When you have the chance to be the only foreigners at a traditional event you feel very privileged and you need to take advantage when the situation presents itself!
The Gaucho is a national symbol in both Argentina and Uruguay and is essentially a cattle farmer who is very skilled on horseback. The Gauchos de Guemes are famous in the Salta and Jujuy region as being those farmers that left their ranches and families to fight in the 1810 war of independence under Miguel de Guemes. The modern-day descendents of these Gauchos maintain their identity, skills and traditions today by regularly holding gatherings, shows, rodeos and competitions across the region. The event we enjoyed last week was in Salta but similar events will be held in villages or small towns all over the North of Argentina.
What we saw were dozens of Gauchos competing on foot and horse back, lassoing and herding cattle. They were doing battle with the beasts in teams that came from different villages or regions nearby in a sort of classification for a national competition, so they were taking it seriously but inevitably with plenty of laughs. Apart from that action there were stalls selling goods related to being a Gaucho and working the land, leather goods, belts, saddles and knives for example.
Before the contest started Mother Earth was blessed with a Pachamama ceremony. This ceremony comes from Inca roots and offerings are made to the Mother Earth deity to bring good luck and the continued fertility of the land. We are used to seeing this ceremony in Peru where Andean beliefs are stronger than in Argentina, however the Northern part of Argentina still has a heavy Andean influence hence such beliefs still exist.
As you can see from the photos a hole was dug in the ground and the offerings including beer, wine, coca cola, various types of food, cigarettes (we don’t understand that) and very large amounts of coca leaves.
Food and music were on offer during and after the Gaucho-ing, plus there was an announcer who never seemed to get tired of shouting into his microphone. We didn’t stay till late but we imagine the party would have been “interesting” after copious amounts of beer and wine had been consumed.
It really was a great afternoon out and if you have any interest of doing something like this while in Salta please get in touch, hopefully you enjoy our photos.