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  • Writer's pictureMegan Frye

Guachito Gil: Renegade Saint

At the altar of Gauchito Antonio Gil, venerated outlaw saint, I asked for some things. Things I’ve had and lost. Things I’ve never known but have longed for. Idealizations.

Not recognized by the Catholic Church, but adored throughout Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil, Gauchito Gil is the everyman’s cowboy idol of South America’s ceaseless grasslands. The tiny town of his martyrdom is the site of epic pilgrimages and dramatic family feuds.

I had no idea I’d be lighting candles to him this afternoon.

Sometimes I don't sleep. Sometimes I have to lie in bed for hours, occasionally reminding myself of my name, today's date, where I am, what I am feeling, which language is this. I don't know if this means that I'm going insane. I think it means that the whole world is coursing through my veins and inviting me to come and taste it.

I rose early from sleeplessness, into the dark; a warm autumn fog cloaking the tree-lined streets of Buenos Aires. And now, I am along some impossibly remote highway near the border with Paraguay, praying to a renegade pagan saint.

“What do people ask him for?” I question the man selling mal de ojo beads and Gauchito Gil prayer cards. “Anything you can think of,” he responds.

Near the tree where he was martyred. Among the debris that mark the dramatic events of a family feud, arguing over who would be profiting off the sacred site that draws millions of visitors especially on Jan. 8, the feast day.

We've been on the road for hours, coming from Corrrientes. The driver says it even came to murder here once not too long ago, spawned by envidia and money.

My name is Megan Leigh Frye. I am in the province of Corrientes, in Northern Argentina. Today is Monday, April 24, 2023. I am feeling expansive. This is Castellano.


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