Gaucho: Wikis


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Portrait of a gaucho from Argentina. Photographed in Peru, 1868.
Gaucho in ring lancing contest, Buenos Aires Province

Gaucho (gaúcho in Portuguese, gaucho in Spanish) is a term commonly used to describe residents of the South American pampas, chacos, or Patagonian grasslands, found principally in parts of Argentina, Uruguay, Southern Chile, and Southern Region, Brazil. In Brazil, it is also used to designate people from the state of Rio Grande do Sul.

The word gaucho could be described as a loose equivalent to the North American "cowboy" (vaquero, in Spanish). Like the North American word cowboy, Venezuelan or Colombian llanero, or Chilean huaso, or the Mexican charro (Vaqueiro is also a word used in Brazil), 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. The word "gaucho" is sometimes used to refer to chimichurri, a steak sauce common to Argentina.[1]

There are several conflicting hypotheses concerning the origin of the term. It may derive from the Mapuche cauchu ("vagabond") [2] or from the Quechua huachu ("orphan"), which gives also a different word in Spanish "guacho". The first recorded uses of the term date from around the time of Argentine independence in 1816.


History and culture

Early gauchos in the 18th century were referred to as gauderios, as in the work of Alonso Carrió de la Vandera.

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. Residing outside of the growing urban centres and farming settlements, these skilled riders lived off the land often willingly sharing their food with other travelers. Most gauchos were either criollo (South Americans of Spanish or Portuguese ancestry) or mestizo (of mixed Spanish and Native American blood), but the European, African, or mixed ancestry.

A Brazilian Gaúcho. Laçador Statue, Porto Alegre, Brazil.

A genetic research conducted by FAPESP (Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo) on Southern Brazilian Gaúchos revealed that they are mostly descended from Spanish ancestors, and less from Portuguese. This is because for two and a half centuries the modern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul belonged to the Spanish Crown and it only became part of Brazil in 1750. Since it was a disputed region between Portugal and Spain, its inhabitants roamed freely between the regions, ignoring the boundaries of the territory. The genetic resource also detected a very high degree of Amerindian admixture in Brazilian Gaúchos (52% of Amerindian mtDNA, which comes from the maternal side), at a similar ratio that was found in the inhabitants of the Amazon rainforest and higher than in the rest of Brazil (at 33%). A significant African mtDNA admixture was also found at 11%.[3] This genetic finding matches with the explanation of sociologist Darcy Ribeiro about the ethnic formation of the Brazilian Gaúchos: they are mostly the result of the miscegenation of Spanish and Portuguese males with Amerindian females.[4]

Dramatization of a fight between gauchos.

Some gauchos were recorded as being in the Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas,[5] and have left a few Spanish words in the local dialect e.g. camp from campo.

The gaucho plays an important symbolic role in the nationalist feelings of this region, especially that of Argentina and Uruguay. The epic poem Martín Fierro by José Hernández 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.

Modern typical party of Gaúchos in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

Like the North American cowboys, 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. It was common for a gaucho to hold a large piece of meat in his teeth and to cut away what he would keep using the facón. The meat is cut is made from beneath and tends to narrowly miss the nose.

There is, perhaps, more of an air of melancholy about the classic gaucho than the classic cowboy.

Also like the cowboy, the gauchos were and still are 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.

Brazilian gaucho with typical clothing on 2006 Farroupilha Parade, in Rio Grande do Sul.

The gaucho diet was composed almost entirely of beef while on the range, supplemented by yerba mate, an herbal tea-like drink rich in caffeine and nutrients. Argentine cooking draws influence from the simple but delicious recipes used in gaucho meals.

Gauchos[6] dressed quite distinctly from North American cowboys, and used bolas (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 saddle blanket and also 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 piece of cloth used in the fashion—but not the function—of a diaper. Several of these items were British imports into the area; for example, bombachas were originally made in Turkey. 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.

Just as the disappearance of the "Wild West" of the United States altered the character and employment of "cowboys" so too did the nature of gauchos become changed. In southern Patagonia, on both the Chilean and Argentine sides of the frontier, the term "gaucho" became synonymous with "bandit" or "stock rustler" or imply "thief." The rural population of Patagonia often does not share the traditional or "literary" image of the gauchos as "honest but solitary cowboy types" but instead as undesirables. Those with urban and academic orientations typically continue to cling to an image of gauchos that is no longer accurate or consistent with contemporary rural realities.

Modern influences

Gaúcho is also the common denomination of the current inhabitants of the Brazilian State of Rio Grande do Sul.

Gauchito (a boy in the Argentine colors and a gaucho hat) was the mascot for the 1978 FIFA World Cup.

In popular culture


See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Gaucho, a possible etymology.
  3. ^ O DNA dos Pampas
  4. ^ Ribeiro, Darcy. O Povo Brasileiro, Companhia de Bolso, fourth reprint, 2008 (2008).
  5. ^
  6. ^ Photos: gauchos in Argentina, Photo library South-Images

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also gaucho



Gaucho m.

  1. gaucho

Simple English

Gaucho (or Gaúcho) is the term commonly used for people who live in the south regions of Brazil, mainly in Rio Grande do Sul. It can also be used for people from Uruguay, Argentina and Chile. They are similar to the North American cowboys, and, like them, gauchos of Argentina have become a symbol of freedom.



Working with his horse, a laço, boleodoros, and a knife, gauchos rode around the Pampas, killing wild cattle whose hides he sold secretly.[1] They were usually outlaws, and did not become respectable until they fought with San Martin for Argentine freedom.[1] After some time, many gauchos began working for hacendados and spent their lives helping huge herds of cattle over the Pampas. They liked to choose where they worked and traveled from place to place.[1]

Together with his horse, the gaucho would use his laço to catch a wild horse or a stray cow, sometimes using his boleodoro (a rawhide rope with three small ball-shaped stones on it), too.


Like cowboys, gauchos had a traditional outfit: a big hat, a collared shirt (mainly red), and baggy pants called bombachas[1], which were tucked into leather boots. Colorful pieces of cloth or a wide leather belt decorated with silver went around his waist, and silver spurs were on his boots. When working, gauchos often wore a big leather apron. [1]

Today, though, most gauchos are disappearing. Trucks, roads, and fences are changing gauchos into farmers and helpers. Traditional dress is usually worn only on festival days,[1] when they can remember their exciting old days.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Koontz, Terri; Mark Sidwell, S.M.Bunker. World Studies for Christian Schools. Greenville, South Carolina 29614: Bob Jones University Press. ISBN 1-59166-431-4. 

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