Gauchomania in San Antonio de Areco

Once the gaucho roamed freely across the pampas, needing only a knife, a lasso and a good horse. Considered an outlaw, he survived by his wits and lamented his misfortunes to the strum of a guitar, then vanished into legend.

His noble virtues, however, courage, honesty, generosity, and a kind of humble toughness endure in literature and in the soul of the nation, and nowhere is this more evident than in San Antonio de Areco,  just 68 miles northwest of Buenos Aires.


San Antonio de Areco celebrates its gaucho tradition.

Hooves clatter on cobblestones, signaling the start of the gaucho parade an event that occurs every November since 1939. Estancieros from nearby ranches, paisanos (ranch hands) and campesinos from neighboring provinces line the streets. A chacarera blares from the loud speakers as Los Saltos (gauchos from the northern province of Salta) prance in front of the Plaza Arellano. Spurs clink beneath giant rawhide chaps that wrap around horse and rider. With their red ponchos thrown back, black broad-brimmed hats tilted forwards, they ride 4 abreast. The crowd cheers, children wave.

Gauchos from Salta/Eddy Ancinas

Gauchos from Salta/Eddy Ancinas

Esto es Argentina! my Argentine husband declares.

We watch for hours, as thousands of horses and riders pass, dressed in traditional attire –the men in black bombachas (full, pleated pants) tucked into shiny boots or casually buttoned at the ankle above alpargatas (canvas espadrilles). Women ride side-saddle.

Ponchos in variations of a black and white geometric design lie folded on the front of the saddle or draped regally over man and beast.

Gaucho Parade Gaucho Parade 2358IMG_2343

A hand-tooled facón (silver knife) protrudes from the back of their wide leather belts.

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IMG_2674IMG_2685Reins, ropes and rebenques (crops) exhibit the fine art of rawhide braiding. Silver bridles, stirrups, spurs and buckles gleam against black polished leather.

After the parade, everyone walks to the huge field for Destrezas de Gaucho, a rodeo  which involves bareback bronc riding, a wild horse race and the grand finale—–

Las Tropillas 40 groups of 7 matching horses (the gaucho used 1 horse for each day of the week) enter with one rider and a bell mare per group, and begin to gallop around the arena-faster and faster in a cloud of dust until they become one herd of flying manes and tails. A whistle blows, and the first tropilla that re-groups with its mare, wins the coveted prize.

No parade of marching soldiers, tanks, guns and weapons can equal the grandeur of gauchos on parade.

Whenever I return to Areco –the horses, the riders, the music, the people watching — all remind me that the true strength of Argentina is its tradition.

“Dead, the gaucho still survives in the literature he inspired, and in the blood of every Argentine.  —Jorge Luis Borges

Travel Tips: San Antonio de Areco


Go:   68 miles (112km) west of Buenos Aires off Route 8.

How:   Hire a Remis (car and driver) – about US$50.00 one way.
Bus:   Chevallier has daily service to/from Buenos Aires.
Hotel Draghi ~ Matheu 380, Tel:2326-455583
Patio de Moreno ~ Moreno 251 S.A. de Areco, tel 2326-455197.
Antigua Casona ~ Segunda Sombra 495 tel 2325 15 684000
Estancia El Ombú ~ Ruta 31 Cuartel 6.   Tel: 02326-492980.   Open Nov-March,   horseback riding, sulky rides, folk music pool. Three meals, wine and afternoon tea included. Need a car to get to Areco

Cafe de las Artes Bolivar 70, La Esquina de Merti ~ Plaza Arrelano 147. (left)  Tel: 2325/456-705
Almacen de Ramos Generales ~   Zapiola 143,   tel 0452961


SHOP ~ silver buckles, knives, jewelry, mates. Ponchos, hats, leather boots and belts, braided rawhide rope, reins, horse tack—everything for horse and gaucho.
Gustavo Stagnaro ~ Arellano & Matheu,
Miguel Rigacci ~ Belgrano 381
Draghi Museum and shop ~ Arellano 45 Camilo Fiore~hand-crafted leather boots, belts Av, Vieytes 632

NIGHT LIFE Puesto la Lechusa ~ Costanera Aquiles Pazzaglia Tel 02326-454542. This pulpería, built in 1890, is where the gauchos went in search of food, music and camaraderie. A guitar was always available, and the man who played it drank as a guest of the house. Go there for the atmosphere, especially a “guitarreada” (guitar playing, singing by various guests). Don’t miss the photos of local gauchos.

NICE TO KNOW: Ricardo Güiraldes’ (1886-1927) literary classic, Don Segundo Sombra (1926), in which Güiraldes elevates the gaucho from outlaw to a man of honor, was inspired by don Segundo Ramirez, a wrangler on Güiraldes’ father’s ranch near San Antonio de Areco. Both the author and Don Segundo are buried in the town cemetery.

Museo Gauchesco Ricardo Güiraldes ~ In the Parque Criollo. Open-11-5, closed Tues   tel-02326 45-5839 ( contains items related to gaucho life, folklore and the literary past of Don Segundo and Guiraldes.   Paintings by Alberto Güiraldes (Ricardo’s cousin) depict scenes of rural life.

Museum Las Lilas ~ 279 Moreno Thurs-Sunday 10-8Pm Molina Campos-art gallery

Tourist Office (Dirección de Turismo) Zerboni & Arellano. Tel/fax : 02326-453165