Magazine article Geographical

A Gaucho Fight with Skinning Knives, Argentina, 1900

Magazine article Geographical

A Gaucho Fight with Skinning Knives, Argentina, 1900

Article excerpt

"The country will be in the hands of white gaucho savages instead of copper-coloured Indians. The former being a little superior in education, as they are inferior in every moral virtue.' So went Charles Darwin's judgement on Argentina's legendary cowboys, the gaucho. Unlike their North American cousins, the gaucho are without a John Wayne to immortalise their exploits on screen for the English speaking world. Nevertheless, they're as iconic in Argentine society as the Duke is for the 'gringo'.

From Jorge Luis Borges to Bruce Chatwin, the gaucho has enhanced intellectuals. 'At a lunch we sat under a painting of one of General Rosa's gauchos, by Raymond Monvoison, a follower of Delacroix. He lay swathed in a blood-red poncho, a male odalisque, cat like and passively erotic.' That's an early Chatwin impression from In Patagonia. The drool is almost palpable, a South American prelude to Brokeback Mountain.

Somewhat lost in an intellectual's crush is the violence that marks a gaucho's world. Darwin's scientific eye didn't miss it, neither does William Singer Barclay's camera. …

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