May 4, 2013

El Gaucho

 photo of Jorge Bolke in Estancia Tucu Tucu courtesy of Rafael Smart

Soon I will be heading to Wyoming. When I asked a state native for suggestions, he said "Bundle up and fill your pockets with stones."
I was reminded of Argentine Patagonia, another place where spring bleeds winter and the wind carries special currency. It permeates and dominates. It has overturned tour buses. Once when I was backpacking with a full 28-pound pack it picked me up and landed me a foot away (lucky the embankment was still further). I didn't realize that wind could do that. I spent some time huddled behind a massive boulder, a hostage to its rustlings waiting out the siege.
In Argentina, no one knows the wind better than a gaucho. He lives in it. It's mapped on his face. The gaucho 'grows up like an unshorn sheep living out in the cold winds'  (José Hernandez, El Gaucho Martín Fierro).
At the estancia of Menelik, lifelong gaucho Manuel Pardo told me that no one wants to be a gaucho anymore. His job was to follow 250 cattle over a hundred square kilometers without a fence. But nowadays, he said, people do it in a pickup truck.
They are becoming fewer. Not just gauchos but all who live their lives closer to the elements.

No comments: