The Cowboys of the Pampas – The Gauchos- Part 1

South America Travel 21 23

The word “Gaucho” was first used in 1790 and describes a very rough person, with many heavy manners that would travel alone, sometimes with a woman, having only his baggage and a knife called a “facon” with him. They are the Cowboys of Argentina and have often been called the wanderers of the Pampas. This I could picture. A gaucho wandering the mountains on his horse. A solo rider. A loner.

They have a long history going back to the 1600´s but unfortunately they did not always have a good reputation and have been seen as troublemakers by the government. More about that a little later.

In the 1600´s cows were roaming the fields and leather was one of the most important goods to trade with. The meat was not that important and once the cow had been slaughtered and the skin removed the dead cow served of little purpose. The gauchos quickly cooked the meat on an open fire before it turned bad. People criticized them for doing this and said that this habit was unwelcome and unhealthy. Interesting today this type of cooking is a national pastime and very popular in Argentina. They call it “asado” or in the other countries it is referred to as a “barbeque”.

Guachos in Argentina

The gauchos were familiar with the land and the animals. They belonged to the countryside. They often used to fight other natives or they would gather together in “vaquerias” for hunting purposes. In 1620 the gauchos became very unpopular with the “Cabildo” or government of Buenos Aires. The Cabildo was not worried about the gauchos but the economic consequences of their behaviour. The continues slaughtering of animals without consideration would put the highly valued commodity, leather, at risk. To make matters worse the natives also got involved in the slaughtering of animals for the skin.

Gauchos in Argentina

In 1715 this practice had reduced the cattle head count to a bare minimum. The government had to do something and started to take action against the gauchos. By 1790 the term “Gaucho” was used in a derogative way in public statements by the government. This added more insult to their already low reputation. Sadly not even fighting shoulder to shoulder with the Criollos against early Spanish domination improved their reputation.

Slowly but surely they gained more respect. This happened when they actively joined the resistance movement against Spain. When one of the provinces Salta needed help the gauchos quickly gathered together and formed an army. This action gained them a lot of respect. Then salt was discovered and this was a huge thing for the gauchos. Now they were able to treat the meat and soon meat became just as important as the leather.

Gauchos in Argentina

Ranches started to develop and who better to run a ranch than a gaucho? They knew the land and the animals. They passed on their skills to other people. But then something strange happened and gauchos became extinct. I have read in a travel forum that people were saying there are no more gauchos in Argentina. That is not the truth. They are still here. They can be seen in many small villages and they carry themselves with the utmost pride. I visited a celebration on Monday where I was able to see them in action.

Gauchos in Argentina

I decided to write this introduction first before I tell my story about meeting the gauchos in person. I think it is important to understand the history and why every citizen in Argentina regard them highly.

Part 2….Fiesta de la mula! / Festival of the Gauchos.

The Cowboys of the Pampas – The Gauchos- Part 1 was last modified: October 8th, 2013 by Nelieta Mishchenko

About the author / 

Nelieta Mishchenko

I have been fortunate to have done quite a bit of travelling over the last 10 years. By heart I am an adventurer and I love exploring new places, cultures and food. Travelling can become stressful and expensive. Over the years I have learnt to travel as cost effective as possible, simply by travelling more clever. Nelmitravel.com is a Adventure and Budget Travel site where I review Airlines, Accommodation, Transport, Restaurants and give helpful travel information.

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21 Comments

  1. Alpana Jaiswal June 21, 2011 at 6:53 pm -  Reply

    WOW…this is like a virtual encyclopedia for me..as I mentioned to someone today,I am learning all over again….Thank u for this one Nelieta…God bless u always.

  2. Brenda June 21, 2011 at 10:44 pm -  Reply

    I grew up in love with all things cowboys ( a product of Hollywood) Gauchos for me are just a different flavor. Looking forward to more…

  3. Rimly June 21, 2011 at 8:13 pm -  Reply

    Your posts are so informative Nelieta. I had heard of gauchos but knew little of them till now. Thank you

  4. Corinne Rodrigues June 22, 2011 at 1:50 am -  Reply

    No soy muy fluido en Español. Pero me encanta su blog. Siempre he leído acerca de los gauchos. Me siento muy feliz de conocer a alguien que se ha reunido con ellos.

  5. Jim June 22, 2011 at 6:54 am -  Reply

    Nice informational story. Just goes to show that leather workers are important. I'll be reading the next instalment.

  6. Jim June 22, 2011 at 6:54 am -  Reply

    PS.How come your photos appear compressed sideways?

