Antonio Mamerto Gil Nuñez, known around these parts as “Gauchito Gil” is the most popular and venerated saint in Argentina. Although many of his followers are catholic, the Roman Catholic Church doesn’t recognise him as a saint, and religious leaders are divided between backing and condemning the phenomenon that is Gil.
This “cowboy from the ends of the earth” that lived in the North in the 19th century, was wrongly executed by the army. The motive, as with all that surrounds his image, is open to debate. Some say it was because he refused to fight the military during the civil war, others say it was because he fell in love with the wrong woman who the chief of the local police force had his eye on.
The legend goes that before his execution, he told his executioner that he was about to kill an innocent man, but if he was called upon to do so, he could stand before God in his name and beg to save the life of his son who was to become seriously ill. The sergeant mocked him before he cut his throat but when he arrived home he found his son in agony. Full of regret he prayed to his victim all night long and miraculously the next morning his son was healthy again. And so he built a cross with his own hands and carried it on his back to the place where he had killed Gil, and so the cult in his honor was born.
Today his sanctuaries are growing in number alongside Argentina´s roadsides.
Characterized by the colour red, they are full of flags, candles, ribbons, offerings and even images of other saints.
There are no limits to what Gil`s followers ask from him: health, wealth, work, love, courage or protection for travellers are all on the menu.
For those who can’t or won’t leave their homes, they can also find a place to leave their messages of wishes and thanks in his Facebook page.