Gauchito Gil faithful celebrate despite heavy rainfall

January 8 is the 146th anniversary of the folk saint’s death, with thousands heading to Mercedes in Corrientes province

Gauchito Gil was honored by 350,000 faithful in Mercedes, Corrientes province, on Monday with visitors braving incessant rain to mark the 146th anniversary of his death. 

Over the weekend and on Monday, crowds flocked to the Gauchito Gil’s sanctuary located on National Route 123, near the city of Mercedes, and authorities estimate that another 50,000 will arrive by the end of the day. 

Antonio Plutarco Cruz Mamerto Gil Núñez (known as Gauchito or “Little Gaucho” Gil) is not part of the Catholic canon but is arguably Argentina’s most popular saint. Sanctuaries bedecked with red flags and ribbons can be seen across the country in his honor: people will often honk their horns when driving past them on the highway.

There is little reliable documentation of his life but he was born close to Mercedes in the 1840s. The myth of Gauchito Gil tells of a Robin Hood-like character, on the run after deserting the army because God told him not to fight in the War of the Triple Alliance in the 1860s. There are multiple versions about why he lived as a fugitive and was sentenced to death — the love of a police officer’s wife is sometimes put in the balance — but he was executed on January 8, 1878. Or 1874. 

Photo: Télam

His executioner, allegedly forewarned by Gil, came home to a sick son who was miraculously cured after he prayed to the man he killed earlier that day. Argentines have asked for Gauchito Gil for favors ever since, lighting red candles, offering cigars and alcoholic beverages at sanctuaries, or wearing red ribbons on their wrists. 

Rain joined the 2024 celebrations adorned with red ribbons, candles, clothes, and flags — and led to several changes to the usual January 8 itinerary. The National Meteorological Service (SMN) reported that 262 millimeters had fallen over the preceding 30 hours in Mercedes, with storms affecting a large part of Corrientes province.

The annual mass was moved to the “La Merced” cemetery where the folk saint’s remains lie. Due to another storm on December 29, the tomb had been destroyed and had to be refurbished by the municipality in preparation for the customary January 8 celebrations.

—with information from Télam


All Right Reserved.  Buenos Aires Herald