  7. Hostel Tinktinkie, Santa Rosa de Calamuchita June 22, 2011 at 2:26 pm -  Reply

    Hi Jim B, we live in a small town and often see them coming past our house.So I knew gauchos definitely existed. I was very curious to find out the history so the timing was perfect. I am sure Part 2 will not disappoint :)

  8. Hostel Tinktinkie, Santa Rosa de Calamuchita June 22, 2011 at 2:27 pm -  Reply

    Hi Alpana, I am so glad you found this post educational. I am also learning as the blog progress…learning and discovery is good! God bless and have a wonderful day!

  9. Hostel Tinktinkie, Santa Rosa de Calamuchita June 22, 2011 at 2:28 pm -  Reply

    Hi Rimly, you are welcome! I hope you will be enjoying part 2 as well!They are very interesting people!

  10. Hostel Tinktinkie, Santa Rosa de Calamuchita June 22, 2011 at 2:29 pm -  Reply

    Hi Brenda, yes me too! I loved those western movies and the cowboys…oh..the cowboys! Let´s not go there!Part 2 is coming soon :)

  11. Hostel Tinktinkie, Santa Rosa de Calamuchita June 22, 2011 at 2:31 pm -  Reply

    Hola Corinne, Usted habla muy bien! Yo entiendo perfecto! Bueno los gauchos son personas muy interesantes con una historia muy viejo! El dia fue genial con los gauchos!Un beso!!!Ps. Gracias por tu comentario en Español!!!!

  12. Hostel Tinktinkie, Santa Rosa de Calamuchita June 22, 2011 at 2:33 pm -  Reply

    Hi Jim, yes I found the story fascinating. I think we live in a world where things like leather is available almost everywhere so we never really give the history a lot of thought. Especially what people will do to survive. I am glad they have managed to find a solution and not to kill just for the skin. Today Argentina is know for the best meat in the world and they export a lot.Part 2 will be available soon!

  13. Hostel Tinktinkie, Santa Rosa de Calamuchita June 22, 2011 at 2:34 pm -  Reply

    Hi Jim Shoe, not sure why the photos display side ways in your browser. I have checked in Picasa web album and it looks fine as well as in my browser. I use Firefox. Is it only in this post?Thank you for mentioning it to me.

  14. Kerry-ann June 23, 2011 at 8:00 am -  Reply

    I have heard about them, read a couple of recent stories that involved them, but had no idea of their history. Easy to get a false picture – thought they were just like the American cowboys. Can't wait for next installment

  15. lakwatsera de primera June 27, 2011 at 4:42 am -  Reply

    Now I know the story behind these cool cowboys, hope to meet a Gaucho one day.

  16. lakwatsera de primera July 24, 2011 at 1:25 pm -  Reply

    Now I know the story behind these cool cowboys, hope to meet a Gaucho one day.

  17. Hostel Tinktinkie, Santa Rosa July 24, 2011 at 1:25 pm -  Reply

    Hi Jim Shoe, not sure why the photos display side ways in your browser. I have checked in Picasa web album and it looks fine as well as in my browser. I use Firefox. Is it only in this post?Thank you for mentioning it to me.

  18. Hostel Tinktinkie, Santa Rosa July 24, 2011 at 1:25 pm -  Reply

    Hi Jim, yes I found the story fascinating. I think we live in a world where things like leather is available almost everywhere so we never really give the history a lot of thought. Especially what people will do to survive. I am glad they have managed to find a solution and not to kill just for the skin. Today Argentina is know for the best meat in the world and they export a lot.Part 2 will be available soon!

  19. Hostel Tinktinkie, Santa Rosa July 24, 2011 at 1:25 pm -  Reply

    Hi Jim B, we live in a small town and often see them coming past our house.So I knew gauchos definitely existed. I was very curious to find out the history so the timing was perfect. I am sure Part 2 will not disappoint :)

  20. Alpana Jaiswal July 24, 2011 at 1:25 pm -  Reply

    WOW…this is like a virtual encyclopedia for me..as I mentioned to someone today,I am learning all over again….Thank u for this one Nelieta…God bless u always.

Thank you for visiting. Have a fabulous day!

Meet the Author

Nelieta Mishchenko

Hostel Owner, Blogger, Photographer, Explorer

Nelieta Mishchenko is the face and voice behind Nelmitravel.com and is currently based in Argentina.Nelieta is always looking for a new adventure and is trying to travel as cost effective as possible.

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