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, Argentina
|Died||8 January 1878
|Venerated in||Folk Catholicism|
|Major shrine||Pay Ubre, Mercedes, Corrientes|
|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. He is regarded as the most prominent gaucho saint in Argentina, with smaller areas of veneration reported in Paraguay and Brazil.
Popular accounts vary, but in broad terms the legend tells that Antonio Gil was born in the 1840s as a farmworker in a ranch and a devout believer in the folk saint San La Muerte. It is said that the owner of the ranch, 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 local 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, fighting against the Paraguayan army. When the war ended, he could come back to his village as a hero.
But when he arrived at his village, he was forcibly recruited by the Autonomist Party to return to the army and 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.
On January 8, 1878, the local police caught him hiding in a forest after a party and took him about 8 kilometers away from Mercedes. There, they tortured him over a fire and hanged him from his feet on an algarrobo tree, preparing to execute him. When the head policeman was about to kill him, "Gauchito" Gil said to him: "You are going to kill me now, but you will arrive in Mercedes tonight at the same time as a letter of my pardon. In the letter they will also tell you that your son is dying of a strange illness. If you pray and beg me to save your child, I promise you that he will live. If not, he will die". The head policeman, ignoring his words, responded "I don't care" and killed "Gauchito" Gil by slitting his throat.
When the head policemen came back to his village, he returned to find that his son was very ill and at the brink of dying. Frightened, the policeman prayed to "Gauchito" Gil for his son to be saved. The next day, his son was found to be 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" in his honor. Moreover, he tried to let everybody know about the miracle.
"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 color and the flags, many of which read "Thanks, Gauchito Gil" if the person's request is fulfilled. The Sanctuary of Gauchito Gil (located about 8 km from the city of Mercedes) organizes great pilgrimages, to which more than 200,000 pilgrims annually head to the sanctuary to ask to the saint for favors.
Moreover, each January 8 (date of Gil's death and his feast day), there is a large celebration honoring "Gauchito" Gil. There, many pilgrims arrive and participate in festive activities, such as drinking, dancing, folklorical animal sports, and a procession that begins from the church in Mercedes to the Sanctuary. Paraphernalia related to the saint, including ribbons, rosaries, flags and statues are often carried by the pilgrims and sold by vendors. Gauchito Gil statues are commonly seen next to images of San La Muerte, Our Lady of Luján and other popular Catholic figures.
The Catholic Church has not yet declared "Gauchito" Gil a saint, but many Argentine people are promoting him for canonization. Many church leaders in Argentina have participated and approved of the devotion of Gauchito Gil, while many others are divided on whether to embrace or condemn the phenomenon.
- Burke, Hilary (2008-01-08). "Argentines seek miracles from Gauchito Gil". Reuters. Retrieved 2013-03-16.
- Francesca Fiorentini (2010-02-19). "O Beloved Gauchito Gil: Worshipping a Homegrown Saint". The Argentina Independent. Retrieved 2013-03-16.
- "Gauchito Gil: Argentina's Cowboy Saint". Wander-argentina.com. Retrieved 2013-03-16.
- "Outlaw saint rides on for pilgrims wanting miracles". NZ Herald News. 2008-01-12. Retrieved 2013-03-16.
- "The Legend of Argentina's Gaucho Gil", NPR, byline Oct 10, 2004, accessed Nov. 14, 2007
- "Cultures of Devotion by Frank Graziano", academic website with images relating to Gaucho Gil and other Spanish American folk saints.
- "Miracles on the Road" Reportage By Sebastian Marjanov
- Gauchito (Curuzú) Gil at Folklore del Norte.
- El Gauchito Gil at La Guía del Chaco.
- 'Reportage about Gauchito Gil'
- Dos gauchos que atraen la veneración popular.