Thursday, November 24, 2011

Dia de la Tradicion: Celebration of Latin Cowboys

Last Sunday we cowboyed up and took a 2 hour bus ride to San Antonio de Areco for Dia de la Tradicion (Day of Tradition), which celebrates gauchos and their way of life. What is a gaucho? A gaucho is a latin cowboy. They work at ranches, as cattle farmers, or they belong to gaucho clubs where they practice preserving gaucho culture.
Upon arrival, we had coffee and medialunas at a café while we waited for the parade to start. We found a great spot along the parade street and watched the military band play. Then people dressed in traditional criollo (folk) clothes performed some traditional folk dances. Next were the gauchos. The parade of the gauchos was SO long! They came from all over the western side of Argentina, from different provinces and holding the banner of their ranch or organization. They were in their best colorful clothes, wearing their fine leather hats and berets, boots and slippers, and carrying their best knives in silver sheaths. Their horses were groomed and adorned with metal and silver saddle decorations and blankets. We especially loved the gauchitos – the little gaucho boys riding miniature ponies. You will notice in the videos below that many gauchos wear berets instead of cowboy hats and slippers instead of riding boots. Other than that, their reputation and way of life is very similar to what we think of American cowboys. We did notice that there seemed to be a certain level of respect for the gauchos and their traditions (at least in San Antonio, on that particular day).

After the parade, we made our way to Parque Criollo, where the juegos de criollo (gaucho games) and asados (bbq) were to be held. Walking along the path, there was a constant stream of gauchos atop their horses riding past us, or walking in the same direction sipping on mate. We felt as if we had been dropped in on an old western movie.
Entering the park, which is a huge grassy field, we decided it was time for some steak. Gauchos are famous for their BBQing talent. Everywhere we looked, there was a fire pit with giant cuts of beef roasting slowly on stakes over a fire or atop of a make-shift grill. We all ordered a steak sandwich, which was a huge slice of flank steak in between two tiny slices of French bread. For me, I eventually gave up on the bread and just focused on my meat. Why ruin a perfectly good slice of meat with bread?

We wandered among some of the market stalls that lined the outside of the criollo game ring. All things gaucho were for sale. Horse accessories, like saddles, blankets, decorations, boleros (the rope with two balls used to rope cattle), and horseshoes. Gaucho fashions, shirts, riding boots, slippers, hats, pants, belts, knives, everything. Jesse bought a real, handcrafted, leather cowboy hat for $200 pesos ($50 American), and I got a new pair of gaucho slippers.
We found a place on the grass in the shade of a tree along the fence line of the game ring and sat and waited for the games to start. In typical Argentine fashion, they started an hour late, and so we had to leave to catch our bus back to B.A. before we were able to see very much. We were able to see the opening ceremonies and what I can only describe as a gaucho stampede show. How they ran all those horses around in an enclosed space without a horrible accident was beyond us. We will also see traditional games when we stay at an estancia in December with Kathy and Brock.


  1. I love the way you are soaking up all the cultural things you can... and that we get to enjoy them vicariously.

  2. Thanks dad! We try every chance we get. And I'm glad to see someone has been reading our posts!