South America

The Legend of Argentina’s Gaucho Gil

Rachel Williams

Rachel Williams  |  27 September 2016

What is the purpose of roadside shrines with red flags in Argentina?

Along roadside throughout your Argentina travel you will notice mystical shrines in different sizes with red flags flying around them. Have you ever wondered what is the purpose of those red-colored shrines?

Legend has it that Argentinean man called Gaucho Gil, was Robinhood-like character that was robbing from the rich and giving to the poor as well as helping sick with his healing hands. He refused to participate in province’s civil war and deserted the military until he was found and captured by police. Before his hanging, Gaucho Gil said, “Don’t kill me-my pardon is coming. If you do kill me, your son will be stricken with a deadly illness, and the only way to save him will be to give my body a proper burial.” But sergeant just laughed and cut his throat. After returning to town, sergeant found out that his son was ill, as the Gaucho described, but after burying Gauchos body and praying for his son to be saved, sergeants son made a miraculous recovery. Right after the sergeant put up the first shrine to thank Gil for responding to prayers and since then Gaucho Gil has been honored with many shrines across Argentina.

The roadside shrines come in all shapes and sizes ranging from small alter to a life-size structure. They all are in the red color with red color flags flying around. It is thought that the red flag represent Gil’s neck scarf soaked in blood after execution.

The legendary characters real name was Antonio Mamerto Gil Nuñez, born in the 1840’s and killed in January 8, 1878. Gaucho Gil or also known as ‘Gauchito Gil’ is a folkloric figure in Argentinean culture and honored by Argentinians.

Nowadays, 8 km from the Mercedes, where Gaucho Gil was killed, are organized annual pilgrimages, to which more than 200,000 pilgrims head to the sanctuary to ask to the saint for favors. Also, every January 8, there is a large celebration honoring ‘Gauchito Gil’, where people participate in festive activities, such as drinking and dancing.

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