From the suburbs of Buenos Aires to the most isolated Pampas’ areas, a few words sound loud across Argentina: “Gracias, Gauchito Gil!”.
The veneration of the legendary hero of the Paraguayan War (1864-1870), a man who came from a rural life to end being decapitated by the Liberal Party, is revealing something deeper and more complex than the umpteenth popular expression of the Santa Muerte cult. In his time, Antonio Gil became a legend stealing livestock from the rich and giving it to the poorest, giving miraculous healings and deserting a conflict imposed by the elites of the Plata states and their hegemonic wills. Today, his cult talks about the hope for redemption of the people severely hit by the economical crises.
The interests that led Argentina, Brasil and Uruguay to declare war on Paraguay until its defeat had, and have now, just one victim: all the people of South America, decimated in the name of the free market and condemned to pay with their life the dream of having a different future. That’s what happened to Antonio Gil, in the end: decapitated for his insubordination, but still alive in the heart of those who keep on believing in sacrifice and in the miraculous power of pure souls.
Corrientes, El Chaco, Missione: more and more provinces are won by the revenant Santo (Saint) of Pay Ubre, at a point that other South American countries already opened their doors to him, announced by the independence symbol of the red flag and wild horses running to reach the horizon. The Catholic Church starts to worry about this wider and wider cult complete with temples, altars and costumes, and gathering a growing number of gauchillos ready for a revolution.
Every year, on January 8th, there’s a new epiphany: thousands of devotees goes the sanctuary near Mercedes, where Antonio Gil is said to have been killed, praying near the cross and asking for a grace, all sure they will see their redemption.