Argentina Gauchos

Argentina gauchos are the cowboys of the Pampas, the vast fertile plains and grasslands that cover nearly 800,000 square miles of Argentina (including the Patagonia region that reaches into Chile), a major portion of Uruguay, and the southernmost province of Brazil. These colorful men are famed for their skilled horsemanship, a skill passed on for generations since cattle were first introduced to the region in the late 16th century. Until the mid-18th century, cattle roamed free on the plains, and the nomadic gauchos lived by hunting them. Like the cowboys of the American West, the gauchos were symbolic of freedom, portrayed as strong silent types who were capable of violence when provoked. These men, known for their hardiness and fierce independence, were also natural soldiers who played in important role in the wars of independence from colonial Spain and Portugal. In the latter part of the 18th century, commercial cattle ranching began and the rancher owners turned to the experienced Argentina gauchos as their ranch hands. The gauchos were perfectly suited for the hard life that required extended periods of time herding cattle over vast territory and living off the land.

As with the Hawaii “paniolos,” Argentina gauchos provide one of the elements for popular tours and excursions – usually from Buenos Aires, which is the gateway to the Pampas. The ranches (called “estancias”) are what made the country one of the world’s most important meat and grain producers. They are enormous land holdings, typically established by the wealthy aristocracy of Spain. The ranch houses are grand mansions on a par with the graceful mansions found on pre-Civil War plantations in the American south. A number of estancias have become Argentine attractions, operating as bed and breakfasts and destinations for day trips. Beef (and to a lesser extent, lamb) is a national obsession in Argentina. It is not unusual to have a choice of as many as 50 different cuts while dining in the restaurants of Rosario, Buenos Aires, Mendoza, and other cities.

On estancias, visitors have the opportunity to experience living history and unique culture on an authentic working ranch. Most estancia visits include a traditional “asado” (barbecue) that includes not only beef and lamb, but many regional specialties like empanadas, tortillas, polenta, and vegetables fresh from the estancia garden. You may also be served freshwater fish, which is plentiful in lakes, rivers, and streams. The Argentina gauchos on guest ranches will provide entertainment. Just watching them prepare the barbecue is excellent entertainment, but you will also be treated to thrilling demonstrations of horsemanship, roping, and use of the traditional bola – a throwing weapon with two or three interconnected and weighted cords. These are used to capture wild game and running cattle by entangling their legs. You’ll also see the inspiration for some of today’s fashions, including the poncho and the baggy gaucho pants called “bombachas.”

On estancias, visitors have the opportunity to experience living history and unique culture on an authentic working ranch. Most estancia visits include a traditional “asado” (barbecue) that includes not only beef and lamb, but many regional specialties like empanadas, tortillas, polenta, and vegetables fresh from the estancia garden. You may also be served freshwater fish, which is plentiful in lakes, rivers, and streams. The Argentina gauchos on guest ranches will provide entertainment. Just watching them prepare the barbecue is excellent entertainment, but you will also be treated to thrilling demonstrations of horsemanship, roping, and use of the traditional bola – a throwing weapon with two or three interconnected and weighted cords. These are used to capture wild game and running cattle by entangling their legs. You’ll also see the inspiration for some of today’s fashions, including the poncho and the baggy gaucho pants called “bombachas.”

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