The Legend of Argentina's Gaucho Gil

In Argentina, it's increasingly common for people to direct their prayers to the spirit of a 19th century "gaucho." Little is known about Antonio Gil, except that the cowboy was an outlaw who was probably executed by provincial authorities. But where history leaves off, religious devotion has taken over. NPR's Martin Kaste reports.

A statue of Gaucho Gil.

hide captionA statue of Gaucho Gil at a shrine to the legendary outlaw cowboy in Argentina's Corrientes province.

Martin Kaste, NPR

Legend has it that Gaucho Gil was a good-hearted outlaw who stole from the rich and gave to the poor. Before his hanging, Gil is said to have pledged to become a miracle worker. Now more than 100,000 people come to visit a shrine at the spot of his death, where they leave offerings and seek miracles of their own — from help passing a grade in school to cures for illnesses.

Alfredo Aguirre, a Gaucho Gil devotee from Buenos Aires

hide captionAlfredo Aguirre, a Gaucho Gil devotee from Buenos Aires, after a hot round of spur-jangling dancing at the shrine.

Martin Kaste, NPR

"There's no historical record of Gaucho Gil — it's not even sure he ever existed," Kaste says. "But that doesn't stop these Argentines from entrusting him with their most fervent hopes — and fears."

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