Gauchito Gil, the “Argentine Robin Hood”, the pagan saint venerated by the most deprived people, who died 140 years ago.
Gauchito Gil was not declared Saint by the Church, he is a figure that is not part of the “Santoral” or is in the process of canonization, but is part of the “pagan devotions” with hundreds of miles of faithful in Argentina. Every year more than 300 thousand pilgrims visit his sanctuary in the province of Corrientes, but his presence is felt on routes throughout the country.
Little is known with certainty about the gaucho Antonio Plutarco Cruz Mamerto Gil Núñez (1847-1868) but where history leaves off, religious devotion has taken over. He was born in Pay Ubre, near Mercedes, in the province of Corrientes.
For some people, he was a cuatrero, a gaucho raised, a fugitive guilty of all the unsolved crimes. For others, it was “Robin Hood”, gaucho justice, avenger of countrymen. The gaucho was a young Correntino who after participating in the Triple Alliance war was recruited by the Autonomist Party to fight in the Correntine civil war against the opposition Liberal Party, but defected.
Since the desertion was a crime, he was captured, hung on a Espinillo tree and killed by a cut in the throat. His executioners were a group of policies that were to be transferred to the Goya courts, but who decided to execute him along the way.
Before he died, he told the sergeant that he would execute him: “Don’t kill me, that a letter that says I’m innocent is going to come to you.” The executioner replied: “You will not be saved” and the Gauchito said: “When the letter arrives you will receive the news that your son is sick and will die; pray in my name and your son will be saved.”
After killing him, the sergeant returned home and found his son ill. He prayed for him to Gauchito Gil and his baby was cured.
Since then, the place where Gauchito died became a pilgrimage sanctuary. There, year after year thousands of people come to pay tribute and leave their offerings: prayers, candles and red ribbons.
The sanctuary in Mercedes, province of Corrientes, is the main one, and is where the Gauchito Gil legend originated, but it is not the only temple. The faithful devotees of Gauchito Gil have already disseminated thousands of other sanctuaries along the country’s routes, from Jujuy to Ushuaia.
Health, money, work, love or even a miracle, the promises believe that Gauchito Gil grants everything. Myth or legend, in his home province he has been venerated for over a hundred years and the cult spread to the rest of the country.
For being liberal, who were identified with the color red during the 19th century in Argentina, Gauchito Gil is identified with this color. That is why devotees carry flags of that color and offer candles, flowers, crosses and fruits.
To place an order for the gauchito, what is needed is written on a red ribbon and left at night on a tree branch, a fence or a stick stuck in the ground. The believers also light a red candle and, with the same color ribbon as a rosary, a prayer is said. There are people who light a red candle at a crossroads and place the order.
They say that if you go along the route and cross a gauchito sanctuary, you have to honk to greet him.