012 album Away from the World by Dave Matthews Band.
Folklore dance: Zamba, Argentina. Gaucho.
Emperor Dom Pedro II of Brazil in typical Gaucho outfit.
A Chilean gaucho herding sheep.
See also 
- Gaucho, a possible etymology.
- (Spanish) Carlos María Gorla "La frontera bonaerense la dinámica territorial" (in "La Frontera: realidad y representaciones", CONICET - IMHCH, Argentina)
- Alonso Carrió de la Vandera. El lazarillo de ciegos caminantes desde Buenos Aires. p. 23.
- Andrea Rita Marrero História genética dos gaúchos: dinâmica populacional do Sul do Brasil
- Andrea Rita Marrero.História genética dos gaúchos: dinâmica populacional do Sul do Brasil.
- See, for instance, Andrea Rita Marrero.História genética dos gaúchos: dinâmica populacional do Sul do Brasil, p. 115: Hybrid groups can arise from distinct admixture dynamic, (Long 1991; Parra et aI. 2001) and this applies to these two sets. Despite some local interaction between Kaingang/Guarani and the populations that surround their reservations (Marrero et aI. 2006), extensive admixture between Indians and non-Indians ended in Southern Brazil (Pampa included; Flores 2003) at least two centuries ago, whereas in northern Brazil/Amazonia the introduction of Amerindian genes into non-native urban and rural populations is probably occurring until now.
- Leopoldo Lugones 1 in "El Payador" (1916)2 and Ricardo Rojas 3 established the canonical view regarding the Martín Fierro as the National Epic of Argentina. The consequences of these considerations are discussed by Jorge Luis Borges in his essay "El Martín Fierro". An assessment of the years-long discussion here, since p. 18
- South-images.com Photos: gauchos in Argentina, Photo library South-Images
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Gauchos|
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- (Spanish) Confederacion Gaucha Argentina
- (Spanish) Folklore del Norte Argentino
- (Portuguese) Movimento Tradicionalista Gaúcho
- (Portuguese) Página do Gaúcho
- Aldo Sessas – Gauchos
- Richard W. Slatta – Gauchos and the Vanishing Frontier
- Richard W. Slatta – Cowboys of the Americas
- The Gauchos- Horsemen of the Pampas
- The Gaucho Tradition
- Cowboys in the city - Buenos Aires's gaucho market - video
- site of Gauchos and traditional estancias