On the edge of the Argentine routes, you will see small sanctuaries with several red flags hanging from the trees’ branches or surrounding some sort of wooden or stone altar. They are sanctuaries for Gauchito Gil. This character actually existed and after his death, he became a saint for many Argentineans. As Difunta Correa, the Church has not recognized him because he is a “Profane Saint”.
The Gauchito Gil, a popular holy figure in Argentina
The sanctuaries with red flags all along argentinian roads are sanctuaries for Gauchito Gil.
His real name was Antonio Mamerto Gil Núñez and was born near Mercedes, province of Corriente, in the 1830s. In those times, the province had many political battles between the two political parties: the “red” and the “light blue” which sometimes ended in several casualties for both sides. Gauchito Gil was thought to belong to the “red”, that is why the red ribbons.
In 1850, when the two political parties were once again about to fight, Coronel Juan de La Cruz Salazar recruited several men to get prepared for the battles called Ifran and Cañada del tabaco. All the men suitable to fight, Gauchito Gil among others, had to join him. He refused to join the recruitment explaining that all men were brothers and they should not kill one another. Salazar’s men considered him a deserter and he was sentenced to death penalty (execution or hanging).
Since then, there are two versions of the story. The first one says that he was sent to the city of Goya to be tried. The second one says that the military men stole his belongings and he was sheltered by a gang of homeless who stole the rich to give to the poor. Anyway, whatever the version is, Gauchito Gil was imprisoned. He was tried and sentenced to death penalty. Coronel Velazquez, who knew Gauchito, tried to interfere in his favor before Salazar to save his life. The latter accepts to grant Velazquez’s request but only if he could gather 20 signatures from notable people.
The legend says that on January 8, 1878 Gauchito Gil was hung in Goya by his feet when he shouted to the executioner sergeant: “Don’t kill me! The pardon is on its way!” The executioner answered: “You will not make it!” And it was then when Gauchito added: “If you kill me, when the letter arrives you will be told that your son is dying because you have spread the blood of an innocent man, and you will have to pray for me so that I can convince God to save you son.” However, Gauchito Gil’s throat was slut.
The story went around the city and the surroundings. Upon the arrival of so many visitors, Speroni, the owner of the field where Gauchito was buried, decided to move the cross together with the candles and the body to the cemetery. Soon afterwards, he was seriously ill and promised Gauchito to rebuild a small sanctuary if he got over such disease. Once again, the request was fulfilled and this first sanctuary still exists today and it can be visited in Mercedes. On each January 8, his death anniversary is celebrated.