Chicoana is THE centre for Rodeo competitions in Argentina. We passed quite a few Gauchos on our way in on the very long drive from San Antonio de Los Cobres and more were hanging out in main plaza all dressed in their gaucho uniform of baggy trousers and flowing white or red shirts.
The place we had in our mind to stay at was closed so we asked in the local farmacia and the very nice pharmacist left his shop and walked us around the square and pointed out another hostel. This one was also closed and the old man sitting in the shade opposite muttered something to us (not sure what) but in our experience, old boys sitting in the shade, have usually had too much of the Chicha home-brew! This one probably had but he was able to tell us that the lady who ran the hostal would be back soon as she had just gone to the shops. We hung around chatting with him until her return and managed to bag a room for the night – phew!
Room found we headed back to the Plaza where there were now lots of teenagers on horses around the square just cruising around and meeting up with friends. The same the world over, just different transportation!
We had seen and heard the words “Remember Gauchito Gil” all over the place. It is a story told by Gauchos, about a gaucho, called Gil, who was a kind of Argentine Robin Hood, and was killed by the army for being a subversive. The legend has it that he told the man that killed him that he was innocent and the man would find his son sick upon his return home. In order to cure him he had to invoke his name and his memory, and his son would be cured.
The prediction he made came true. Once the man got home his son was indeed sick, the doctors could do nothing just as Gauchito Gil had predicted and once the father spoke the words, “remember Gauchito Gil” the son was instantly cured.
All the Gauchos believe in his story and usually own or carry with them some kind of remembrance of Gauchito Gil. He is honored by the color red, because he wore a red handkerchief and beret. Many gauchos have their own stories of “proof” when they became believers. For example, when a foal had became sick, and on deaths door, the gaucho lit a red candle and invoked Gauchito Gil. The next day his foal was recovered and he has been a believer ever since.