Yaguaron's Fiesta Patronal (or, Cowboys Everywhere)

Yag me in balco
What for many of us might have been a childhood fascination, historian Richard Slatta has admirably turned into a career: studying cowboys and bandits. The gaucho, before recently referring to capri pants, was the South American cowboy of the Pampas, the vast fertile expanse that is Argentina . Although now romanticized in literature of the southern cone, the gaucho was seen as a ne'er-do-well (or, in academic speak, as a "social criminal") who was lazy because the land he roamed was so productive that he didn't have to work to get his food. Purported indolence morphed into intransigence and disrespect for non-horse-handy urbanite ruling classes and gauchos were generally eliminated through outright combat or through changing legal codes (for example, anti-vagrancy laws that required people to have proof of employment).
Some cowboy-ish behavior must have survived, however, based on Christine's activity du jour.
Yaguaron was originally established as a Franciscan mission in 1586 into which native communities were "reduced" (i.e. organized and relocated). This weekend isn't just Bastille Day, itís the weekend of the feast of the patron saint. So, what happens is that the people construct a make-shift wooden colosseum in which a rodeo-of-sorts takes place for three days. This involves toreros lassoing bulls, clowns doing dare-devil tricks with the bulls (and any unfortunate dog that manages to stray into the pit), and little children competing in a dance-off with great gusto to the polka band which plays nearly non-stop. Yes: Polka. Mostly in Guaraní.
The dudes who own a bunch of cattle sacrifice at least one a day to feed everyone. I still haven't figured out how they decide whose turn it is, but I did get specially invited by this yearís lucky guy to sit in the palco (their "balcony" or boxed seats) and partake of the family stash of Brahma (a Paraguayan pilsner). He explained that while those in the palcos have to pay (although no one ever asked me for money... I was the norteamericana who quickly became associated with the local elite... I guess 'cause I sat with them), underneath the palcos people can stand and peer through the slats for free. There's a free raffle for Those Who Stand where one of them will win a young cow or bull, as an instance of poverty-reduction.
This is an interesting example of the redistribution of wealth and yet the maintenance of class power even through doing that. It's easy to imagine this kind of event taking place a century ago, with the same families in the same relationships.
Intrigued about cowboys, bandits, outlaws, and other frontier types? Do what I did. Check out Comparing Cowboys and Frontiers where Slatta looks at different cowboy types from North America to South America (the US, Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, the northern and southern Pampas i.e., Argentina). Also Bandidos: the varieties of Latin American banditry.
Yag torero action Yag patron y toreroYag tug of bull Yag post swoopYag swoop

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One Response to Yaguaron's Fiesta Patronal (or, Cowboys Everywhere)

Rich Slatta said...


How nice to see my work mentioned in an excellent context. Yes, it is modestly embarrassing to be paid to pursue a passion. One in a great while, markets work. Please feel free to explore my website Cowboy Professor.


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